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WRiTE CLUB 2015 - Bout #6

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 #6.  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 historic fiction genre and weighing in at 497 words, please welcome to the ring……..IrishInAmerica

Jesse sat by the hearth. The fire roared and she was wrapped in a quilt, an Indian blanket over her legs. Her face was pale and sallow, but bright spots of fever stained her cheeks.

"Do you want anything, love?" Adam asked her, handing his brother a mug of coffee and coming to touch her hot forehead. "A cup of tea? anything?"

"No, thanks," she replied, but he did not move away. "Really, I'm fine."

"You're sure?"

"Yes, don't worry, Adam." She gave him an impish grin. "Go play with your shingles."

"Play!” Brian snorted. “Hear thet, Adam, she thinks it's play! She thinks we like climbin' up on thet roof in the cold an' wind, an’ hammerin' on our thumbs!"

"Don't you? I thought that was why you did it so often!"

"Haw-haw! Seems t’me you're the one who held up the works for three days with a broken fingernail!"

The finger in question had actually been smashed to a pulp, but Adam knew better than to look for sympathy from his twin. He held up his right hand, displayed the middle finger that was still black and swollen from the second knuckle. "Bends a little now, anyway. Well, let's get going. If you need anything, love, just holler. We'll be right outside. Come on, brother, what we don't start, we'll never finish."

There was only a portion of the last row of shingles to be placed when the cabin door squeaked. Adam looked down to see Jesse standing against it, her hair disheveled, her face so pale it was almost blue. The blanket was tangled around one ankle. She reached up to him, her face working, lips moving. But no sound came. As he stared at her in frozen horror, she grabbed her belly with both hands and crumpled to the ground.

He screamed her name and came sliding down to the edge of the roof, grabbed the lip with both hands and flipped himself over on to the ground. He fell heavily forward, but staggered to his feet and ran for her. Brian rushed from inside the barn, reaching her at the same time. They stood helplessly for a moment, looking at her, at each other, and then Adam grabbed her up and carried her inside.

Gently, he laid her on the bed. Tenderly, he brushed the hair back from her face. Her eyes were scarcely open, her breath came in little gasps. Her face was ashen and cold to the touch. She moaned piteously and rolled onto her side, drawing up her knees. Her husband whispered her name.

She reached for him but seemed not to know when he took her hand. She moaned again, and this time he caught her broken words.

“No, no, no. Oh, don’t hurt me! Adam, don’t let him hurt me!”

Oh, dear God, don’t let the dreams come back. Don’t let her feel this fear. Don’t let the baby come now. It's too soon. It's too soon.

And in the other corner, representing the action/adventure genre with 498 words let me introduce to you……….Luke Warmwater.

A rumble came from deep in the dog’s throat.

“Jake, you hear that?”

Jacob Graham rolled over. “Huh?”

“Chief woke me up . . . I heard a noise downstairs.”

“Wind’s been keeping me awake, Ellie. Haven’t slept a wink all night.” Jake pulled the pillow over his head, but the Yellow Lab growled again and pattered to the bedroom door. The rancher sat up and glanced at the clock’s glowing red numbers. 2:17 AM. The display went blank. He yawned and scratched the stubble on his weathered face.

“Think it’s somebody in the barn again?” Ellie asked.

He shook his head. His family had lived on this ranch for generations. He couldn’t remember the last time they’d had anything stolen, at least until the past few months. Ever since a real estate developer had bought up the surrounding ranches, tools had gone missing here, a pack saddle there. Nothing worth much. Jake had refused to sell, but now with his neighbors gone, it seemed someone was trying to steal the place one little bit at a time.

He tried the lamp. Nothing. A soft glow from the outside security light filtered in through a window. Still had power to the barn.

“Ellie, stay here.” Pulling on his robe, he fumbled in the bedside table for a flashlight. He paused, thought a moment, and grabbed his pistol.

