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WRiTE CLUB 2016 - Bout #3

Here we go again. Time to lace up those gloves and put up some dukes!

During the coming weeks this blog will host 15 bouts (M-F) between writing samples that are identified only by the craftily selected pen names of the respective submitters. The writing can be from any genre, any age group, taken either from a larger piece of work or simply a stand alone flash fiction. The focus is on the writing...not the writer...or its categorization. The two writing samples for each bout will be randomly matched and step into the ring for a chance to find out what they're made of.

The winner of each contest is chosen by you...the reader.  Simply read each entry and leave your vote in the comment section below.  Anyone can vote, as long as you have a Google ID or belong to Google Friend Connect. Anonymous voting is not allowed. It is also customary to leave a brief critique of both pieces. You see, the comments are where the true value of this contest makes itself known. Not only do the contestants gain valuable insight about their work from those remarks, but everybody can benefit from how each piece is received and what works...and what doesn't. Please remember to remain respectful with your comments. If you see an opportunity for improvement, make it known in the most positive way possible.

How do you choose a winner? What criteria should be used? The method by which you determine who to vote for is entirely up to you.  Which one resonates with you the most? Which one makes you want to read more? Which one demonstrates a total command of the English language and how it can be used to elicit emotion or paint a mental picture you can't stop staring at. There is no hard and fast way rules for determining a winner -- and that's exactly what the publishing world is like. But today you get to decide.

The voting for each bout will remain open for one week, so even though a new bout will be posted every day, you don't miss out on anything if you miss a few days.  You can always catch up on several bouts at once if you so desire.  Once the voting period ends and the votes have been tabulated, the results will be posted HERE, on the WRiTE CLUB scorecard. After we make it through the 15 preliminary bouts, then the winners will have to continue on through cage matches, then play-offs, until there are only two left with a chance to win free admission to the 2017 DFW Writers Conference.

The voting for this bout - Bout #3 - remains open until noon on Tuesday - March 15th.

That's the bell...and its trying to tell us something.

Let me introduce to you the contestants for this bout.  In the near corner, representing the YA Science Fiction genre with 499 words, welcome to the ring Scaredy Cat.

That baby will be put to sleep—like a dog. It has the ugly. It’s actually my baby brother. But it’s hard to use my on someone you’ve never met and will only be in this world for a few hours. Mom will be devastated, but at least she won’t meet this baby she can’t keep.

I’m not a snooper, I swear. One afternoon I got home extra early after school and I accidentally overheard my parents talking.

“Please try not to see it at all this time,” Mom begged, “unless they’ve already told us it’s going to make it”. I knew right away they were expecting.

My mom actually gave birth this time. She’s been hidden away at home for months so that no one would have to see her ugly, or call her crazy for causing that stress to her body instead of having the baby grown in an artificial womb, like everyone does. Reclusion is what the atypical pregnant woman is supposed to do when they decide to take the body birth route.

The last and single time my parents were successful at creating a pretty baby was with me—their only other body birth. My parents had planned to go to the lab for their first child. But I was an accident. So, my pregnant mother just ended up giving birth. Since then, their tries for a second child have been at the lab. But, none of them passed nature’s ugly test. Mom concluded that, perhaps, if a baby develops inside its mother the old fashioned way like I did, it has a better chance of surviving. But now, this latest failure has disproved her theory and is moments from exiting the world. If not put to sleep it would die eventually. It usually takes days, and on a rare occasion, weeks. But all ugly babies die, and its deemed cruel to allow parents to become attached to a baby that only has a few days to live. So, they’re put down, quietly.

These thoughts swim around my brain all day. Finally, my last class arrives. It’s been four hours since Dad called to tell me the baby failed the test. It’s dead by now.

At night we pick Mom up from the hospital. The drive back is torturous. Not a single word is exhaled. After scanning and identifying us, the front door glides open and disappears into the wall. We file into our house like ants and into our favorite spaces—me to my room, Mom to hers, and Dad to the study. The house rests in a sad stillness, but just for today. Tomorrow, we go back to our regular lives as expected.

I lean over my bathroom sink and splash cold water on my face. Despite the long, golden brown hair and green eyes that yell for my attention in the mirror, all I see is the downcast sight, the concerned brow and...dead babies. It’s nature I repeatedly tell myself. I shudder.


And in the far corner, representing the YA Dark Fantasy genre with 450 words, also welcome to the ring The Night Songstress.

The fake cabinet collapses after a few quick kicks. As I adjust to the darkness, I see a little girl, maybe eight or nine, with her eyes and lips sewn shut, tucked in between makeshift walls. Some of her blond hair, drenched in sweat, is caught in between the strings.

She’s screaming so hard now that the threads are ripping her delicate, smooth face.

I wish I can call for help, but I can’t. Not when there’s a chance that the cops are after me. Prison is still worse than what I need to do to save her from this agony, so I run to the kitchen and rummage through the drawers until I find a small pair of scissors and a knife.

