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WRiTE CLUB 2016 - Playoff Round 2

We started with 95, narrowed it down to 30, cut it in half to 15, and now there is only 6 writers left.  It's play-off time in WRiTE CLUB!

Our six writers will again enter the ring, this time against a different (randomly selected) opponent, and brandishing a new 500 word writing sample. The bouts will be posted once a day...ending Wednesday...with the voting remaining open until noon central time on Sunday, April 10th.

Here's a reminder of how everything works. Writing samples from two different writers, identified only by the craftily selected pen names of the respective submitters, are competing against one another today. 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 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 customary to leave a brief critique for all the 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.

What's at stake here? Other than bragging rights, there's also a chance to win free admission to the 2017 DFW Writers Conference.

Your voting has an added significance because not only will the three winners move onto to the next round, the submission that does not win their bout but tally's the most votes among the losers will move forward as a wildcard selection as well.

Ready to help an aspiring writer make their mark?  It's time to introduce our contestants and get this party started.

Writer #1 is representing the YA Contemporary genre with 489 words. Please give a warm welcome to Chun-Li.

Dr. Wilson shifted to Ruth’s head, then picked up an electric saw. Its half-moon blade was lined with jagged teeth and the bloated, boxy handle looked impossible to hold, let alone control. “Alright, enough review. We’re going to get into the brain today. Which one of you wants to do the honors with the Stryker?”

Six hands shot in the air so fast I wondered if I had misheard. Did he just ask, Who’s scared to use the tool specifically designed to cut through bone? Shouldn’t everyone’s instinct have been to run the other way, not fight for a chance to use it?

Dr. Wilson pointed to the burly boy with gargantuan hands. Everyone crowded around Ruth’s skull and I fought the tide to plant myself by Ruth’s lower half.

The saw came to life with a high-pitched whir. If my eyes had been closed, I might have thought an airplane was somehow landing in the basement. But I didn’t dare close them for even a second, not with an active bone saw in the hands of an inexperienced operator.

There was a gleam in the boy’s eyes as the blade arced through the air, meeting Ruth’s cranium with an intensified screech. Flecks of skin and bone splattered onto the surrounding students, but they didn’t notice—all except one boy, who flinched and rubbed his mask with his double-gloved hand. Unbeknownst to him, the movement smeared the debris instead of removing it.

I was pulled to him like Lu Pang to a scallion pancake. Clearly, he was the only other sane person here. Sidling up, I called over the noise, “How long did it take you to get used to this?”

His head whipped toward me as if he were surprised by my sudden appearance. “Maybe two class sessions? I shower afterward and have the hospital clean my scrubs. It’s fine.” He pointed to my vinyl gloves, which matched his own. An extra layer to keep the stench of death (aka Fritos and cleaning chemicals) off. “You must have inside knowledge.”

I nodded, then inclined my head toward Ruth. “What was it like the first time you saw her?”

“Surreal. And I noticed the smell of course.” He tapped his nose. “Vapo-rub.”

I tapped my own. “Tiger Balm.”

“You know all the tricks already. Once you get in there, it’ll be better.” He pushed me closer to Ruth. “Why don’t you pick up the forceps and take a look through the leg muscles?”

“No fucking way!” I yelled just as the saw fell silent.

Dr. Wilson glared at me, then returned to his cool-professor persona with a fake smile. “Everything okay?” he asked a little too sweetly.

“Yes, I apologize. I’m, uh, a visitor, and I was just… a little thrown off by how calm everyone is around the cadavers. It’s still pretty new to me.”

Dr. Wilson chuckled even though my lie was as exposed as Ruth’s neck.


Writer #2 represents the YA Dark Fantasy genre with 500 words. Please welcome back into the arena The Night Songstress.

I took a few steps up to my apartment when the stack of books I held onto tumbled out of my arms, hard and soft covers flying in every direction. I chase them down as the thunder continues to spur on the rain. On the next landing, an old Asian woman picks up one of my childhood books, her eyes wide as she flips through the pages of faded ink.

“Hi,” I say.

Startled, she glances over at me with eyes covered in the slightest haze from cataracts.

“Dis,” she taps the cover with her index finger, “I want.”

“Um, are you Grace? Maid service?”