“Don’t go down there. I’ll call 911.”

He patted her hand. “You know how the wiring is in this old house. Probably blew some breakers and you heard the fridge shut off.” When she didn’t respond, he added, “No need to get the sheriff out here this time of night.”

“But . . .”

“It’ll be alright. Gonna send Chief down first. Stay here.”

Jake eased open the bedroom door. The ancient floorboards of the second-story hallway creaked when he took a careful step. At the stairs, he paused, listened. A gentle breeze wafted up from below. The stench of dried sweat. His neck hair stood on end. Chief growled, bared his teeth.

Jake grabbed the dog’s collar, fumbling to hold both the flashlight and .45 auto with his other hand. “Easy, boy. Let’s take it slow.”

Downstairs, a hinge groaned. A thump. A muffled curse.

Jake released Chief’s collar. The aging dog tore down the steps, his tail arched high over his back. He charged into the kitchen. Jake hustled in behind him. The screen door screeched closed. He got the flashlight trained in time to see a man disappear into the darkness outside.

Chief rushed the opening, snarling like a lobo wolf.

“It’s alright, boy.” Jake slammed and bolted the kitchen door. He turned toward the wall phone and froze. The drawer beneath it, where he kept an extra gun. Open. And empty. He glanced around, grabbed the receiver. Dead. The bastard had not only cut the electricity, but the phone line, too. “Ellie,” he called, “get the cell.”

She answered with a scream. A pistol shot pierced the night. Then another.

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. tough one, because both are fine entries. on a split points decision I give this to Luke Warmwater.

  2. This is tough but at the end IrishInAmerica grabbed me more

  3. I think I have to go with Luke Warmwater. They were both good, but Warmwater's seemed to flow a little better.

  4. Yikes! How can these bouts be so close *everyday*!? Okay.
    Both are really tense, tight, and hooking. I vote for Irish in America for the detail. Luke Warmwater's is a bit bare dialogue for my taste.

  5. I have to go with IrishInAmerica, the scene left me wanting more. I do think you could trim the beginning a bit, though.
    Luke Warmwater's concept was good, but inserting all the exposition in the middle of a tense scene was distracting,

  6. I vote Luke Warmwater. I found myself questioning which one was "better". I kept rereading his over and over.Though, I've never known a lab to behave the way he mentioned. And *hopefully* there are two robbers, cause I'm not sure how one guy could leave the kitchen, and then be upstairs in the wife's room in less than a minute's time.

    I also liked Irish's, but I was caught off guard with the last italicized sentences. Did he mention she was pregnant ever besides that last line? It was also a little tough for me to figure out just exactly what time period it was. Old west? I'm not sure. And did the twin brother live with them? Was he just there to fix the roof? Was he the one hurting the wife? Too many questions left open for me.

  7. Hard call on this one. I'll go with #2. I'd want more of this one to find out what happened next.

  8. Irish was a bit cliched, and I was confused about the rush of the part where the door opened and she stepped outside. But the writing was good.

    Luke Warm Water gets my vote. More to what I read and of course you want to know if anyone got shot. This is a hard contest to vote for because you only get a glimpse into the novel.

  9. Luke Warmwater gets my vote!

  10. Luke Warmwater gets my vote! I liked the fact that it started with tension and ended with extreme tension! It just built at a great pace, and I understood where the MC was and what was going on with him the whole time.

  11. Both had good levels of tension. Both had spots that could be tightened up. I'm going with IrishinAmerica because I felt more connected to the characters.

  12. Both had problems with logistics, possibly due to word constraints, and both were well written. My vote is foe Luke warm water because I thought the story was better paced.

  13. Luke Warmwater. Luke's stuff was tight and well-timed. Given the style s/he's aiming for, personally, I'd be hard pressed to find a word that could be changed for the better (though I guess I don't know much about realistic dog behavior). IrishInAmerica's dialect was too's important to be aware that misspelling words to indicate an ethnic minority can come across as patronizing to many readers. In addition, the POV was all over the place. Luke stayed tight and sweet in a limited third.

