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WRiTE CLUB 2015 - Bout #10

What is WRiTE CLUB?  It started off as a modest writing competition, inspiration loosely derived from the movie FIGHT CLUB, and it has since grown into a writing community sensation that is now sponsored by the DFWWriters Conference.  There are numerous versions of this concept floating around the internet, but nothing like we do it here.  Its essence embodies simple, good-natured competition, with lots and lots of fun sprinkled on top. 

Over the course of ten weeks I’ll be holding daily bouts (M-F) between Anonymous 500 word writing samples, submitted under a pen name.   The writing can be any genre, any style (even poetry) with the word count being the only restriction. Today is Bout #10.  Read each sample carefully and then leave a vote in the comment section for the one that resonates with you the most.  Anyone can vote... but only once per bout. Don’t forget to leave with a brief critique of both submissions as well.

Voting for each bout will remain open for one week. The winner of each will be posted HERE, at the WRiTE CLUB scoreboard.  Are you ready?

Here are the first two randomly selected WRiTER's.

Standing in this corner, representing the historical genre and weighing in at 500 words, please welcome to the ring……..Blythe

I wept bitter tears the day Mervyn Brimble’s cologne vanished from my sleeve. I wept not because he was handsome-he looked every bit a toad with his muddy eyes and sallow skin-but because he had acknowledged, with a solitary brush of his rubbery lips, that I was indeed human, a girl crafted of flesh and bone rather than the sullen second half of the phenomenon known as the Wellingsley sisters, the girls who defied nature, the freakish twins ensconced in billowing striped walls, standing in plain view for all the world to gawk at.

My heart battered my ribs as I inconspicuously swept a hand beneath my nose, seeking the cologne’s heady fragrance. A cry tangled in my throat when the musty tang of mothballs clouded my senses, wreathed in the acrid stench of the cigarette my sister Phoebe accepted this morning from a doting gentleman. My tears hobbled down my cheeks, carving floundering ribbons through the rouge that our manager insists Phoebe and I wear at all times. I dabbed fiercely at my tears, reprimanding them with my stained lace handkerchief, yet they only continued, drawing stares from the side show’s patrons.

 A ragged sob bubbled in my throat, rousing Phoebe’s attention. Her gaze swept over my tears, her eyes narrowing. “You really mustn’t do that,” she hissed through gritted teeth. Her gaze flickered to our hands, entwined between us in a tapestry of emaciated fingers, all for the show’s cruel spectacle. “It makes us appear weaker than we are.”

Another watery sound splintered in my throat, causing a lady in lavender to start.

Phoebe’s nails plunged into the clammy flesh of my palm. “Hush, Emma,” she whispered, her voice gentle this time. “You mustn’t startle our visitors. After all, it is their hard earned wages that put meat on our plates and tea in our cups.”

Fury kindled in my chest. “You mean I had best not startle our visitors more than I already do?” I glared down at our intertwined fingers. “More than we already do?”
A gentleman in a waistcoat of shimmering silver threads paused before our pedestal, a frown knitting his brows. Phoebe offered him a seraphic smile that warmed the obsidian of her eyes. When the man reciprocated, she fluttered her silken butterfly lashes in a gesture of coquettishness that made my insides churn. It wasn’t that I never flirted; it wasn’t uncharacteristic of me to smile warmly at a handsome stranger or utter a word of cloying gratitude to the waiter with the glimmering pearl smile. It was the fact that my sister could be so hasty to conceal her emotions, donning a mask of sunny placidity while leaving me to grapple with the emotions scurrying across my face, heralding my private thoughts to the world.

Raucous laughter swallowed Phoebe’s response to my question, freezing the breath in my lungs.

A pair of leering boys strolled towards us, their gazes fastened upon the place where Phoebe’s left hip connected with my right one.

And in the other corner, representing the horror genre with 482 words let me introduce to you……….Kingfisher

Pastor Kenny didn’t want to stop for slushies. All that sugar, it would make the kids hyperactive and the parents would blame him.  He didn’t want to blow his chance at a promotion to Assistant Director of Youth Outreach. The barely pubescent “Team Flamingo” members finally wore him down with their incessant mewing.

“Please! We’ll get smalls!”

The weekend had already been a disaster, Kenny reasoned. They’d lost every single activity over the “Jump for Jesus!” weekend retreat. Two kids had been sent home early with poison oak. One girl’s bleary-eyed parents had picked her up the first night after a tearful phone call about homesickness and bed wetting issues.  Another couple had been discovered fornicating in the equipment shed and summarily ejected from the program, which was a shame, because they were only athletic members of Team Flamingo.

Kenny cruised into the mini mart parking lot at dusk, scraping the curb. He winced, anticipating Pastor Dan’s “disappointed, not mad” face when he eventually saw the paint smear.

“Five minutes, guys,” he called out as the kids scampered out the side door.