She nods. “I clean free... for dis?”

“Um, sure!” I try to contain my excitement. Her penchant for this book seems strange, but I’d trade it for a hundred-dollar cleaning service any day.

She flips through the book again as I usher her upstairs. I peek from behind and see her running her fingertips over my name that’s written on the inside cover.

“Belongs to Elysia Daghan” was scrawled in cursive with a marker. I was nine when I did that. During one of my mother’s rage-filled attacks, she threatened to take away what I cherished—books, clothes, art supplies. I thought scribbling my name on this would shelter it from her threats. Looking back, it was the stupidest thing I’ve ever done, but I guess that’s just what a nine-year-old would do. It was the only thing I could do.

I’m busy unpacking when, after twenty minutes of silence, Grace begins muttering to herself as she moves on to disinfecting the microwave. I should’ve known better that the guy who was in a rush to sublease this place wouldn’t bother wiping down remnants of exploded meals.

“Cittam sreyah kuruhum. Cittam sreyah...”

No, she’s not muttering. She’s chanting.

Trying to ignore the slow-fading scent of bleach, I swallow the lump in my throat.

“I can finish cleaning up the rest,” I say. “You can go home now.”

She turns and stares at me, still moving her dry, cracked lips.

My scalp tingles as if every strand of hair is charged by the lightning outside. I let out a breath and hand over the book. She snatches it from my fingers and grabs my arm with the other hand.

A searing pain rips through my bones, stealing my strength. I feel the burning, hear the sizzling of my flesh cooking under her grip.
My eyes tell me nothing’s wrong.

Please! I beg, but it doesn’t escape my lips. I ignore the scent of my arms smoldering sweetly, clogging my lungs like honey being poured down my throat. I yank again, but it’s not my effort that sets me free.

She lets go and I lose my balance.

Tripping over unpacked boxes, my head breaks my fall.

Warm liquid pools through my hair as Grace bends over me. Her face comes close to mine, watching as my eyelids begin to shut.

“He has found you,” she says.


Enjoying a pair of 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 if you haven't already done so.

Please tell all of your friends to stop by and make a selection as well.  Tweet about it, and if you do please use the hashtag #WRiTECLUB2016.

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


  1. These are both great - but my vote goes to Chun-Li.

  2. Congrats to both of you and thank you for sharing more of your writing with us.

    Chun-Li: I liked your first piece, for it's humor and voice, but I like this one even more. It feels more original, less stereotype-driven. I liked the Vapo-rub/Tiger Balm exchange, in particular. I couldn't figure out why this boy with more experience was in the 'newb' class or how she knew he wasn't new like her, but I'd guess that's addressed elsewhere in the story. I feel badly for this poor girl who clearly doesn't want to be in med school. Your writing is quite good.

    the Night Songstress: I honestly can't tell if this is a continuation of the previous piece or an excerpt from a completely new story. It doesn't really matter, though. Like the first one, it's intense and there is a slight 'off-ness' that twists through the whole thing in a very genre-appropriate way. The first half of this excerpt has some awkward sentences that could be punched up a bit. Truthfully, I was on the fence about which way to vote. Then I hit the part with Grace chanting. The story takes on a vibrancy and urgency at that point that I just love. I actually shivered when I read "He has found you" even though I don't know who "he" is or why it matters that she's found. Very nicely done.

    My vote goes to the Night Songstress.

  3. Chun-Li gets my vote. Loved the visuals and the last line was nice.

  4. Just wanted to add that I, too, am hoping that we get to learn who the different writers are and how we can follow their work once the contest is over. :)

  5. The Night Songstress has my vote. I'm not sure who found her, or what all is going on. But I love where this is going, and I want more.

    Chun-Li - I didn't know YA Contemporary was so vivid with cadavers and such. The YA has me guessing that the main character is a genius who got into medical school early. Or she has some very twisted group that she's hanging out with here. I'm not sure. Interesting dissection scene though. Best of luck.

  6. I loved Chun-Li's writing in the first round and this piece just sealed the deal. What a gripping moment! I feel so bad for her and was so emotionally invested by the end that I have to give Chun-Li my vote today.

    Night Songstress- I love this piece so much more than your first piece. This is such good writing and I do want to know who 'he' is and what is happening, but you are up against some really tough competition. You made it really hard to choose today. Please keep writing!

