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WRiTE CLUB 2018 - Bout #2

***  UPDATE  ***
The genre for yesterdays Groovy Girl submission was mistakenly reported and is actually Upmarket Speculative.  This was corrected at 1:30. If any of the 29 people who voted prior to that time would like to change their vote based on this info please email us at WRITECLUB2018@GMAIL.COM

Welcome back to WRiTE CLUB 2018. Today we bring you a fresh pair of contestants ready to dazzle you with their prose. For those of you who might have just stumbled in, let me give you a run-down of what is going on here.

Weeks ago the submission window opened for this year's contest where we asked anybody wishing to participate to submit a 500-word writing sample – using a pen name. The sample can be from any genre, flash fiction or something from a larger piece of work, basically, anything goes except that it cannot have been previously published or posted on the internet. All of the rules regarding how to submit can be found here. After the submission period closed, we had fifteen judges (we call them our slush pile readers) read all 181 submissions from 132 writers and once all the ballots were total we narrowed the 181 down to the 30 that will be stepping into the ring over the course of the next three weeks. Today is the first of those bouts.

How this works – two anonymous (pen name only) writing samples step into the ring. Visitors to this blog (that’s you) read both entries and vote for the one that resonates the most with you. We ask that you leave a brief critique for both writers with your vote because that is one of the real values of this contest – FEEDBACK. Please be respectful with your remarks!

Even though there will be a different bout every day (M-F), the voting for each bout will remain open for seven days from the date it is posted to give as many people as possible to have a say. The voting for today’s bout will close on Monday, April 23rd (noon central time).

It’s that simple. The piece that garnishes the most votes moves on to the next round where they’ll face a different opponent. Using a tournament style format, the 30 contestants will be whittled down to just 2, and the winner of that final bout will be announced at the DFW Writers Conference in Hurst TX June 9-10. You can follow along with all of the bout results right HERE.

In case of a tie, I’m the deciding vote. I can do that because, like all of you, I do not know the real names of our contestants either (my wife processes all the submissions).

Oh yeah – for every bout that you vote in, your name (see rule #2 below) will be placed into a hat for a chance for a $40 Barnes & Noble Gift card that will be drawn after the contest concludes.

A few rules –

1) One vote per visitor per bout.

2) Although our contestants are anonymous, voters cannot be. Anonymous votes will not count, so if you do not have a Google account and are voting as a guest, be sure to include your name and email address.

3)Using any method (email, social media, text, etc) to solicit votes for a specific contestant will result in that contestant's immediate disqualification. It’s perfectly okay, in fact, it is encouraged to spread the word about the contest to get more people to vote, just not for a specific writer!

That’s enough jibber-jabber…like the man say’s –

In the far corner, we have Jakkym representing the Adult Fantasy genre.

Ulmer dipped his bloody hands into the wash basin.  Red, oily tendrils spread into the water briefly before diluting into a pink clouds.  He made sure to go in all the way to the elbows.  Small specks of blood dotted the rolled-up sleeves of his shirt, much to his annoyance.  Meticulousness was a trait Ulmer prided himself in, it’s what made him a good surgeon.  Still, no matter what apron he wore or how careful he was, blood always got on his clothes.  It seemed that war was a dirty business for all parties involved.

The corpse on the wooden operating table next to him flinched as he was working some soap into his fingernails.  Ulmer paused a moment to regard the dead man from the corner of his eye.  Such things weren’t uncommon in the newly deceased, so the battlefield surgeon prudently resumed his task.  Many of his peers chastised his thoroughness, saying that he wasted too much time while people were dying on other tables.  He’d stopped trying to explain his theory about sanitation and infection rates long ago.

His hands abruptly began to shake as he reached for a nearby towel.  The tremors were becoming more frequent and he was afraid they would start impacting his abilities as a surgeon.  He wondered how long he could hide his weakness from his colleagues, who were looking for reasons beyond his odd personality to be rid of him.  Ulmer often wished he was more diplomatic so he wouldn’t have to rely so much on raw talent in order to succeed.

He was still brooding when he toweled off and turned around to find the corpse sitting up.  A high-pitched yelp escaped his mouth, and he nearly jumped out of his skin with fright.  There was no doubt in his mind that this man was dead —having had the misfortune of being impaled by a Varatu spear.  Thrown at nearly point-blank range, it had pierced not only his wooden shield, but the arm behind it, and the torso behind that.    Through and through, as they say.  When Ulmer first saw him lying on his side in the triage tent he thought someone must have been playing a trick on him.  The spear had missed every vital organ as far as he could tell, but had unfortunately severed an artery.  All Ulmer could do for the poor fellow was reassure him as he bled out.

The corpse spoke, first taking a breath that seemed for that purpose alone, “It always feels so heavy…”  It brought its hands up close to its face, inspecting them.  They were alone in the tent as Ulmer was always the last to leave for any meal (especially lunch), since he found it to be more bothersome than beneficial.  Other tables stood in neat rows, each one bearing a mangled body that had been beyond saving.  Despite all of this, the young surgeon stood in amazement —his curiosity as a physician outweighing his panic.