A heavily tattooed man in biker gear held the door for them. Kenny tucked his polo shirt, emblazoned with the church logo, into the waistband of his khakis and strode inside the store. The biker pulled a six pack of beer out of the cooler on the far wall, oblivious to the kids squealing as they mixed blue and cherry slushie mix together in thirty-two ounce cups.

“You said small, guys,” Kenny scolded, eyeing the biker.

The biker paid for his beer and left, holding the door open for a couple in their early twenties, both barefoot.

“You have to wear shoes in the store,” the clerk said, peeking up over an issue of TV Guide.

“Do you sell flip flops?” the man asked.

The clerk pointed to a display rack.

“Let’s go guys,” Kenny said.

As they stood behind the couple at the register, Kenny saw something in the man’s waistband. He watched as the man drew his hand out and leveled a pistol.

“Open the register.”

“Jesus!” the clerk yelped.

“You heard him, open it up,” the woman shouted.  Yellow, decayed teeth littered her mouth.

“We only keep a hundred in the register. I don’t have access to the safe,” the clerk whimpered.

“That’s too bad,” the man said.

The kids shrieked at the first shot, which missed the surveillance camera.  After firing off a second round, the man turned around.

“Everyone on the floor,” he said.

One of the girls started crying.

“Please, let the kids go,” Kenny stuttered, remembering that robbery etiquette dictated that he, the adult in charge, request the children’s immediate release.

The clerk thrust a wad of money from the register toward the man.

“This ain’t shit,” the man said.

“Please, it’s all I got,” the clerk sputtered.

The man spun toward Kenny.

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 to the playoffs.  In the comments below leave your vote for the winner.  Which one tickled your fancy?  After you vote please tell all of your friends to stop by and make a selection as well (but no coaching about who to vote for).  Yes, it’s subjective, but so is the entire publishing world.  It’s as much about the readers as it is about the writers. 

This is WRiTE CLUB – the contest where the audience gets clobbered!


  1. Kingfisher gets my vote. I definitely want to see where that story goes.

    The descriptions in Blythe were well-done.

  2. They're both really good, but I'm going with Blythe.

  3. Both powerful. But I'm going with Blythe. It was unique and packed full of feelings.

  4. I prefer Blythe's piece, although the second paragraph is overwritten. Tighten it up, and it's golden. Interesting idea.

    Kingfisher wasn't my favorite. I found Kenny unlikable--which may be the point. Perhaps 500 words isn't enough to have drawn me in.

    Still, way to make it into the ring! Keep writing.

  5. Blythe gets my vote. Although I enjoyed Kingfisher's work and did want to see where it went, I was put off by the need for editing. Also, Blythe immediately drew my sympathy to Emma's plight. I have survived trips like the one Kenny had and felt for the poor sap, but Blythe still won the day for me.

  6. My vote is for Blythe, 100%. I think the writing is just beautiful (and much more polished, compared to the other entry) and I wanted more than those 500 words!

  7. Blythe wins my vote. A conjoined twin narrator is unique, and the author does a good job of developing both girls' characters so that we see, even in this short selection, both the tenderness and the tension between these sisters. I felt sympathy for both of them and would be interested in reading more.

    To be honest, I had a bit of trouble with Kingfisher. I didn't find anyone all that likable, with the possible exception of the biker. Kenny seems like a dork, which may have been the point and is totally fine, but he complains too much for me to want to hang out with him. The youth are portrayed either as bratty kids or troublemakers. So when they're all held up at gunpoint, I'm not sure why I should care. I mean, it almost seems like Kenny wouldn't care, given how snotty he thinks they are. I wonder if you might be better off skipping the backstory about how awful the weekend was, how intolerable the kids are, how worried Kenny is about everything... and jump right into the action with more careful attention to creating balanced characters and connecting the reader to the characters. I did like how Kenny had to think about "robbery etiquette" and how he acted upon what he remembered. That glimmer of sense and courage is a really good thing, and would stand out more if you cut out some of that backstory. Okay, that was long and hopefully not too brutal. The piece has promise, but the characters need a little work before I can connect with them like I want to.

  8. Kingfisher for me, although I thought Blythe was a beautiful piece.

  9. Blythe--I love the idea behind your story: conjoined twins. I think that concept would definitely find a place in the market. My problem, however, is that the writing seems a bit overwrought. While it's good to be descriptive, some of the language is a bit too much. "Bitter tears" sounds a bit cliche. You could just write that she wept. Also, you write, "My tears hobbled down my cheeks." Not only is this an odd word choice; it also just seems like too much. I'm not trying to discourage you from being descriptive; I just think that this is overkill.

    Kingfisher--I really like the way you set up the scene in this piece. I like the way you integrate the MC's inner conflict, which creates some tension even before we see the robbery. Very well done. It looks like you had some words missing, however which I found disconcerting. For example, you write, "they were only athletic members of Team Flamingo." Do you need the word "the" in front of "only," or is the lack of the article intentional? Be sure to carefully proofread your piece.