  7. My vote goes to Night Songstress.

    Both great writers today and so hard to choose!

    Night Songstress: The piece flows together and is perfect for the genre. So much is packed in this piece: Past, present, and future.

    Chun-Li: Great writing and a unique situation, but seems less over-arching than Night Songstress. I had a little trouble thinking that the MC would talk over the bone saw, which is described as being as loud as an airplane landing. I was also a bit confused about how there are newbies and experienced dissectors in the same room who don't know each other and why this is significant--this was a tad confusing for me. I expect that in a larger work (with no word count restrictions) this would shine. I really, really, really wanted to vote for you!

  8. Wow! This just keep getting harder, but my vote goes to Chun-Li.

    Chun-Li's writing flowed. She made a cadaver lab experience feel real, and yet grounded and relatable. Everyone has felt like the 'newbie' or been embarrassed in class.

    Night Songstress: the beginning was a little slow and there were a few awkward sentences. But you had great tension and a fantastic hook at the end.

    I would read works by either of these authors. I echo the need-to-know who these marvelous authors are.

  9. There's no question that for my interests, it'd be Night Songstress all the way. I'd definitely read that without a competition forcing me to.

    But this is a contest of writing skill (at least that's my criteria), and these are both really good. I like Chun Li's entry a lot better than before, as now we get into some real meat (via bone saw), not just dialogue. It's well-done and kept me interested.

    In the end, I don't know if I'm being biased by the subject matter, but I am going to vote for Night Songstress. There was a transition in the middle that left me confused and going back to check where I was (when they get into the apartment, it suddenly jumps to things already half-cleaned), but outside of that it was just flowing and kept me inside the story with great description.

    So vote: Night Songstress.

  10. Night songstress gets my vote.

  11. Chun Li today. This is growing into such a good story. I want to read more.

  12. Chun Li hands down.

    Night songstress's piece was flawed in flow and transition, which others have mentioned. I also don't appreciate an old Asian cleaning lady who speaks as a stereotype in any piece of writing. Sorry.

  13. I find nothing in the Chun Li piece that approaches any kind of uniqueness. The scene is flat to me. Uninspired. There is no detail beyond the utterly obvious to draw me in.

    The Night Songstress piece feels to me like the author is a little more invested in the story but it seems very little care was put into the writing. It slips into contradictory tenses more than once, which I don't consider acceptable. I find present tense is a challenging way to tell a story and should be reserved for the occasions when the author understands its applicability and knows how to use it effectively. The word "penchant" here sounds like a random thesaurus grab and is obviously not the appropriate word. A stranger cannot possibly demonstrate a penchant (which connotes a pattern of behavior).

    I cannot cast a vote in this match. I'm only posting because I feel obligated to for the sake of transparent objectivity. I don't enjoy giving negative criticism.

  14. Chun-Li for me. I want to read this book now.

  15. Chun-Li gets my vote. I admit being intrigued by the combination of gruesome and hilarious.

  16. In previous bouts, I voted for both of these writers. This time, I vote for the Night Songstress.

    Chun Li's submission is written well, but this scene fell flat for me. Like another person had said on here, there just wasn't a sense of uniqueness. I didn't feel any urgency, mystery, or an underlying complexity or tension to get me to want to read more.

    Night Songstress is on the opposite end. I felt like the writer was leaving us clues about the writer, the Asian lady, etc. through the book, the chant, the accent, etc. I want to channel Fox Mulder and find the truth that's out there. The scene did feel rushed in certain areas and the writing can use some improvement. I've noticed this as an ongoing issue for a lot of the submissions, probably a result of the word limit. However, I'm judging on which one sparks my interest the most and it's the latter for me.

  17. Night Songstress's piece didn't feel like a continuation from last time. Not even a hint of what happened to the little girl?
    We already knew from Chun-Li's piece about not wanting to be a doctor. This piece fit in nicely and even made me laugh.
    I vote for Chun-Li.

  18. Vote: Songstress.

    Song: I wish the writing was a little more refined. But I'm voting for this piece because of the premise. I think the idea is intriguing and got goosebumps at the end.