And in the near corner, we have Quinxun representing the ??? genre.

Shrouded by the moonless night and his black robe, Zhou Haoran crouched on the slate-topped outer wall and watched Sun Jiechu -- his best friend, his sworn brother, the man he had promised to kill. Below, in the courtyard that unfolded between the men, two red paper lanterns cast ephemeral halos across the surface of the compound’s central pond. From opposite ends of the garden rose two sets of grand, double doors. Had Haoran come under any other circumstances, Jiechu would throw those doors open for him like welcoming arms. Now, they lay barred from within.
            On the far side of the house, all the windows to Jiechu's study were shut save one, as if an invitation to come in out of the summer heat and join him in the brightly lit room. Haoran could use his lightness skill to glide down from the wall, cross the manicured garden, and have a seat in the finely-crafted oak chair across from his white-haired friend, who would smile at him like the sun itself. The time that amassed between them would fall away, and the dawn would find the two still laughing over tea.
            During the decades since they'd last seen each other, Haoran had traversed the breadth of the Ming empire, slaying his martial brothers -- everyone who had studied Fierce Mantis Style. Jiechu had used that time to grow prosperous enough to own the manor he now sat in, but it was not grandiose -- Haoran could no more imagine Jiechu being ostentatious than he could imagine the sun rising in the west. But his old friend had paid attention to the details : the outer walls of manor’s two main halls were decorated with carved stone, and wooden lattice protected the interior paper windows. That kind of craftsmanship took money. Could Jiechu have gone soft?
            No, Haoran would be a fool to think Jiechu an easy kill. In the old days, Jiechu’s skill mathed their master's, Old Mantis. But in virtue and kindness, Haoran reflected, Jiechu had no equal. Murdering such a hero would be a transgression against the world, but a vow to one's deceased master held more power than any other bond, and Haoran had spent a lifetime fulfilling this promise. When Haoran had given his word to Old Mantis, he knew this day would come. He'd put it off too long. Now all that remained was to find a suitable opportunity.

            Below, a small servant girl, perhaps fifteen, approached Jiechu. Her black hair hung in a smooth braid down her back, and she had the ruddy cheeks and wide face of a Tibetan. Haoran watched the girl give Jiechu a comically deep bow. Jiechu grinned with pure joy, and his ease might have enabled Haoran to catch him off guard once the girl left, except that she had turned to face the courtyard, and her gaze was wandering up in Haoran's direction. 


Leave your votes and critiques in the comments below. Again, be respectful of your remarks and try to point positives as well as detractions.

We’ll be back tomorrow with another bout.  See you then.


  1. It's a dark night for a rumble, sports fans, but under the spotlight, in the ring, Jakkym and Quinxun shake hands, go to their corners, and wait for the bell.

    From the start, both fighters show their skill in their respective fighting styles. Jakkym dazzles with a beautifully visual display of karate kicks and visceral blows, ending with a nice, early twist when he places his main character, and the blood on his hands, as a doctor -- and a battlefield doctor, no less. Not to be outdone, Quinxun is kung fu fightin' in the purest "Reed Pen" style, with a powerful, evocative setting and excellent tension in his opening blows.

    Carrying on into the middle of the round, Jakkym ramps up the tension with hints of unnatural blows to come. Quinxun shows off even more on his kung fu fundamentals, putting us right there in the scene with his main character, and builds a whole past of killings and ramping tension for him, setting up the present, culminating moment in one deft stroke.

    Both fighters are standing strong coming into the finals seconds of the round, and it all comes down to the chance opening, or stumble of fatigue. But both fighters present their own signs of tiredness: Quinxun with a tiny, but jarring, typo, leading his target to start "mathing" his old master -- an arcane fighting style indeed --, and Jakkym with a few badly-timed moves, details about Ulmer's lunch habits and reflections that take us out of the tension and action of a corpse rising off the operating table.

    It's our closest call yet, Jim, but for each round, the ref has to make a choice. Two excellent fighters, but I'll take a slightly funny typo over an actual storytelling issue any day -- one point for Quinxun!

    1. Sorry, that's, @SpaceLawyerSF, naturally.

  2. Jakkym's entry is beautifully written, and I can see a truly honed skill there. They give a wonderful sense of characterization with the doctor and tease us with a tiny hint of what will inevitably come with the flinching of the corpse. However, the timing of the choice of excerpt comes in and a lull in action and ends with a lull in action, even after the doctor just witnessed a corpse sitting up. He seems to pragmatic about the situation, and all in all lets the tension fall flat.

    Quinxun has a strong narrative from the start, hooking me instantly with the twist in his hook. After all, who would normally see a brother and best friend as a potential target? This early intrigue sets the tension immediately and it carries well throughout the rest of the excerpt. Quinxun shows off strong characterization of the pair, gives us a sense of the long history between them without using too many words, ends it well with even more tension building as the girl is a glance away from seeing him, and masters the art of showing over telling. However, there are a few typos that threaten to break the immersion.

