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WRiTE CLUB 2013 Playoffs - Quarterfinals Bout #1

Today we begin the WRiTE CLUB quarterfinals...where we will narrow this list of contestants down from six to four.  There will be three bouts...on Mon - Tue - Thur...with our fighters randomly re-matched.  We will have three outright winners and one wildcard (the loser with the most votes), like we have in the two previous playoff rounds.  

The fighters who move into the semifinals will have the opportunity to "tweak" or edit their current submission based on the input voters have left for them.  Those "tweaked" submissions will go to battle in the semifinals, where only two will become finalist.  No wildcard in that round.

The two fighters who make it to the finals will be asked to once more submit new 500 word writing samples, and that will be what is forwarded to our celebrity judges. Of course I'll post them here on my blog for you to comment on, but it will be our judges who make the final selection.

Our writers are warmed up and biting at the bit, the crowd is at a frenzy pitch, lets get this bus moving!

Stepping into the near corner, please welcome back to the ring...Vampry14

Shrieking. Whistling. Screeching. Screaming. The cacophony fills my head, my eyes, my ears, my mouth. It’s like discovering the definition of sound as something that engages every sense. Except maybe touch. I can’t feel anything. I should feel something, right? I’m pretty sure I’m wrecking the car. It should hurt. Or maybe it’s over and I’m already dead? Crap. Those born-agains were right. I am going to hell.

But there’s light. So much light. White, and so bright it makes my eyes ache. Yet I can’t look away. So, I’m not dead? Maybe this is one of those near-death experiences people come back from and say they saw the light. I peer through it. Grandma? Poppa? Are you there? Are you going to beckon me toward you or send me back? Please send me back. I don’t want to die. Not at sixteen.

Then the light disappears. It doesn’t fade like the sunset, just snaps off, like a switch was flicked. Red and yellow blotches swim across my vision. I can’t see a thing. I have to get out of here though. The smell of gas fills my mouth and nose. I reach out, feeling through the blackness for the door handle. When I don’t find it, I fumble upward, searching for the window. I was driving, I know I was. Why can’t I find these things? They should be right here, within arm’s reach. Where are they? Where am I? A fine strand of panic threads through my chest. There’s something wrong here.

“Lainey?” My voice is thick, but it’s mine. She was with me, right? Oh, God. Did I kill her? Is that why she’s not answering? Her mom’ll have my balls. But no. I dropped her home. My head is heavy with fog. I can’t think straight. Must be the gas. Gas? Why can I smell gas? Did I nod off at the gas station or something? Or did I go and do something stupid with Caleb and his druggie friends? Huffing or something? No way. I’m in training. Training. I have practice at ten tomorrow. I gotta get home.

I haul my ass out of the seat. Or, I think I do. I don’t move though. This is getting freaky. I can’t see. I can’t move. I realize the noise is gone too; all that’s left is a low grinding sound. And some kind of whooshing that reminds me of the beach. The beach? I wish I was at the beach. It’s so hot in here. Someone, open a window. Sweat dribbles down the side of my face. I taste the salt on my tongue. Why aren’t I at the beach, where I could dive through the waves and cool off?

I want it so much I can feel it. The way the salt stings my eyes and burns any scratch on my skin. Burns. This hurts. It burns. Scalds. Sears. The sea shouldn’t be hot. Not like this. It hurts. It hurts. Oh, fuck it hurts.

And in the far corner, their willing opponent, making a fourth appearance....Alone

Thanksgiving 1972

The road led nowhere. Or so it seemed.

Darkness blanketed the trees along the lane as the truck’s headlights dressed the bottoms of them in its glow.

“Um…how much farther, Mister?” I searched his grizzly face, as his black emotionless eyes glared into mine. He smeared on a sly grin then focused back on the road.

It was that very smile that coaxed me into his car, promising me a ride to the nearest payphone to call a tow.

But now…the smile haunted me.