Returning to the room, I take a deep breath to quiet my nausea. “Hold still. I’m going to cut the threads.”

She stops moving. I pull her out from behind the cabinet. Her chest heaves as she sits motionless on the floor. That’s when I notice all of her tiny fingernails are ripped off. I try not to think too much about the pain she’s in as I set to work.

I have to fix this myself.

The lips are the easiest, so I start there. I slip the tip of the scissor under each looped thread and snip them one by one. The pinprick-sized holes bleed as the coarse thread pulls against her skin right before each cut.

Still unable to see, she turns her head to face me and finds my arm with her small, scabbed fingers.

“My eyes,” she says.

Her soft, angelic voice frightens me even more, but I keep mine steady.

“Lie down. I’ll take care of it.”

Placing one hand on her forehead to steady her, I wedge the scissor’s blade underneath the strands tying her upper lids to her cheeks and make one defiant cut. She waits until I release them from her other eye before she begins to pull the loosened strings out herself. I gag at the sight and turn away just in time to see a familiar black mist.

The same mist that seared my skin weeks ago. The same thing that changed what I am.

I throw myself over the girl. “Cover your eyes and mouth!”

The acidic mist sears my back as I hold my breath and duck my head.

The skin on my back sizzles. I can’t make out left from right, up from down, as I try to withstand the burn and ignore the strange laughter.

Still on the ground, protecting her, I open my eyes.

The smoke has dissipated.

But the laughter continues.

A horrible, sick laughter.

It’s coming from underneath me.


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.  Read both pieces, choose the one you feel is superior, then say so in the comments below and provide a mini-critique for each.

Now go tell all of your friends to stop by and make a selection as well.  Please use the hashtag #WRiTECLUB2016 if you intend to Tweet about this. Tell everybody about WRiTE CLUB, where it’s not about the last man/woman standing, but who knocks the audience out!


  1. The Night Songstress gets my vote.

    But GAH. Both of these are so very freaky and EW and I want more of them both! Scaredy Cat has me interested in finding out why Ugly is such a horrible thing, so much so that babies are left to die if they have it. But The Night Songstress has just that opening at the very end that you know something really bad is JUST about to happen, if we could only have a few more words, and I really, really have to know what.

    But I'd totally buy them both if they were for sale. <3 Nice job to you both.

  2. Both are absolutely excellent. A tie would be justified. I'm voting The Night Songstress by a very narrow margin. I just happen to like that dark twist more than the other. But I believe both would sell well on the open market, and I wish you both great success in publishing. (And hope you'll both have books for sale at the ending reveal post, because I'd buy!)

  3. These two are both great and held me from start to finish.

    I loved the concept in Scaredy Cat and it flowed well. I didn't think the first sentence was necessary and there was a fair amount of telling. You also tell us the baby is going to die a number of times, so it almost gets repetitive. But overall, very enjoyable.

    Night Songstress created great visual images as I read, flowed well and the ending was shudder worthy.

    My vote is for Night Songstress - and that's no mean feat because I do not read horror!

  4. Scaredy Cat has just a bit too much "telling" and needs to tighten up the writing just a bit. It could lose a few words and make those words count. Still a great story and idea.
    Night Songstress has good imagery with a creepy story line started. I wanted to know more. I wouldn't read either of these books, but for the quality of writing I would vote - Night Songstress.

  5. The Night Songstress gets my vote today, hands down!

    Your story was absolutely captivating. It was dark and dreadful and downright creepy towards the end. I haven't read horror since Robopocalypse and with that I had do to like Joey from Friends and stick it in the freezer ;) Anyway, great stuff. Congratulations and good luck!

    Scaredy Cat, while your story was sad I found it a bit confusing. All the italicized words with little follow up to clue in the reader as to what they meant continued to pull me out of the story. Many of the descriptors were a bit off as well. For instance "not a single word was exhaled" I think might be better if you used spoken, uttered, murmured, whispered etc. You use the phrase "long, golden brown hair and green eyes that yell for my attention in the mirror" how do eyes yell? Maybe you could say something like they command attention. Also, the main character comes across as arrogant and unlikable, was this intentional?

    Overall, I get that this is a futuristic sci-fi story which I adore but this just didn't do it for me. Sorry :(

  6. Night Songstress for me. Both of these are very dark. The second more so. And I'm not really drawn to horror, but the writing was excellent. I thought Night Songstress got straight into the action helping us understand the world as it was happening. Even though I wouldn't normally read this type of work, Night Songstress made me want to know more about the dark, evil place. Kind of like how people are drawn to the scene of accidents. They don't want to look...but they do want to look! I now want to read more of this dark world. Well done.
    Scaredy Cat- writing is good but felt like it just needed to cook for a bit longer. Not as tight. Some reptition in sentences. And I couldn't understand why an ugly baby would die (did I miss something?) and it felt like it was important to know this. However I love the premise. The idea of body birth being the exception was very clever and intriguing. And I do want to know what happens next. A good piece, but just tipped by Night Songstress.