    Even with the typos, my has to go to Quinxun. Everything else is just so strong in their choice of entry that I can easily overlook them, whereas I couldn't immerse into Jakkym's slight info dumping and struggling tension.

  3. The action in Jakyym's entry kept my attention, so it gets my vote.

  4. Both great entries! My vote goes to Quinxun.

  5. This one’s a toughie! I found Jakkym’s prose more direct and uncluttered, but Quinxun’s prose was very beautiful. Ultimately, though, if I were going to be reading these as a book, I’d probably put Quinxun’s down first.

    My vote goes to Jakkym.

    -SP Hofrichter

  6. My vote goes to Quinxun.
    Jakkym's piece is an easier read, but I don't think that should factor into the thumbs-up/thumbs-down decision. Quinxun's story has the slow build of a fantasy or historical fiction, and readers of those genres are accustomed to the more complex ideas and paragraphs. Although I enjoyed Jakkym's piece, that paragraph after the corpse sits up was a clunky placement in the overall structure. The tension dissolves at the moment it needs to rise.

  7. Jakkym's prose is wonderfully descriptive. I can see it all. I'm there. He begins with focus on the one thing that's sure to grab us, then slowly brings the lens out to pan ever wider until we get the whole picture. Nice! Unfortunately throughout the 500, too many instances of backstory or musing dropped in take me out of the present and drop the tension. Then, holy cow, a talking corpse! I have a science background too so I understand the pragmatism, but ... a talking corpse. So much missed opportunity. Ulmer's response left me flat.

    Quinxun, that opening line grabbed me and held on. And the quality of the prose matched Jakkym's, only differing in style. As I continued to read, I understand the need for a *bit* of background to give us context, but no matter how beautifully written, the amount of backstory still came off as info-dumping to me and the tension dropped. I want to stay in the moment, especially with such high stakes. Tension ramped back up when the servant girl turned and ... will she see him? If so, what will happen? I want to keep reading to find out. Nice save.

    My vote goes to Quinxun.

  8. I really like both premises. There's a bit too much passive voice in Jakkym's piece that kept pulling me out of the story, but I already like the doctor and his new-to-resurrection friend. Ultimately I give my vote to Quinxun for great description and immediate conflict.

  9. These are both stellar entries. I couldn't decide immediately after reading them both, so I let them simmer. Ultimately, it was Jakkym's entry and his delightful doctor that I couldn't shake from my mind. While both authors should be extremely proud of their effort, but since I only get one vote, the Jakkym's good doctor wins it.

  10. Quinxun gets my vote here. This piece was fresh, intriguing, and held my attention. It took a typical brother battle and turned it on its head. Bravo!
    Jakkym's piece was good, but I couldn't get past some of the overdone themes and a glaring grammatical's the editor in me!

  11. Congrats to both writers for making it to the ring!

    Quinxun gets a little bogged down in backstory toward the end, but recovers the tension with the arrival of the servant girl. The piece was atmospheric and generally well-paced, with the above noted exception. I appreciated the details of the setting, as well as the tension of a character having to assassinate a friend.

    Jakkym's entry felt too distant for my taste, like the author was explaining who Ulmer is instead of putting me right inside the surgeon's head. (If you want more clarification, look up "Close Point of View.") I also felt the surgeon's reaction to the reanimated corpse fell short of what it could have been. (And jumping out of skin in fright is a bit cliched). Here again, really getting into the doctor's head could add so much tension, intrigue, etc. I was to SEE this scene, moment by moment, not just be told how it all went down. This piece has so much potential - pairing this analytical doctor with something totally beyond the scope of science - but the writing isn't quite there for me.

    My vote goes to Quinxun.


  12. First of all, I have to say I love BOTH stories. I would definitely read both books. It is clear to me why both were selected for the ring.

    A note about my criteria- I am not bothered by genre categorization or lack thereof. Additionally, the typos held no weight for me, as honestly I didn't even notice them until I read the comments posted by others. My criteria is centered strictly around story strength. I’m looking to determine if I tell who the characters are, why they are here, the problem they face and what they think they need to do to resolve it. Assuming all of that information is present, I look to see if the story grabbed me.

    Jakkym- Great hook! You drew me in and made me want to read your story. Great mix of detailed descriptions with action that moved things forward. The missing element for me was while I knew who the MC was, but I didn't have enough info to determine what his place was in the broader story. Why was he involved in the war in the first place (as a surgeon), what brought him to this point in the story? Additionally, I wasn't clear on the problem he would be called upon to solve in the broader story. I know he has a talking corpse, but I felt doubtful that figuring out how the corpse came to life was the major obstacle for the broader story. It seemed like a minor obstacle or one of many that are faced in a much larger story. If I had been given that information I would have probably given you my vote. (I am a sucker for science related stories)

    Quinxun- Your oath to kill a best friend hooked me and made me what to learn why. While you had very little action (which usually would keep readers at a distance) you painted an amazing picture using words like brilliant colors on a canvass! The description was warm and inviting. By the end I knew all that I needed to know about the MCs, why they were here, what problem they faced and how they planned to resolve it. It made me want to read further to see if Haoran would really follow through on his promise. I kept asking myself "is this really just 500 words" as I felt like I had so much information for such a low word count. Great job making every word count!!