  14. Luke Warmwater pulled me in. Great tension.

  15. Tough! But...Luke Warmwater.

  16. Great writing from both and congrats!! Luke drew me in and I enjoyed the little touches of added descriptive words without over doing it to heighten points. Irish was also well written and the ending was quite visual but a few times I thought I don't know exactly what's going on since the point of view isn't clear cut. Vote goes to Luke.

  17. Gotta go with Luke Warmwater here. Great scene-setting, good sensory detail, and leaving off with that sentence is a sure knockout punch.

    Split decision, not a knockout, but my card has it for Luke.

  18. I'm with Irish In America here. Really good use of detail and dialect to pull you into the scene.

  19. One more for Warmwater. Irish felt ungrounded in time and place, and I was often confused over who was speaking, from the first sentence. "Jesse" is usually the male spelling; "Jessie" would have implied a female. Compounded by "asked her... handed his brother..." The pregnancy reference at the end felt random, and some of the details did not work for me; like how could he see her standing at the cabin door when he was at the peak of the roof? POV issues and an over-dependence on adverbs.

  20. Great pieces by both entrants. Congratulations on making it to battle! IrishInAmerica's piece was good, but didn't pull me in the way Luke Warmwater's piece did. There was good tension for sure, but a little too many inconsistencies and unanswered questions for me. Luke Warmwater's piece flowed a little better and had great tension. As another commenter pointed out, I also hope there's a second intruder in the story.

  21. They were both very good by my vote goes to Luke Warmwater.

  22. I am voting for Luke Warmwater.

    IrishinAmerica's piece is well written, but it lacked some cohesion. It wasn't easy to discern that one of those brothers is Jesse's husband, until the end, and I still don't know which one for sure it is. I'm not sure what the paragraph with the broken finger brings to the 500 words, other than to reinforce that they are shingling a roof, but that's already been established. It doesn't really otherwise move the story forward nor deepen character understanding. Finally, it's confusing at the end - we have deep POV, but again, it's unclear which twin is thinking these thoughts. I *think* it's Adam, but it's ambiguous. You don't use anything but pronouns for the last sentences, which muddies things up when there are two men in the scene. Also, we have no context for these dreams that might be coming back, so what do we care? And she's pregnant? This seems like an important fact that we get in literally the last line. If we had this info earlier, perhaps we'd care more about what might happen to her or the baby, or feel a sense of dread that something might go wrong, since she clearly has some other illness as well. But, the writing itself was very nice - these are all things that are easily fixed in revision.

    I thought the writing in Luke Warmwater's piece was very good as well. Good mood setting right away, and a great cliffhanger at the end. I think the first half of the scene could use a little tightening - I was confused at who was speaking and telling the other that there was a noise. I'm also confused why the dog wakes Ellie with his growling and makes her suspicious, but Jake, who claims to have been awake all night, isn't bothered by it a bit. I also don't understand why he thinks no one is stealing anything when you proceed to tell us that they've been victims of theft a lot in the last couple of months. Finally, I'm not crazy about the info dump mid-scene. If you can weave that into dialogue it would flow better and could also be a chance for us to get some character development. I thought the second half of the scene worked really well, though, once he's at the top of the stairs and through the gunshot.

    Congrats to both writers, very well done on both of your parts! It was a hard choice.

  23. IrishInAmerica - Interesting. Has good hook in the end. The middle was a little slow for my taste.

    Luke Warmwater- (Your pen-name cracks me up.) An interesting story. Good flow. Love the ending.

    I see today is a battle of the "last-line hooks." It's a close call, but I'm giving my vote today to Luke Warmwater.