  7. The Night Songstress, for me. Kudos for keeping me reading, despite the grisly stuff (not my cup of tea). The writing is immediate, fast-paced, and clear.

    Scaredy Cat has a lot of positives in the way of concept and world-building. I'd love to see where this story goes. But this reads like an early draft--tells a lot instead of showing, using flashback and putting the narrator at an actual physical distance from the dramatic birth.

  8. Very evenly matched, for me. My vote goes to Night Songstress because the writing was a bit tighter than Scaredy Cat,which, as others have mentioned, was a lot of telling and because overall, I was slightly more interested in reading more of Songstress.Both pieces are really intriguing and worthy of moving on, so congrats to both

  9. SC has a more compelling story, but NS has much tighter writing.

    SC's came to the logical conclusion.

    NS's twist at the end felt forced.

    I'm having a hard time choosing. Let me think about it some...

    (one hour later)

    First and foremost, we're storytellers. The writing comes later, but you have to have that story first.

    I'm voting for Scaredy Cat.

  10. Scaredy Cat had good worldbuilding, and an intriguing hook. There were few typos, like the wrong tenses for the first sentence, and I would be more emotionally involved seeing more moments of this story in "real time" instead of summarized, but this is a strong start!

    The Night Songstress gets my "hand waving in the air" vote. The first line ripped me out of my seat and then this imagery sealed the deal: "Some of her blond hair, drenched in sweat, is caught in between the strings.She’s screaming so hard now that the threads are ripping her delicate, smooth face."

    If the author had gone on from there to wring their hands about how horrible it was, they might have lost me, but instead the MC swallowed hard, bucked up, and went and got the scissors. That touch of realism like, "if this was a horror movie we could cut now but in real life, SOMEBODY has to get the scissors" really brought the emotions home for me. The imagery of pulling the strings out was epically gross and awesome. I was less drawn in by the twist at the end-part of me was like, "That's a lot of action in just 500 words" and another part was like, "evil mist? Right now? Huh." I'd have to read more of the piece to judge that part, but the start of the piece was crazy good.

    My vote goes to Night Songstress.

  11. Man is it a bad week for children in the WRiTECLUB this week!

    My vote is for Night Songstress.

    Scaredy cat, your piece smacked of Westerfeld's Uglies series, which I completely adore, but maybe too close to be original. You even used the same terms "ugly" and "pretty." Writing is good, definitely evocative for anyone who has had a baby. I would probably consider touting this as YA dystopian, because it definitely seems like it to me.

    Songstress, as hard as it was to read about a small child with their face sewn shut, over all I think the writing was good. Kudos to your MC for remaining calm! I would consider this piece horror, though if it comes from a larger body of work, I suppose it could be dark fantasy.

  12. I vote night songstress. Horror stuff keeps me up at night- so i wouldnt keep reading. Stuff about possessed/evil children really bothers me. So just by voting for it- should tell you how well written it was. Didnt really understand the mist stuff- but im assuming with 500 more words we would. Good job creepy.

    Scaredy Cat- im assuming you literally mean ugly as in not pretty babies. If it was some health condition or deformity, it would be "Ugly" or had "the ugly". But really, most newborns areny pretty. So this seems rediculous. Killing babies ... Also not my thing. But fhe writing wasn't great- looped around too much.

  13. So sorry to the authors (kudos for the effort), but I can't handle either one of them!

    1. Good for you! I thought the subject matter in both was gross. I voted strictly on the quality of writing, but the topics were unbearable.

  14. After reading Scaredy Cat first I thought "This is a sure winner," and then... Very tough matchup today, especially since dark & horror aren't my cuppa.

    SC: This feels future / dystopian, but substitute 'inconvenient' for 'ugly' and it could be today. Kudos for tackling tough issues, but a sense of originality was lacking. There are a few off-putting word choices that have already been mentioned, and overall it just feels "telly."

    NS: "Eyes and lips sewn shut" was a gut punch to start, and the impact didn't let up. Thanks for not ruminating, and getting down to the gritty business at hand, but I would have really liked to know something about our hero(ine?) Anonymous "I"s are hard to sustain.

    My vote goes to Night Songstress.

  15. Wow, you're not making this easy at all. I can appreciate them both even if neither piece is anything I would ever read on my own.
    Both pieces were well written and both made me extremely uneasy, so good job!

    SC- I have a lot of trouble reading dystopian with dead babies (The Giver- HATE with unbridled passion) but I really wanted to find out what the condition 'ugly' actually is. This piece moves well. I felt that the repetition reflected how her brain replayed the baby's death and gave us insight into her character. I felt she really wants a sibling and her society is taking them from her. Overall I enjoyed the writing, but I really wanted a glimmer of hope (just for my own taste in literature).