    For the above reasons, my vote goes to Quinxun!

    But remember guys you both made it to the ring so that makes you both a winner in my book!

  13. Jakkym intrigued me however, it was laden with passive voice and a few cliches. I found the desciption easy to visualize but the inclusion of many filter and distancing words slowed the story down. I found the reaction, even though he's a surgeon, somewhat unbelievable.

    Quinxun used some passive voice but it worked to give the piece a nice tone, almost felt like a translation versus a direct write. Nice. The author created a nice mood and when edited for spelling errors and some word choices it worked for me.

    I give my vote to Quinxun, but it was close.

  14. My vote is for Jakkym.

    Quinxun has build an interesting world, and the prose was well done, but I preferred the action of Jakkym's piece. I think that the ending of Jakkym's excerpt could use a bit more tension, but overall I enjoyed it

  15. Congrats both on making it to the first round!

    Jakkym - Your situation here has great potential: a unique premise and a main character I'm really intrigued by. Good job showing so much of Ulmer's quirky character in just a few words, and grounding the reader in a solid scene. However, your choices of filter words (thought, wondered, wished) kept this reader from being fully immersed, and the closing paragraphs dissipated the tension you'd deftly built.

    Quinxun - I was drawn in by the scene, characters, and clear goal. Thank you for leaving me not to flounder. The lyrical language well suits both place and voice, and the backstory was efficient enough not to overburden. Watch your edits, but overall, very well done. I want to read on.

    Today's vote to Quinxun.

  16. Love both these two-- great work. I'm trying not to be influenced by the other comments.

    I felt more hooked by the premise in Jakkym's story. The opening image of the blood is rich and eerie, and it right away engages the reader. It doesn't mince any words in getting the setting and the mood across in a short span, which is marvelous. I do feel a little cheated in the moment when the corpse just "sits up"-- I'd like to get a little more "POW" at that moment, instead of just saying... he turned around and the corpse was sitting up. Similarly, I'm not sure I buy the fact that something like that could happen before someone's eyes, and it would instill more curiosity than panic.

    I would panic.

    Also, I was distracted the use of "sanitation" in this context... wouldn't it more be "sterilization"? Sanitation sounds like garbage removal. But these are little things. The piece is creepy and fun and it makes you want more.

    Quinxun uses some gorgeous language. The tone draws one into a different world right away. I could see the smooth braid, the grandiose courtyard. But I'm a little less drawn into this one because what we mostly have here is description of the character's surroundings, and we're not given much of a clue as to what's going on in the storyline. So without context of what these characters are vested in it's harder to be immersed in the rest.

    I vote for Jakkym because I feel this moment represents not just quality writing but the crux of a full story.

  17. This was a tough one, but my vote ultimately goes to Jakkym.

    Jakkym's writing was more concise and built well. The ending feels like it was cut off so that the scene isn't actually finished, but the initial hook is there.

    Quinxun's writing is a bit more descriptive, which is great, but I think the tension of the scene that is supposed to pull us in suffers a bit for it. Also, not having a designated genre in what clearly reads as Historical Fiction raises some questions for me.

    While I thought Jakkym's writing style was better, I will say that I found Quinxun's premise more intriguing. Ultimately, it came down to style.

  18. This comment has been removed by the author.

  19. This is a rough one for me. There are things I love about each of them. Jakkym has the great twist of the corpse sitting up and talking, although the backstory and asides he chose to insert at that crucial point did step on the drama of the rising corpse. Still I like the set-up and the worry about blood getting on his clothes. Gives some interest to his personality.

    Quinxun showed straightaway that the story world has great depth, but I found the writing a bit overly formal and the tenses need work, causing time confusion. With a formal style, the tenses need to be perfect. I do love the internal conflict over the need to kill his good friend because of a promise to his master. And the girl looking his way is good.

    Ultimately I have to go with Jakkym, which is purely a matter of personal taste for me. I would rather read about a battlefield surgeon than an assassin. But I congratulate both of you for making it into the bouts and for your good writing.

    Brenda Marie Smith,

  20. Both stories were very entertaining and enjoyable. Jakkym’s story was intriguing. I really wanted to know what happened to the doc next (which is a great sign!), but the clichés were a bit of a speedbump.
    Quinxun’s story was equally as intriguing. I kept wondering why the ‘brothers’ were trying to kill each, but there was a bit of an emotional disconnect from the characters.
    These stories were equally matched, so I’m going to go with my gut. Jakkym wins for me.
    Thanks for sharing!