  24. I vote for Luke Warmwater. The story was great. Loved the pace of it all and the eeriness of the ending.

    IrishInAmerica, I liked the dialogue but in such a short work it might have needed more explanation. Who did she not want to hurt her? Was she feverish with a sickness as well as being pregnant, and what dreams? I think your work could be good in a longer story with more room for details. But I would continue reading to find out these things if that were an option. Good work.

  25. IrishinAmerica get's my vote. I was drawn in by the writing and felt a strong connection. Great work from Luke Warmwater but I didn't connect as much was with IrishInAmerica.

  26. Voting for Luke! Good action and interaction with the characters. It was also clearer than Irish's piece.

  27. Voting for Irish in America, though both pieces had a lot going for them.

    Irish was a tad cliche in its "Irish speech," but the transition in mood from light and jovial was handled well. I'm not bothered by having the unanswered questions some others have objected to. Stories that are not over are supposed to raise questions we read on to learn the answer to. I do think, though, that cramming the 3 questions of pre-mature birth, some unnamed person having hurt Jessie in the past, and dreams about the person -- all at the very end of this excerpt -- is a poor plotting choice. It would have been better to focus on the possible premature birth first, as well as giving us an image of a pregnant woman from the beginning of the piece, and then go into the delirious ramblings separately, sticking with her ramblings instead of jumping to her husband's thoughts about them. Some of the injured thumb details could have been trimmed to allow room for that progression. I think there were plenty of words to give a hint to the time period, so I don't understand why anyone was lost on that point.

    Really good pacing in Warmwater. I like the detail of the smell of dried sweat as the first thing that convinces Jacob that there really is some intruder in the house. I did find it odd that he seemed convinced in the beginning that there was nothing to worry about, given the recent troubles. Perhaps he is alarmed and just trying to sound reassuring to Ellie, but since we're in his point of view, there's a chance to clarify that.

  28. I vote for Luke Warmwater. The action of the scenes kept me interested.

  29. Luke Warmwater gets my vote. I had a bit of difficulty following the relationships between the people in Irish in America, and overall, I thought Luke's writing was tighter and created the right balance of pulling the reader in and ending on just the right sort of cliffhanger. Congrats to both!

  30. I have to vote for Luke as the story as a whole grabbed me more. Though as someone else mentioned, how did the person run out of the house and then half a second later shoot upstairs? Unless the wife just saw the shooting from upstairs? I'm sure it was an issue with the word constraint, but I would want a bit more clarity there.

  31. IrishinAmerica--I'm a sucker for history, so I was immediately drawn in by both your handle (IrishinAmerica) and the subject matter. I really like the writing. I'm sure you've already been cautioned, however, about writing the way people speak as opposed to spelling words in standard English. I'm not sure you need to try to recreate the Irish dialect. Perhaps you could use common Irish slang instead. (I've been watching Moone Boy, and they use the word "feck" a lot though I'm not sure that would be appropriate to your story. Haha!). Also, I wouldn't use the cliche phrase "smashed to a pulp." I'd go for something more original.

    Luke Warmwater--I like the way the scene ended with a bang, literally. It made me want to read more. However, I had some trouble figuring out the scene opening. I wasn't sure what was going on at first and had to read twice. Also, I wasn't really interested in the scene until the very end when the shooting started. Perhaps you could amp up the suspense a bit more.

    Seeing nothing more than these brief scenes, my vote goes for IrishinAmerica.

  32. I enjoyed both. But I'm voting for Luke.

  33. Wow! Luke Warmwater wins this hands down for me. I want to read the rest!

  34. My vote's for Luke, too. Wish I knew what happened next.

    I agree with another commenter that Irish left too many questions that were unclear.

    But, it is only 500 words... Great job, both of you.

  35. My vote today is for Luke Warmwater. I think the first piece had great voice, but Luke's had more finesse and was written more clearly. The tension is also great and I want to keep on reading!

  36. IrishInAmerica was very dramatic but maybe too much so. Luke Warmwater hit a better balance. Luke gets my vote.




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