    NS- Fast-paced and gripping. I liked that this main character jumped into action to try to save the little girl. (I am hoping that she is laughing out of hysteria and isn't really some nightmarish creature there to steal our main character's soul.)

    My vote goes to Night Songstress based on writing alone.
    (Now, after that round I am off to go hide under the covers for a while.)

  16. Scaredy Cat: This was reminiscent of The Giver, maybe Among the Hidden. I haven't read The Uglies yet, but I wondered about that, too. You have a premise I might enjoy, but I don't see anything in this 500 word sample that sets it apart from what's already been done. I also felt it was a bit "telly." If you could weave the details into the story, and have more action, it might work better. The Giver is a great example of how to release the details of the dystopian world slowly and naturally, but shockingly.

    Night Songstress: I would not read this book. I almost stopped reading the sample. The details of the little girls' condition (stitches and torn nails) were a bit much. It might be me, but I felt a bit like you were going for the shock factor in describing her condition. (I tend to be a "less is more" person when it comes to violence/horror). You could strengthen this by eliminating filter words ("I see", "I notice") and "I try." I didn't feel grounded in the story, invested in the character, or sure of why I should be scared. Five hundred words doesn't give much time to set the stage, and I totally understand that, but I think a little stage setting would have helped me connect more. As it is, I felt like I was dropped onto the stage without the first clue as to the setting, character, and plot - and given nothing to cue me into the protagonist's place in the story.

    My vote goes to Night Songstress because the writing was more polished, and though I wouldn't read it myself, it suits its genre. I hope Scaredy Cat will work on bringing the originality of the story to the forefront, immersing the reader in unfolding action, and showing rather than telling to work in the backstory/world-building. If these were books on the shelf, I'd be more likely to pick up Scaredy Cat (frankly, I don't think I'd give NS a second glance due to personal taste), but in the context of Write Club, I have to vote for Night Songstress.

  17. Both are excellent examples.

    I must say I like the intrigue of Scaredy Cat's submission better. What is the ugly? Who makes the decision to "put them down", those babies with the ugly? It is well written and full of lit value. I want to know more with this one. It is efficient and keeps me focused on the story which is magnificent!

    Night Songstress has efficient descriptions, with little lit. value for me. The short sentences move the scene along but it feels technical. I do love the imagery of some of your lines, though creepy. I'm just not sure it gives it enough of the full-body of a strong story like I get from Scaredy Cat.

    My vote is for Scaredy Cat.

  18. By far the toughest vote yet. Both excerpts were of excellent quality, and I wish they could both move on to the next round. I think it's unfair to make genre judgments based on a 500 word sample, and I saw no glaring mistakes in either work. In short, I can think of nothing negative to say.

    Scaredy Cat, I'm fascinated at the sad, shallow world to which you have introduced us. I'm anxious to learn how this came about. Is it a Hitler style genocide, or just the natural progression of political correctness? Whatever is going on, I'm rooting for this family to overcome it, and eventually make a baby on their own terms.

    Night Songstress, you've instantly thrown us into the action, and made us feel for the characters. I could see my self settling in with my popcorn and Dr. Pepper, and watching this excerpt as a trailer on the big screen, thinking this is a show that I've got to see. Unfortunately, like a previous respondent, I had to throw my ipad in the freezer before I could finish it.

    By a hair, I'm voting for Scaredy Cat.

  19. Both stories are good and I like the unusual themes, but I am going with the Night Songstress in this round.

  20. My vote is for Scaredy Cat, I'm intrigued.

  21. Night Songstress for me. I like the concept of Scaredy Cat but there was far too much telling/info dump in the the 500. Night Songstress is not my style generally but I thought it was well executed

  22. Scaredy Cat's opening sentence really caught me. YIKES. I love it! I found diving straight from that gut-punch into backstory broke the flow of the passage for me.

    The basic situation has tons of potential, but I would be more interested in what's going on if I understood the pov character's attitude toward it. She seems indifferent, repulsed by the ugly baby, and at the same time, tortured by the situation. I would like to have more of a sense of who she is.

    Night Songstress......WOW. This passage is EVERYTHING. Hard to read, in the sense that the situation is really distressing, but also amazing in its detail. The pov character is making a strong, self-sacrificing choice, and just enough questions are set up to make it really, really interesting. How did the acid shadow change her? What is she? Who is she? The whole thing evokes some evil wizard's castle, and the little girl who is the powerless victim, but then the end?!?! So good!

    My only criticism is my brain hitched a bit on some of the details--the hair caught between the strings, the laughter--these could have been lingered over, described a bit more fully, I thought? If the detail is worth adding, it's worth describing a bit more, for the sake of clarity / painting a picture. I also stumbled a little over the cops who are on their way--this passage feels like a magic world / AU, so the modern detail threw me a bit? I'm not sure this is a fault with the writing or just an issue with this being an excerpt. In context it probably makes perfect sense.