  21. Both stories pulled me in, but Jakyym pulled me out with detail that could’ve waited for another part of the story... assuming this is an intro to a longer story.
    Quinxum’s flowed nicely with some excellent story telling.
    My vote is for Quinxum.

  22. I enjoyed both of these, but my vote goes to Jakkym. I'm not one who loves a lot of description in my stories, but I totally loved your description. It had me right from the beginning and didn't let go. It's a story that I can honestly say I'd love to read more of.

    I also loved Quinxum's story. I am a little bothered there's no genre listed, though that was not the deciding factor for me. For me it came down with a large chunk of backstory in only 500 words. But still, great writing.

  23. This comment has been removed by the author.

  24. Both stories grab me with different elements.

    For Jakkym, the actions that move the story along(dipped, spread, flinched, shake, toweled off, yelp, spoke, brought hands close to face) are well interwoven with the backstory and thoughts the protagonist is having. Not to mention how chilling the story is(a plus for me). There were a few lines that were too on the nose and I would have rather had the feeling shown than told- much to his annoyance, the young surgeon stood in amazement. Of course I do understand it's tough with 500 word cap.

    For Quinxun, the feeling of regret and duty are strong and jump out of the page. The description of the setting is beautiful, however, the story takes a while to pick up and there is heavy amounts of description of setting and backstory before the story moves forward in the fifth paragraph with the girl interacting with Jeichu. I would suggest interweaving the backstory/settings more with the actions of the story.

    I vote for Jakkym.

  25. Wow, hard to choose. Both great stories and I want to hear the rest! But Quinxun gets my vote.

  26. My vote is for Quinxun. This piece is more wordy than I like, but did a good job of showing and brought us into the MCs thought process while also giving us neccessary details.

    I felt Jakkym's piece had far too much tell and the bits of info thrown in took me away from the moment. I love the story idea that seems to be presenting here. Despite the info dumps, I'd keep reading.

  27. I loved both of these entries, and I wanted to continue to read on.
    It is with a personal preference I am choosing Quinxum. Both were very exciting, but I liked the more formal writing of the second story better.

    JoAnne Turner

  28. This was an interesting match-up! Kudos to both writers for keeping me engaged and entertained from beginning to end.

    Jakkym - Your story was intriguing and started with a good, strong hook. That said, you tripped up with a typo in the second sentence already (it should be either 'a pink cloud' or just 'pink clouds'). Along with an awkward phrase and a second typo in the fourth sentence ('it's' is a contraction for 'it is', not 'it was', so your tense is out of place with the rest of the sentence), it really neutered the power from your hook to keep my attention. Normally, I wouldn't focus on typos quite so much, but to me, this is surface stuff. If there are errors on the surface, I'm worried there will be deeper errors below. It's easy enough to clean up with a proof read.

    That aside, you do a great job setting up Ulmer as a fastidious intellectual who cares more about doing what he believes to be right than the opinions of others whom he believes to be less intelligent than himself. The fantasy triage setting is super unique, too, and an aspect we rarely see in fantasy novels, so major points for originality! Unfortunately, your passive voice and tendency to tell over show also slowed the tension to the point where a talking corpse--who, apparently, is used to being dead or has been dead before--felt sort of flat. It's fine that Ulmer is more curious than panicked, and based on your characterisation, that's a fun and intriguing and in-character reaction for him--but the passive voice neuters the big reveal.

    Quinxun -- Your setting is amazing and your hook, while it takes a long time to land due to the extended sentence, is a killer. You do a fantastic job of creating setting and taking the reader on the same journey into this courtyard. There is, however, one major aspect which could seriously spice up your writing: different sentence lengths. Each of your sentences seems to be almost the same length, give or take an extra lengthy, descriptive clause. There's also a comma splice with 'grand, double doors' and a missing word with 'the outer walls of manor's two main halls'. Finally, there's a typo near the end, with 'Jiechu's skill mathed their master's'. See Jakkym's critique for my point there.

    The backstory of Haoran hunting down his fellow Fierce Mantis disciples threatens to feel info-dump-y, and to an extent, it is. However, you do a fantastic job with the information given, because it tells us more about Haoran and makes him more intriguing (namely, that he's willing to commit a terrible social crime in killing someone who is, by all accounts, a good man, solely to fulfill his oath to his dead master).

    Overall, however, both pieces were entertaining to read! But, since I have to give a vote...

    ... I vote for Quinxun.

  29. One vote for Quinxun. Beautiful writing style and intriguing concept.

  30. I vote for Quinxun. I loved the hook, the MC having been sent to kill his best friend & 'sworn brother.' I also loved the ending, with the servant girl's gaze trending toward Haoran's location, leaving us hanging before it ever gets there. Some of the sentences were overly long for my taste, and the author could do with fewer adjectives. He head-hops by attributing 'pure joy' to Jiechu, which Haoran could not know. I found the internal reasoning over whether Jiechu had gotten soft to be weak and the piece would probably be better without it. All in all, I found the story to flow well and to set the mood for an Oriental battle. Not sure of the time period, though.
    On to the undead. I liked Jakkym's foretelling of the corpse's awakening via the twitch on the table. I also liked the corpse's enigmatic first few words. While starting strongly, the piece finished on a weak note. The doctor's reaction to the speaking corpse was not believable, and him thinking about why he was alone in the tent and describing the other tables and cadavers was a distraction to how he would have felt in that unusual situation.
    I found this bout to be far more difficult to judge than yesterday's - a close call for sure.