    Chun Li: Nothing really pulled me into the piece. I've watched medical shows with scenes very similar to this. It was good imagery and I got to understand a bit about the character but it fell flat for me. I also think saying her neck was exposed at the end kind of threw me off, especially when it was her brain being exposed.

  19. Chun-Li for me today. I like that the protagonist's dissatisfaction with med school was explored and that we (the readers) were shown interesting glimmers of her character. My only critiques are that, unless the protagonist is some sort of academic prodigy, I think the YA label is a little young for this specific piece; it seems more NA to me. There was also something about the protagonist attempting to talk to her blade-wielding peer that rubbed me the wrong way. I appreciate that MC seems a bit on the outspoken side, but, for me, it weakened the nice tension that was established earlier on in the piece.

    I enjoyed the twist in the Night Songstress's piece, and I also liked the protagonist. Unfortunately, I disliked the last line; I found it cliched and a bit cheesy. There was also a bit of a slip in tenses, but that's easy enough to fix. The Night Songstress is a talented writer who knows how to entertain, but I just found Chun-Li's piece stronger and more engaging.

  20. Night Songstress for me. In both of this writer's pieces, I find myself getting trapped in this dark world. I picture myself in the room with this woman and keep wanting to know more the more and more I read of this writer's work. Keep it up!!

  21. Night Songstress is my vote. As much as I love a good medical drama (ER, Grey's Anatomy, Emily Owens, etc), I just couldn't get into Chun-Li's story. I really wanted to, but something didn't work for me. Not sure what, exactly.

  22. Voting for Chun-li. The writing was solid and I liked the odd little scene. Reminded me of something out of a Tim Burton film for some reason - both grisly and weirdly normal, with what might be an awkward meet cute.

    Night Songstress's piece started off with a hard POV tense conflict (switched from first past to first present). I wasn't feeling the descriptions - they seemed off and overwrought to me. But I really liked the part about the character's nine-year-old self writing her name in her book as a way to protect it.

  23. Neither piece pulled me in this time, and there were some grammatical errors in the writing. Out of the two, I like the one by Night Songstress more, so that gets my vote.

  24. The Night Songstress gets my vote. Both are suitably creepy, but I'm less interested in cadavers, and more interested in whatever the heck is going on with the cleaning woman.

  25. The Night Songstress gets my vote!

  26. Chun-Li: I'm not sure about your protagonist's age or situation, but I like the way she's stuck in this gruesome scenario and the potential budding friendship / romance (??) between her and the helpful person she sticks to.

    Night Songstress: This MC seems to push forward really hard, and yet always get into so many scrapes! I love that, very much. It's a good quality to have in a story.

    Night Songstress gets my vote.

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  28. Night Songstress
    Love the suspense. Can't get eniugh4

  29. Chun-Li wins this round for me. Super intense piece, I really enjoyed it. Songstress I enjoyed as well, but there are some tense that you don't flip back and forth. Good luck, guys!

  30. My vote is for Night Songstress. Even though the tenses are mixed up, the story is intriguing and I love the ending.

    Chun-Li - I could picture everything you wrote about but didn't feel any connection to your MC. I also kept on wondering who Ruth was in her former life...not sure how that distracted me but it did.

  31. Wow! Both of these pieces were so good - so chilling, so compelling, so in tune with character and pacing! Excellent match!
    I'm voting for Chun-Li just because I entered the scene a bit faster with that one.

  32. I vote for the Night Songstress!

  33. Night Songstress gets my vote!

  34. My vote goes to Night Songstress! This writer does a great job constructing the scene for the reader and building the tension....and yes, I got some goosebumps at the end! The switching of tenses is a bit distracting, but can be easily fixed.

    Chin-Li did a nice job of describing the sense perceptions experienced in a cadaver lab, but the story did not leave me wanting to know more.

  35. Night Songstress wins my vote!

    Both had me hooked, so it came down once again to personal preference. Great job writers!

  36. I had to really wrestle with this one because Chun Li has been my favorite pick of this entire competition. But since this round is all about these two entries, I have to go with Night Songstress. This was just a better entry, stronger writing, compelling imagery. My vote doesn't change the fact that I hope to read Chun Li's full story in novel form someday. Seriously... I would love that!

    Vote: Night Songstress




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