    Love LOVE love. My vote is for Night Songstress.

  23. Wow, both of these entries were honestly chilling but my vote ultimately goes to Scaredy Cat. It was really easy for my mind to keep exploring where the story would go. It really gave me chills. Night Songstress had an excellent start that really drew me in but I wanted to know so much more, I felt like someone just handed me half a page.

  24. Another difficult decision. Both stories create a captivating conflict.

    Scaredy Cat: This is exactly the kind of dystopian story I love. I want to know what has happened to society and nature to lead to this kind of situation. In this short passage, I already have a sense for this family. Unfortunately, even though I'm more interested in reading this story, I am trying to judge by writing. If you tighten up the passive sentences and look for opportunities to turn telling phrases into showing ones, this would definitely be a book I'd buy.

    The Night Songstress: On the other end of the spectrum, this is a story I don't think I want to read. I'm not really a fan of the dark fantasy genre. However, I am quite envious of your writing. It's tight and efficient, pulling the reader along quickly and clearly. The last sentence chilled me and forced me to read the whole thing over again with even more horror.

    I vote for The Night Songstress.

  25. Night Songstress- Really good writing, an excellent piece. But I've seen movies and tv shows like this before. Not a criticism per say, as that means it can make money. But...

    Scaredy Cat- I've seen less stories like this one. It feels currently relevant, given that terrible outbreak that's happening to babies right now. But you tossed in a sci-fi twist which reminds me of Demolition Man. And there are characters defying the "breeding law," so that gives the story lots of interesting places to go. So, while I loved both, you're getting my vote today. Way to go kitty, kitty, kitty.

  26. This comment has been removed by the author.

  27. My vote goes to Night Songstress.

    Scaredy Cat: There is a story and a world here; unfortunately, the part revealed in this snippet wasn't particularly original or captivating for me. I also found the writing to be weak.

    Night Songstress: First, I do not like this story at all. Horror is a genre I avoid completely and abhor, so congratulations on earning my vote on the strength of your writing and intensity of the story as told in so few words.

  28. I really like these both.

    For Scaredy Cat, the idea of having 'the ugly' interests me. Other comments mentioned they think it's just being unattractive BUT you can't die after a few hours from being an ugly baby. The fact is something has to be wrong with you and for this piece that's what would keep me reading. I want to know what's wrong with the babies, how it happened, why it happens. A lot of stuff pushes me to want to keep reading. I don't really connect with the character, though I get a small glimmer of what it would be like to connect with her near the end and I definitely want more of that. I would love more showing, less telling. And unlike others I can't compare it to other books because I haven't read the ones they are comparing too. If anything, I'm likely to read this one first before those.

    The Night Songstress: I'm not very fond of present tense stories, but this one is good and it pulls me in and I can see beyond the prose. More with this story than Scaredy Cat, I can really SEE what's going on I also feel it's a bit more on the horror side. This story intrigues me as and I like the fantasy element to it, but I don't like the last sentence and find it a little typical for this genre. I'm also thrown off by the fact that there is something burning/eating away ate her skin and she doesn't react at all, no pain, nothing. If she can't feel pain that probably should be mentioned.

    It's a hard choice, but if I had these two books in my hand I think I'd probably keep reading the Sci-Fi.

    Vote: Scaredy Cat

  29. I struggled to make it through these. YA is not my favorite genre, and anything involving hurting children tends to put me off very quickly. For those reasons, the critique part is going to be really brief.

    Both stories were chilling and kudos to both writers for engaging my brain in a genre and topic that I normally avoid. And yeah, bad week for kids around here, huh?

    Scardey Cat - the story was interesting, but the writing needed to be tighter - too many passive sentences, and too much telling. It also felt repetitive. Interesting concept though.

    Night Songstress - ew. Well done, you made me cringe. The writing is tight over all, a few minor spots where the pacing could have been different, or where things weren't exceptionally clear.

    Vote - Night Songstress
    The writing was cleaner, the story more gripping.

  30. Wow! These were both really strong and it was really hard to choose between them. Some thoughts.

    For Scaredy Cat: I love that the drive back was tortuously because it was quiet. I'm super intrigued by the babies' deaths being tied to their appearance. I did think this entry would have been more compelling if the teen protagonist expressed almost no empathy for the mother and derision for the 'ugly' baby. This protagonist sounds like a product of his/her own environment (it didn't bother me, but I wasn't sure if the speaker was male or female).

    For Night Songstress: You really know how to paint an awful picture! I hurt just reading about the little girl. But her disguise would have been more convincing if she'd inadvertently struggled more during her rescue and hadn't started removing some of the stitches on her own. Having pulled a painful thorn out of a kid's toe once, I know they can't stay still when in pain, even when you're desperate to help them. The fact that she could told me she was probably not what she appeared to be. I was a little confused about the setup. Why was the speaker running from the cops? Why wasn't she more surprised to see something so startling as this little girl?