  31. I like both stories but my vote is for Jakkym. Unfortunately I got lost in the backstory with who was who and who did what in Quinxun. Neither stories last lines made me want to know what happens next but I enjoyed the character of the Doctor and for me character makes three-quarters of the book.

  32. Wow. I think they are both well done. Both are a little dark, and both draw me in, but I feel like Jakkym's piece makes me want to know more and continue reading.

  33. Tough call. First, congratulations on making it into the match. That deserves a lot of credit before the match even begins.

    Jakkym: I like your character (which is huge for any story), but I think you could stand to punch things up a little bit. Language, I mean. For one example, instead of "was working" try just saying "worked" and see if it doesn't enhance. And while some readers will skip right past typos, those same typos will draw others out of the story.

    Quinxun: I'm not worried about the listed genre as I can figure that out quickly. I think you could go back in and figure out a couple ways to ratchet up the tension, especially at the end. Drive your reader to keep reading. And again, typos are an issue for some readers, so make sure those are eradicated.

    In the end, tough call, but I'm going with Quinxun.

  34. Pretty easy vote this time. Quinxun has the best writing to this very early point in the 2018 Write Off.

  35. Quinxun gets my vote.

    Though I am almost always intrigued by a speaking corpse, my attention was held by Quinxun's ninjas. The danger was palpable, the conflict clear and the twist at the end with our protagonist being spotted, that was great. Typos aside, it's a fantastic start that could be amazing with some polish.

    Jakkym gets a little muddled in passive voice and it seems to me 50% of the narrative could be cut just to get to the point: the corpse is alive! Would like to have known more about that and less about Ulmer and his relationship with his coworkers and fastidious nature. The reanimated corpse is where the story lies.

    1. It's a shame...but this vote will not count as anonymous votes are not allowed. Must have a Google account or an email address.

  36. GRR! The multiverse ate my comment, which is annoying since I spent 10 hours trying to formulate my thoughts and craft a reply, which was much better than this re-do is bound to be.

    Both pieces were engaging and left me asking questions. In the end, my vote goes to Quinxun because I felt more connected to his world and characters. Unfortunately, I felt like a huge portion of Jakkym's excerpt could have been removed because it's a lot backstory or passive-voice info dumping.

  37. Once again, great stories.

    Quinxun opens with powerful proclamation of murder but then spends quite a bit of time with setting descriptions while I was wanting more meat.

    Jakkym kept me intrigued. The flow of the story is smooth and makes sense, but it's a bit wordy.

    Both stories have some great elements.

    My vote goes for Jakkym.

  38. My vote goes to Jakkym. Although Quinxun poses the more poignant dilemma -- and has beautiful writing -- it was heavy on backstory and description. Plus I got confused about why the friend had barred his doors, but would have spent all night talking with his potential assassin. And frankly, didn't feel the weight of a previous obligation compared to the insanity of murdering his best friend. And Jakkym posed, to my mind, the more fascinating question.

  39. Quinxun For me.

    I really enjoyed the fantasy-type worldbuilding here, even with the backstory. It gave a great sense of setting,


  40. One vote for Jakkym. I felt the writing was tight and concise, the character interesting, and the situation compelling.

  41. For me it comes down to the toss of a coin. Almost. But in the end I give my vote to Jakkym who came across just a little more finely honed.

  42. My vote goes to Jakkym.

    I enjoyed Jakkym's prose, although I did find it clunky in some places. I think you did a great job of incorporating narration with stream of consciousness which kept me into the story longer than Quinxun. On top of that, the undead dude? I gotta know more.

    While I found Quinxun's writing beautiful, it took too long for me to get to the scene at hand. While I knew what the scene was because of the introductory paragraph, I didn't care about the story enough before all the backstory details.

  43. These two writers both write with flowing prose that really immerses you in details.
    Honestly it's difficult for me to choose between the two. The strengths and weaknesses of choosing to drop too much detail was matched in my opinion.

    In the end Quinxun takes my vote because it speaks more to me, but both stories offer a lot of potential.

  44. My vote is for Jakkym today. I had a little trouble staying interested in both pieces to be honest, but Jakkym's was easier to finish for sure.

  45. Jakkym ... Intriguing. I'm curious where the story might go. You have my vote.

    Quinxun ... I feel like I'm missing something. Like another paragraph might have made this click for me.

    Good luck to you both.

  46. Quinxun gets my vote. The writing was vivid and immediately put me in the story. And the ending was intriguing. Although there were a couple of typos, these can be cleaned up with more time spent on editing.