The man’s hand reached to my exposed leg. I flinched against my seat, inhaling. He stopped a moment, and redirected to turn the radio dials. He spun them left and right till Loretta Lynn bellowed through the speakers.

I exhaled, closing my eyes. “Um….”

“Soon, honey…soon.” He cooed through dried lips, turning the radio's volume up.

Out the window, I saw only black. No road signs or signs of life.

My stomach churned with regret.

“My-my parents are expecting me for Thanksgiving dinner anytime now so…at least they know I’m on this road, ya know?” I tried to sound as convincing as possible, while a nervous sweat escaped my pores. “I…um, called them from a payphone right before the car broke down. Maybe twenty miles before.”

The man broke his eyes from the road again, lingering them on me. His smile drew wider, exposing yellow, crooked teeth. “That’s good, honey…that’s good.”

Inching closer to the truck’s door, I found the handle, and rested my palm on it. My heartbeat echoed in my ears. God willing, I’d make the leap and jump out.

I checked the speedometer. Fifty-five. It’d be a hard fall, but it’d save my life.

In the distance, a green rectangular sign reflected back the next gas station to be fifteen miles away. A deep breath escaped me, calming my nerves.

Just a few more miles and I’d be safe again.

“See, honey? Almost there,” he comforted with a projected Cheshire grin. “Thirsty?”

I relaxed in my seat. It’d been hours since I’d had anything to eat or drink. “Yeah…yeah, I am.”

The man pulled a flask from his jacket’s inner pocket, unscrewing the top with one hand, and offered it to me. I paused, unsure of his motives, till a coercing frown emerged.

Just one sip. Enough to satisfy him, and my dry throat.

Just one.

Returning the top to the flask, wincing from the liquor’s strength, I handed it back coughing. “Thanks.”

“You’re welcome, honey,” he chuckled gruffly. “You’re welcome.”

The music continued playing in the background, then stopped.

Cops confirm the roadside snatcher is still on the loose. Repeat, roadside snatcher--”

He turned the radio off quickly.

“Mister.” My eyes grew heavy, head fogged. Glancing from the road to him was a blur of neon lines. “You’re….” Movements slowed, almost melting into each other. “You’re….” I felt myself dozing, unable to focus.

His haunting smile grew as he swerved hard down a dirt road. I saw black.

Please leave a vote in the comments section for the one who you believe deserves to move on. Voting for all three quarterfinal bouts will remain open until noon on Sunday, October 6th. Help me spread the word about what is happening here.  Anyone can still vote, as long as they register on the Linky List.

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


  1. I really, really liked Vampyr14's first entry and was very happy to see them sneak out of the first round with a wildcard slot. I thought the story was interesting and compelling, and the characterization intriguing. I was really looking forward to their next piece. But maybe I had too high of expectations -- I'm afraid this tale of a disoriented 16 year old after a crash just doesn't grab me nearly as much. In a familiar concept that borders on cliche, with strong hint's of Dear Abby's old classic "Please God, I'm Only 17", we have a young driver who is experiencing the aftereffects of a crash. The MC is overwhelmed in sound and then experiences only a low whooshing; is enveloped in light and then total blackness; can't move and then can, but then actually doesn't; and can't feel anything and then is awash with stinging and burning. But all the reader gets is the confused inner dialog of an MC who is in a car, or maybe isn't, and who is alive or maybe isn't. Mechanically, I don't really have any issues -- the writing is effective at what it sets out to do, and there are some nice sentences here. It's structure and concept that seem lacking to me -- this could be effective, but it needs to be pared down drastically so that the reader is grounded in an actual scene of some sort by the end of the 500 words.

    Alone's piece I discussed last week so I won't rehash it again.

    So for me, this round comes down to two pieces that both cover some well-trodden concepts. Both are reasonably effective at what they set out to do, and mechanically they are both pretty solid.