    Marginally (because they were both strong) my vote goes to Scaredy Cat!

  31. Both of these seem like stories right up my alley! I love supernatural/horror/mystery and anything chilling like that, and both of these fit my love of the uncanny. I flinched reading Night Songstress's piece, and I loved the creepy ending. But I was fascinated by "the ugly" as an affliction in Scaredy Cat's piece, and am curious to know more about it. I would love to read the longer pieces for either of these stories, please!

    But I have to pick one... which to choose? Night Songstress's piece made me physically react, and I loved the action. But Scaredy Cat had a great first sentence and a compelling concept.

    Eek... Short of flipping a coin, I think I need to vote for Scaredy Cat. I loved the second piece, the writing was tight, and I have no criticism at the moment, but I think part of me just wants to vote for it because I love the genre. In Scaredy Cat's piece, I ended with more questions that made me want to read further. Ack. Even that feels as arbitrary as flipping a coin, but there you go.

    tl;dr -- I'm going with Scaredy Cat.

  32. Both intriguing and disturbing! Both with compelling storylines that make me want to read on, but I was hoping in Scaredy Cat to learn they'd kidnapped the ugly baby.

    But overall, I felt the writing in Songstress was stronger and it gets my vote.

  33. This was really, really tough today. Both are so good and intriguing, and I want to read more of each story. I'm drawn more, though, to the dark, sad world being built by Scaredy Cat, hoping that this family finds a way to overcome what has become the norm. So, my vote, by a margin, goes to Scaredy Cat. Congrats to you both - I wish you both could move forward!

  34. Night songstress gets my vote. Very creepy and the writing was excellent. Not typically what I like to read but I wanted to read more. Scaredy cat - interesting premise. It felt very much like a dystopian world if Hitler got to choose what was pretty. But, I didn't really believe the story for some reason. I couldn't immerse myself in the world as much as I could with songstress. You both did a great job. As you can see from the comments, this is very subjective.

  35. My vote goes to Night Songstress.

    These are not what I read, and I have to say that I cringe at them being labeled YA. YA target audience is 12-18 years old, both of these passages are dark enough I am concerned with the influence on younger readers. I would presume that the rest of the novel might not be as dark, but I still felt I should throw it out there.

    To Scaredy Cat: You probably have a great start for someone who can deal with the concept of killing babies. I have almost lost a child, so the whole concept is off putting to me. I like that you were telling the story from the sisters pov, that was a nice touch. Good luck to you, I think you could do well with the right audience.

    To Night Songstress: This was a bit less off putting for me, but still dark. I do like the style you use in your writing. It made me curious, and I loved the evil laugh. I completely overlooked that it was coming from under her till I read it through the third time. It left me with lots of questions, and wondering if the child was no more than a trap for the MC.

    Even though this is not my thing, I do feel you both have a strong voice and I wish I could have voted for both of you. Let’s hope WRiTE Club will be kind and give us something a bit lighter tomorrow.

  36. Night Songstress gets my vote.
    Songstress – loved the opening. You created a very strong and compelling image with the little girl.
    Scardy Cat – the story concept is interesting and the first sentence is a great hook but the brief dialogue of the Mother didn’t hold up for me and then too much telling rather than showing.

  37. Night Songstress. Both stories were compelling, but the writing in Night Songstress flowed, and I could see the story in my mind.

  38. I have to vote Scaredy Cat!

    I thought these were both great! Unfortunately I got tripped up with the term 'fake cabinet' right off the bat. For some reason I couldn't imagine what this thing would be that looked like a cabinet but somehow was not. For the record, I am done with child torture scenes, I have a severe allergy to it! But great work though.

    Scaredy cat -- I was really intrigued with this idea of 'the ugly' and found myself wanting to read on and find out, and the descriptions toward the end of the piece were very effective. I felt like I was right there!

  39. Night Songstress GMV.

    SC: This is a very harsh world, I can see that right off the bat. The main thing that threw me completely off, not the subject matter or anything like that, was the voice. After I read it, I had to go back and make sure this was MG, but it's not. It seems that throughout you kind of mix the voice of a teenager with that of a kid. Like the line about the snooper, and the baby having 'the ugly,' these are things I would expect a young kid to say. But then the line about Reclusion is much older. I would maybe visit that, if this is part of a larger story you're working on, and test it out on people to make sure the voice of your MC lines up with your audience. (I have this problem as well--some tell me my YA characters seem older than they should be.) To me, your last line was the best line, the most real line, in the entire piece. Very poignant, but just before that you sorta used the mirror trick to show us your MC =p

    NS: I enjoy dark things. In fact, this is a scene that I could have written. (Have you had critique group members say they couldn't read your story any longer as well? lol) So, none of that bothered me, and I found myself intrigued with your MC. This person seems very much an anti-hero, and those I find interesting. And, also important, your piece goes somewhere. Maybe not to an ending, but this is supposed to be a writing -sample- not a 500 word story, so I'm completely fine with that. Well done.