    Jaxxym, your story was interesting and the dead coming back to life is one of my favorite genres. Descriptive writing and I felt like Ulmer was a relatable character. But it seemed a bit flat until the last paragraph or so. Also, battlefield hospitals get lunch breaks?

  47. I vote for Quinxun. I think both of these stories are more telling than I want them to be (as opposed to showing), but Quinxun is less so, with a lot of good description. Jakkym's story just spends too much time expositing (sure, that's a word) on what this character is about, and how other people feel about him. These are all things I'd want to infer from the action rather than have spelled out to me.

  48. My vote goes to Jakkym. The premise of his story is one that I would be most likely to continue. I agree with another reviewer here that said the paragraph after the corpse sitting up was clunky. Discussing whether or not he cared to go to lunch on most days pulled me out of the unfolding drama. Quinxun's story was well-written, but too many foreign names made it hard to get into the story, there wasn't much in the way of action, and the description of the setting and thoughts about what could have been under other circumstances took away from any action that may have taken place. This would be a great story for someone who enjoys milieu stories...which isn't me.

  49. Quinxun

    Both good. This is just my preference.

  50. Jakkym's story grabbed my attention and held it to the end. Quinxun's story, alas, did not. I just could not get into it.

    My vote goes to Jakkym.

  51. My vote goes to Jakkym. While both writer’s did well, I felt Jakkym’s ease in delivering an alternative world was smoother and more subtle than Quinxum’s delivery. Quinxum seems to place too much information in too short a space. Got a big confused on what was happening.

  52. Jakkym was more interesting in a quick read sort of way. Quinxum moves at a different pace. That was intriguing to see where it was going.

    Quinxum is my vote.

  53. Because I wanted to read more my vote in this bout goes to Quinxum.

  54. This comment has been removed by the author.

  55. Both entries were a bit too passive and exposition heavy for my taste, though that it a personal matter.

    Jakkym: Workmanlike prose, but too much exposition with big blocks of text. It's an interesting concept, and I liked the first 2 lines, they were a nice hook. Overall it was an easier read than Quinxun, but I felt remote from the MC - I was reading about them, not getting into their head. The bit where the corpse sits up is obviously important, and it feels lost inside all the text. I'd try paragraphing it out separately, or have the MC react to it verbally, or maybe either removing the earlier twitching (so it's more of a shock), or increasing the tension by playing more on the twitching.

    Quinxun: Intriguing opening which made me want to read more (having to kill an old friend). The words paint the feeling of the night, but as with Jakkyn there's too much exposition and large blocks of text for my taste. I found the 3rd paragraph confusing. The idea of the courtyard 'unfolding' was disconcerting, as to me it doesn't really make sense. The mention of the 'lightness skill' (a special skill/power I assume?) is a little clunky, there must be a more exciting, or more beautiful way to express this.

    Overall: Jakkym.

  56. Congrats to you both for making the first cut.

    Both pieces are intriguing but I had a hard time getting into Quinxun and my mind began to wander. It was only when the servant girl turned toward the courtyard at the end that I became interested and wanted to read more.

    Jakkym's delivery was much smoother and it held my attention all the way through.

    My vote goes to Jakkym.

  57. For Jakkym the pacing and the imagery matched the meticulous demands of the character's profession creating an engaging start that I want to see more and more. It definitely earns my vote.

    For Quinxun I liked the imagery of the setting, the names, and Haoran feels interesting!

  58. I had a hard time choosing between two strong contenders. They both built clear settings, well grounded in sensory details. They both introduced strong hooks with conflict and mystery. They both gave me a sense of their characters' voices. Definite positives there. On the negative side, Jakkym's entry settled too far on the side of telling for me. There was too much of the character's back story and his relations to others that happened off-camera, described passively. His reaction to the astonishing event of a corpse coming to life seemed flat. With Quinxun's story I was a bit lost at first; Zhou is looking across a courtyard at his brother, so it took me a moment to realize Jiechu was inside, not out in the courtyard. I was also confused about whether Jiechu knew Zhou was out to kill him or not. In the first paragraph he thought about how ordinarily the doors would be thrown open but now they are barred from within, and there is talk about how Jiechu would be a difficult target, implying he knows and is defending himself. On the other hand, Zhou thinks about how he could float down the wall and into the room (I want to learn more about that!) and chat with Jiechu until dawn, implying Jiechu doesn't know he is in danger from Zhou.

    A tough choice! Both are strong. I think I have to throw my vote to Quinxun. The flaws I noted are relatively minor and easier to fix than a tendency to muffle a story with passive telling. I appreciate the chance to read them, and would gladly read more of both of them.

  59. This was a difficult choice. Quinxun was very well written with the imagery and the character's reflection on how they got to this point. Jakkym similarly provided some character info for a scene that really only has one moment of action. But the pacing for Jakkym worked better for me. I hate to just cite personal preference, but these were both great. Jakkym gets my vote because it read a little better for me on first pass. I want to know what happens next in both stories.