    My vote this time is for Kingfisher.

  10. Blythe wins my vote today!

  11. Being a criminal justice major myself, I found myself drawn into the possibility of the robbery with Kingfisher. I do wonder how much symbolism Kingfisher is doing behind the story. Is this a story to help the MC become a true leader, one the children could look to? Is it interesting that the biker was the one Kenny was worried about was the most harmless, and the seemingly harmless couple are the dangerous ones. Is there symbolism there? Don't judge a book? I did like this story. I would keep reading!

    I'm voting for Blythe though. What an awesomely creative idea to do a story from such a rare POV. I think your description of her grief is appropriate, as long as it doesn't carry as thick throughout the rest of the story. I can't wait to see what she does to the two boys who are surely going to tease or ridicule them!

  12. Kingfisher for me. I liked Blythe's piece, but felt it was a little over-written and some of the descriptions felt forced.

  13. My vote goes to Kingfisher. I found the writing engaging and straight forward, with good character development, good storytelling, and a nice cliffhanger at the end.

    Blythe's piece was well written, and I was particularly fond of the opening sentence. There was some character development, and I liked that things unfolded slowly until we could see the big picture of the twins. However, it read like a thesaurus exploded onto the page, and that's distracting. When the reader notices the words more than the story, that's a problem. There were also some extraordinarily long sentences that need to be broken up and recrafted. I think it's a great start and a really interesting premise, though.

    Both writers did a really nice job!

  14. Blythe - A story not just about "circus freaks," but from the emotional viewpoint of a conjoined twin who seems to want out, but is attached to someone who does not. Wow. It's an emotional viewpoint that people rarely consider. And it's so powerfully written. The words "ensconced in billowing striped walls" grabbed me and clutched. Amazing job. I love what you did with this piece. I think there's a market for this as a book. (Maybe not a huge one, but a decent/average one.)

    Kingfisher- Great job with this. I feel like I'm there. I care about the main character by the end. It's good.

    But I am just, personally, more interested in Blythe's piece, so that's where my vote goes.

  15. Hard to choose! Arrrrgh! DL, your random choice really makes this one hard. In the end, the genre of Blythe's wins the day of a close bout of two outstanding snips.

  16. I vote for Blythe. Sounds like an amazing POV.

  17. Wow, these are both very good. Blythe is a nice stand alone flash, or story start. Way cool. But I was sorry to get to the end of Kingfisher, so I will vote for Kingfisher.

  18. Definitely Blythe. I loved the opening paragraph although felt it a bit overdone with the last couple of phrases. Could have stopped the second sentence at..."the W. sisters." And then gone on with a new sentence. Both pieces are great though! Good luck!

  19. Blythe's piece grabbed me from the very beginning. It teetered on the edge of overwritten, but somehow made that charming.

    I found Kingfisher's piece interesting, but not compelling enough. Perhaps if it had started in a different place and given us a bit more in the store? I think it needs some tightening to be a story that will keep me hooked.

    This round goes to Blythe.

  20. My vote is for Blythe,

    Kingfisher, you seemed to be off to a good short story or a chapter out of a book. Unfortunately, while I liked what you wrote, I think it was not the right piece to enter for this completion. I can tell it's going to be a good story, but one we have to see more of to appreciate. I like the characters you created and the backstory. I hope to read all of it someday.

    Blythe, I loved your unusual subject matter and that you actually got into the minds of people who are often seen very superficially, but who do, like everyone else, have feelings. Great story and great writing.

  21. I loved the emotion in Blythe's piece. My vote's there.

  22. Kingfisher. Love the setup of a harassed camp pastor thrown into the middle of a robbery.

  23. I'm going to vote for Blythe.

    Kingfisher, there were too many small logic problem that kept catching me up and pulling me out of the story (example: "Kenny cruised into the mini mart parking lot at dusk, scraping the curb. He winced, anticipating Pastor Dan’s “disappointed, not mad” face when he eventually saw the paint smear." -> a curb is not very high, so at most, he should have only scraped the rims of the bus, not any of the paint... and 'paint smear' suggests he's rubbed the bus up against wet paint, which he would/should just be able to wipe off then if it got on the bus so easily. There's no indication that he scraped the bus or did any damage)

  24. Voting for Blythe today. The POV was unique and the voice was truly Victorian. I didn't find it overwritten at all.

  25. Kingfisher's is a story I want to read more of but Blythe's was so beautifully written, I have to give Blythe my vote.

  26. Kingfisher, though this one was close. Blythe was imaginative, if not my kind of writing.

  27. Blythe's piece was so lovely. I enjoyed the contrast of the girls' emotions and the rich description.

    I'd like to see the hook for Kingfisher's piece strengthened. It didn't draw me in until halfway through which is too late in such a short piece.

    Blythe for me today.




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