  40. My vote goes to Night Songstress. I enjoyed both pieces but the mist, the sick laughter, and the overall darkness of the story got me.

  41. This is tough! And what creepy pieces. But my vote goes to Scaredy Cat this time.

  42. Scaredy Cat: Consider beginning with your second paragraph. It gives us an insight into your MC tickles the reader's curiosity. Then the story can unfold in bits and pieces. It was a sad situation, but I wasn't sure how the MC felt about it until the very end. Also, gazing into a mirror to describe the MC is an oft-done trick. Although I believe you use this in part to illustrate what this world considers "pretty", explore another way.

    Night Songstress: Great descriptions. Super creepy. Not usually the kind of story I like to read, but it pulled me along.

    My Vote: Night Songstress

  43. Night Songstress gets my vote. There was more action there, although I still had trouble figuring out exactly where it was all taking place.

  44. While neither of these pieces particularly intrigue me, both have strong attributes that lend unique tones and voices to the writing. As other commenters mentioned, Night Songstress's writing is tighter and flows better than Scaredy Cat's, so Night Songstress gets my vote.

  45. I'm going with Scaredy Cat's piece. I love the world building there. Songstress was good too but...well, aside from it beong a bit dark from me it took me a biy to set the scene. Cat had me from the first line.

  46. Scaredy Cat: Lots of describing, but I still don't know what exactly is going on. What is the Ugly? Why is nobody trying to save these kids?

    Night Songstress - Ew. Horror is not my thing, and if both stories had been equally well written, you would have lost. But I liked the pace, suspense, never letting us slow down enough to question what we have not figured out yet. I would like to see some of your work without the gore, a nice adventure piece maybe...?

    I vote for Night Songstress.

  47. This was a really hard one because both pieces I feel are equally well written. I'm going to go with scardy cat because the story line was more palatable and saying that. truly well written by both. good luck

  48. I vote for The Night Songstress

    Scaredy Cat

    I’m going to type what I feel as I’m reading in the first paragraph then I’ll summarize in the second.

    “This time” twice close together threw me. “Reclusion is what the atypical pregnant woman is supposed” feels bulky. Woman and they; singular or plural here? “Last and single time” – both aren’t necessary. “concluded that perhaps” is kind of bulky. “its” should be “it’s”. Exhaled words is kind of strange.

    I think it’s an interesting idea. I felt like not a lot happened here. I was kind of picky with my comments in the first paragraph, but I think cleaning up the writing a little bit would help it flow better. I also was hoping to see more action and less pontification.

    The Night Songstress

    I’m going to type what I feel as I’m reading in the first paragraph then I’ll summarize in the second.

    Eyes and lips sewn shut is creepy. You’ve got my attention. Screaming hard while lips sewn shut is an image. Still into it. Wish I “could” call for help? “Quiet my nausea” threw me a little bit. I think the cutting stuff is pretty good. “Defiant cut” and “acidic mist” – by this point it’s feeling a little adjective heavy.

    I thought this was good. I’d back off a little bit on the adjectives because that made it feel bulky at times. I thought you did a nice job creating an image here. I’d keep reading.

  49. Drat! I shouldn't have ventured into this bout before bed thank-you-very-much. Strong contenders both on the fear emotions. I would enjoy reading both as is, but the nod I give to in this bout is to Night Songstress. And I am seeing a pattern here for me.

    While I liked both, I felt Night's use of the 500 word limit was best utilized. What started off scary slipped into terror and ended in horror. Well done!

  50. I'm a huge horror fan.
    Both stories had me hooked from the beginning, and I NEED to know what happens next. I like how both are dark and edgy. But, I'm a little concerned they might be a wee bit too dark for younger YA readers. I think maybe if they were geared toward upper level YA, it might be more 'appropriate' when the time comes to publish and market them.

    I'm curious to know about Scaredy Cat's 'the ugly,' and why babies are killed if they have it. Is it a type of disease? Is it an actual world full of beautiful people (whether physical beauty or internal beauty), and the world requires 'ugly' people (physically or personality wise) to get the axe? (no pun intended). I could speculate forever, and I *really* want to know what happens next.

    But my vote for this round goes to The Night Songstress. The writing flowed more smoothly for me, and the ending gave me chills. Literally. I love when an author's writing invokes that type of response.

    Well done to both of y'all! When you publish your books, PLEASE for the love of everything good, let me know! I will buy them in a heartbeat. *grabby hands*

  51. My vote is for Night Songstress. Beautiful writing and great images. I thought the tension was perfect for a writing sample of this size.