    But I have to give the edge to Alone for overall structure -- there is a clear build of tension in their scene, a well-defined conflict between the MC and the driver, and smooth pacing with effective insertion of dialog. Vampyr14 has some nicely-written snippets, but I'm afraid the overall structure is just a jumble of the driver's inner dialog.

    So Alone for me today.

  2. I vote ALONE, in spite of the stunning lack of basic common sense on the MC's part, because the writing's good and the 500 words go somewhere.

    Vampry14's piece shows some really nice writing, but it's just too long for what it is. I think I would have a hard time finding this much inner dialogue gripping unless I were smack dab in the middle of the story and had some kind of handle on the MC's circumstances. As it stands, it's six paragraphs of "uh oh!"

    Congratulations to both WRiTERS for getting to this level!

  3. I think I've commented on both these pieces, so I won't repeat myself here. I vote Alone today.

  4. I've been a big fan of Vampyr's writing since the start, but this piece somehow didn't grab me as much as their first one did. The writing is still lovely, but I didn't connect with the story itself.

    I enjoyed Alone's piece, but am wondering how old this girl is and how she got herself into this situation. I think it would take some justification as to why she'd get into this guy's car and not only that, but drink something offered to her when clearly she was already on alert, but perhaps that comes earlier or later in the story.

    My vote's for Alone today!

  5. Vamprys was pretty good but it felt disconnected with the amount of questions and no real background.

    Vote alone

  6. Alone. Their piece is a little cliched and predictable but I think it's got a slight edge on Vampyr. I liked Vampyr's piece but it was a little too rambly, a little too long without going anywhere.

  7. I love both of these pieces, but I'm voting Alone today.

  8. In the preliminary choosing of contestants Vampyr14 was my top pick of all of the pieces submitted. Their first 500 words were stunning. Unfortunately, I do not feel the same about this piece. I don't have a whole lot of nitpicks, it is fine wriitng, but seems to go on for a little too long with the disoriented inner dialogue. As part of a chapter or even short story it might work, but it seems a poor selection for such a short sample.

    I really didn't care for the story line of Alone's piece during the last go around. There are a lot of questions as to the how, when, where, and WHY of this tale. BUT, I have to admit that the writing isn't bad and the 500 words do move the story along. I take exception to words like dressed, smeared, broke, and projected as they are used in this piece. Seems a little like 'trying too hard'.

    All that said, my vote goes to ALONE in this particular contest.

  9. Both pieces are good. I liked the voice in #1; it felt real. I felt #2 wasn't as authentic and was trying a little too hard to use unusual prose.

    My vote is Vampyr14

  10. Hm. I liked both pieces in different ways. #1 had effective visuals and had me wondering if more than a crash had happened. #2 has a nice build even though I could see where the story was heading. Tough call, but I'll say #1 in the hopes it's not just a car crash :)

  11. First off congratulations to both of you for making it this far.

    I wonder if I would have liked Vampyr14's more this round if I didn't like the original so much? It seems unfair to judge that way, but I felt a little disconnected to this piece.

    I'm going with Alone because it hints to a fully developed plot.

  12. Vampyr,
    Your entry detailed the experience of dying in a car crash and going to hell, to the best of my knowledge. And that in itself is a gritty concept, which is right up my alley. The problem is that it wasted too much space in the process. The writing is not bad. But it's not outstanding. There aren't unique ideas or phrases or combinations of words. I think if you'd trimmed and clipped this into about 70% as many words, making the very best use of each sentence and word, you'd have been forced to cut the dead weight (bits about grandparents, bits about balls, etc.) AND compress some of the empirical observations into clever, compound sentences... If that makes any sense.

    I've stated my opinion of Alone. I'm not this entry's biggest fan. But due to the relative amound of movement in that piece, I have to vote for it.

  13. I'm checking it late here, so I'm apparently following Willis the Hacker... Anyway, I'm voting for Alone.




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