  60. My vote is for Quinxun. Beautiful settings and imagery in that one. Jakkym was gripping and would be my choice if I were choosing between two novels, but from just from these excerpts it didn't quite get there. Both were fantastic.

  61. My vote goes to Jakkym.
    I like the clarity and complete feel, as well as the possibilities of Jakkym's story, what happened, why now, what else? The character feels slightly removed from the action, but that could be a character trait rather than a flaw.
    I like the dramatics of Quinxum and the suspense, but there was a very passive voice, and too left unknown for me to feel truly compelled. Additionally, the servant girl seems at the same time entirely insignificant and important, and there's just not enough space for that kind of ambiguity.

  62. Jakkym gets my vote just a more intriguing storyline to me.

  63. My vote goes to Quinxum.
    There was a lot to explore in this story - Why did he promise his master to kill his brethren? My heart already went out to the victim, so noble, yet so unaware of the danger lurking. I would have to say I wasn't quite sure how our MC was going to get in the open window - it hinted at magic, but didn't quite make it clear. The interaction with the servant girl left many questions, (in a good way) - somehow, I'm thinking the Old Mantis' methods may not die in this fight.
    For Jakkym I really wanted to like it. The idea started strong, and may have worked itself out if there was just a few extra words allowed. However, with only 500 words allowed, too much time was spent telling the specifics of "how" the soldier died, and not on expanding the hook. Also, I found it jarring that the dr. had not worked on this soldier - it would have fit the story extremely well if the dr had worked to save the soldier only to have him die on the operating table, and then be resurrected. However, I am extremely intrigued by why the corpse remarks that it is "always" so heavy - have they done this before? Really great concept, with a lot of potential to explore.

  64. A few grammatical and spelling errors in both submissions. Get someone else to read through it before submitting and they could be easily fixed.

    Jakkym: Cliche of “jumped out of his skin”. Get creative! Yes, I understand the corpse is not supposed to be alive and is an “it” but that phrasing is very awkward to read. When alive, it had a gender so use that to make it easy for the reader and not pull them out of the story. Also the voice was a bit distant and I didn’t really get to know the doctor as I would have liked. Get closer (close POV)! I really liked the premise of a surgeon losing his skill/position due to some medical malady that causes his hands to shake and now dealing with a dead man that’s now alive again. Particularly interesting with hints of germ theory so set in an alternate Victorian-age. Would buy this in a heartbeat! Agree with others stating tension tapered off just when it needed to ramp up at a re-animated corpse.

    Quinxun: I enjoyed the concept of brother against brother and that the only person left on his list to kill is his best friend. I also like that it was from the assassin’s POV. Having it from the purely good character would have been boring this leaves moral ambiguity that make Hoaran intriguing. Lovely descriptions, but for a 500 word submission I would have liked a bit more action since nothing actually happened in the entire piece (he sat on a roof and contemplated life). This was sort of info-dumpy. Maybe sprinkle some of that info in later or in an imagined convo with his friend in the office? Would be interested to see whether or not he fulfills his promise or stays true to his friend. Also was not sure about naming conventions for feudal Japan (I think that’s where you are???) but would he call a friend by his last name and not his first name? Especially his best friend? Maybe he can start w/first name and then consciously decide to use a title or last name to distance himself emotionally from his friend in order to kill him?

    My vote goes to Jakkym for the more interesting premise which pulled me in from the start.

  65. Both Jakkym and Quinxun's protagonists are the introspective type, which doesn't leave much room for the setting or conflict to show itself. Both entries also leave the actual conflict to the very last moment, with Jakkym's being slightly superior due to the suspense. Quinxun made a good effort in replicating the feel of the Chinese martial arts genre, but his protagonist's ability to focus on the present leaves much to be desired. My vote goes to Jakkym

  66. Again, Jakkym and Quinxun both did an excellent job.
    Jakkym - very descriptive. When the corpse spoke it had my heart racing!
    Quinxun - tackling a very unique genre of Wushu martial arts. My vote goes to Quinxun for being so unique!

  67. Replies
    1. This vote does not count as it did not get submitted until after the noon deadline.

  68. I think both writers did a great job in this round. Jakkym did an especially good job at helping me visualize the scene. Quincunxes started strong and held my attention throughout.
    My vote goes to jakkym, because I felt closer to the story and was invested faster.

    1. This is good feedback, but the vote does not count as it did not get submitted until after the noon deadline.

  69. Wow! This one is neck and neck. Both pieces were wonderful in painting the setting. I am intrigued by both and would love to read more. In Jakkym's piece, the reaction of the surgeon to a corpse that comes to life is flat and just not believable. Curiosity yes, but if this is the first time he'd experienced it, I wouldn't think his thoughts would be straying to lunch.

    For that tiny little detail ... my vote goes to Quinxun.

    1. This is good feedback, but the vote does not count as it did not get submitted until after the noon deadline.




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