    I enjoyed Scaredy Cat's story as well, but I thought the pace was a bit slow. I also agree that there should be more showing than telling. But the subject and voice were intriguing.

  52. Horror usually doesn't bother me, but UGH! Dead babies and mutilated children. Anyway...

    My vote is for Scaredy Cat.

    Night Songstress. Good writing. Some parts of this were difficult to follow. Fake cabinet? Run to the kitchen? Returning to the room? I think an overall description of setting might help here. Also, with the MC running from the cops, finding the girl, then there's acidic mist that changed her. Overload of unknowns for me. Work on clarity.

    Scaredy Cat - This story reminded me of "Eyes of the Beholder" from the classic Twilight Zone. It has potential, but please focus on showing more than telling. Good mood and voice.

    Congrats to you both for making the cut! Thanks for sharing.

  53. I vote for Night Songstress.

    Not a fan of horror or dystopian fiction, so the decision came down to the strength of the pictures the respective pieces painted in my head. NS's was more physical and immediate, whereas SC's was told at one remove -- and while that's a perfectly reasonable approach to adopt under normal circumstances, it was less effective within the constraint of 500 words.

  54. Scaredy Cat's entry might be the strongest opening for YA sci-fi I've read in a long time. It's got sci-fi tech, a moral dilemma, and a wonderfully close POV. I'm hooked already.

    Night Songstress offers solid prose, but leaves me feeling like I have no idea what's going on.

    My vote is for Scaredy Cat.

  55. The Night Songstress has my vote. Both entries are good, but Scardy Cat's entry is too familiar (makes me think The Giver meets Gattaca).

  56. I'm a bit more intrigued by the Sonstress because I'm thinking Dolls come to life and I'm a doll collector. Scaredy Cat made a decent attempt at world building, but I didn't see it going anywhere.

  57. Really tough call here. I really enjoyed both of these. My vote is going to Scaredy Cat.

    Scaredy Cat: Great intrigue created with your world building! That being said, a lot of this piece felt like exposition, which was okay in this tiny piece because it did create intrigue, but if it is part of a larger piece, you may want to watch how much more backstory you put in, especially if it's near the beginning. (I got the sense that this was the beginning of a larger piece; if it's not, please ignore this comment completely).

    Night Songstress: I was super curious about the mist and how it had changed the protagonist, so great intrigue there! I found the beginning of the piece was a little slow, though, and it wasn't until the mist showed up that I really became intrigued.

  58. Great writing for both of you! But since I have to vote: Night Songstress
    I was definitely pulled in by the opening lines from Scaredy Cat, and reading through it I did want to know more - was "ugly" really a term for babies who would die anyway, or was it literal and children were told lies similar to the Giver? This sentence disrupted my read: "Reclusion is what the atypical pregnant woman is supposed to do when they decide to take the body birth route." It seemed unnatural for a kid to think.

    Night Songstress won for an amazing job of creeping me out. The writing was wonderful; it left me cringing with the protagonist and wanting more. I loved how you dropped this line in: "I have to fix this myself." I felt her strength in that one line.

  59. Whoa. These aren't my usual genre, so it's a hard vote for me. The first felt very detached and clinical so it was hard to get into the character. She seemed so helpless to do anything to change things, but I'm hoping she will.
    The second, whew . . absolutely horrifying on many levels and I didn't have trouble visualizing the scene, until the scary kid starts laughing. At that point, I wasn't sure who the evil "thing/person" was . . .

    I'm going to vote Scaredy Cat.

  60. Vote: Night Songstress.

    These are both really compelling situations, definitely setup for a much longer tale in both cases. I think Night Songstress is just a better piece of writing - more showing, tighter, less exposition, and pulled me in more easily.

  61. These are both very obvious YA fiction, whether or not the label tells you ahead of time. I wouldn't necessarily vote for either of them, but Scaredy Cat turns me off with its ambiguous ruminations on pregnancy, and so I vote instead for Night Songstress.

  62. Both were well written overall, but Night Songstress's piece left me with too many questions and I saw the ending coming as soon as the mist appeared. I tripped over some of the descriptions as well. But I really liked the protagonist and wanted to know more about them (assumed it was a female, not sure why). The world seemed interesting (Magical? Supernatural?) but there just wasn't enough information given about it to wow/hook me.

    Scaredy Cat's piece was a complete story and reminded me of a lot of older sci-fi works that I enjoy with its style. The world building was intriguing and reminded me a lot of Gattaca mixed with other dystopian future worlds. I don't like reading about pregnancy, so the vagueness didn't bother me like it did some others.

    My vote is for Scaredy Cat!

  63. Both stories are well-written, but I'm not going to read either of them before bed!

    I vote for Night Songstress because the ending caught me by surprise and I thought the writing was crisp.

  64. My vote is for the Night Songstress because I felt more immediately in the piece and I actually felt fear. This was a tough choice.




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