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WRiTE CLUB 2018 - Bout #5

Welcome back to WRiTE CLUB 2018. Today is our final contest of the week, the 5th of 15 bouts with new contestants ready to muscle their way into the next round.

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 Thursday, April 26th (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 and 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 BananaGram representing the Cozy Mystery genre.

Where was Gabby yesterday after the casino players came back to Wise Acres? There was something going on with Gabby and Gertie was bound to find out what. “More research,” she chuckled to herself as she went to meet with Maude and Clarice about the murder.

All they knew was that someone had been murdered at the casino the day before while the residents were on their monthly gambling outing and Ben, one of the residents of Wise Acres Independent Retirement Living Center, was arrested. They decided the best way to get information was to visit the scene of the crime: the casino.

“There won’t be another bus trip for a month, though. We can’t wait that long. Poor Ben will already be convicted by then.” Maude pointed out. “And, since none of us has a car, we can’t drive to the casino.”

“I know! We can take MyRide! My daughter uses MyRide all the time.” Clarice sat up and looked at the others.

“Do you know how MyRide works?” Gabby asked.

“No, but I have seen my daughter touch something on her cell phone, and a few minutes later a car drives up.”

“She must have an app on her phone for MyRide. Do any of you have apps on your phone?” Gertie took out her phone and looked at the screen. “I have no idea how we can get apps. Or even what apps are.” 

“I remember when phones were for calling people. Now you can take pictures, do email, order food, and apparently even order MyRide cars. At least that is what I have heard. I have never done any of those things.” Gabby flipped the lid open on her phone. “I’m not even sure if this phone will do those things.”

“Gabby, I told you to get a new smart phone when I got mine. That old flip phone won’t do anything but make phone calls.” Gertie tapped the screen on her phone, frowned at it, and then set it on the table. 

“Well, let’s figure out when we want to go and then figure out how we will get there.”

“Let’s go tomorrow. We can ask around and find out who was murdered.” Clarice liked going to the casino. Her favorite machines were the penny slots. She could play all day on $10 worth of pennies and not feel like she lost anything.

“What day is tomorrow? I have a chair yoga class on Friday at 2:00.”

“Tomorrow is Thursday, Maude. You won’t miss your chair yoga class. Does anyone else have any plans tomorrow?” Gertie picked her phone up again. “I think there is a calendar on here somewhere.”

“I think we all can go.” Gabby said, “Now, how will we get there?”

“I’ll call my daughter and ask her to order us an MyRide. She’s always telling me that I should get out more.” Clarice picked up her phone and punched in some numbers. 


And in the near corner, we have Peter Pen representing the Science Fiction Romance genre.

The lightning strike hurt almost as much as getting dumped five minutes earlier.

Of course this happens to you, Dave, I thought as the bolt violated my body on its way into the ground. Only, I didn’t so much think the words as get the vague sense that I was the butt of some cosmic joke. There’s not much to think about when electricity is scrambling every anxious thought in your brain.

Speaking of anxious thoughts, as soon as I hit the sod my head began filling with them. Would Laurel come out to help me? Would she even look out her window and see my body face down, smoking on her front lawn in the rain? Part of me hoped she wouldn’t, because I’d have to tell her I’d been on her front porch crying for five minutes. Which is more embarrassing than getting struck by lightning in your ex’s yard.

Maybe she’d take care of me, feel sorry for dumping me? Or maybe now I was just like any other crispy twenty-five year old guy dying in front of her house. I mean, we dated since our senior year of college. Three years, two months, and sixteen days. That’s at least worth an ambulance call, right?

When we had dinner with Laurel’s parents last week, I’d overheard her dad saying I didn’t have a future. Guess the lightning proved him right.

Then a new anxious thought arose. Partly because my hair was standing on end with that feeling of static like I’d rubbed a balloon all over my body. But mostly because I found myself hovering six inches above the rain-soaked grass.

“What the…” I croaked. I didn’t curse. Couldn’t. Laurel always called me a boy scout for it, but my parents hated foul language.

Then another strange thing happened. My skin started glowing with a pale light. Faint, the way blue flames lick the yule log at Christmas. Shoot. Christmas. I won’t get to give Laurel the earrings I got for her. Then I realized how ridiculous I was to worry about that, what with hovering above the ground, glowing blue and all. Do I worry too much? Is that why Laurel broke up with me?

I attempted to force away the thought. Laurel couldn’t come out and find me crying again before I died. I tried to stifle the tears, and, luckily, only two thin laser beams escaped my eyes. Uh... I blinked away the beams and stared at singed grass. I need to stop hovering. I pushed at the ground to stand, but instead shot straight up fifty feet into the air. I hung there for a moment, thunder peeling around me as I stared down at Laurel’s house. Then it dawned on me.

I could fly.

Maybe it was the shock of the lightning bolt—I realize that’s a pun—or maybe I thought this was just a dream, but in that moment all I could think was, Wait till Laurel sees me now.


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 next week with another five bouts.  See you then.


  1. In near corner, in the snazzy white pantsuit, the Rock of Ages, iiiiiiiiit’s BananaGram !

    And on the other side, weighing in at only 150 pounds now all his hair has burnt off, iiiiiiiiit’s Peter Pen !

    *DING !*

    Both fighters are looking strong off the bell today, Jim. BananaGram swings with both strength and wisdom, going for a maverick combination of senior humour and murder mystery tension that could really lead to her landing some major punches down the line. But Peter Pen matches her hit for hit, setting up a funny, anti-heroic romance guard of his own, and punching away with literal lightning speed.

    Going into the middle of the bout, Peter Pen’s heavy reliance on self-deprecating, out-of-tone with the action inner monologue starts to seem a bit laboured. It’s clearly a conscious choice, and it is executed well, but it does drag away quite considerably from the action and the tension. One or two completely out-of-phase inner comments are one thing, but so many in such a short passage seems like too much.

    At the same time, however, BananaGram’s entry becomes even more confusing. Not only are there a few mishaps in the dialogue structure (“XYZ.” Maude pointed out. — instead of “XYZ,” Maude pointed out.), but even more importantly, there seems to be confusion regarding the characters in the scene. Gertie says at the start she is going to meet Maude and Clarice “about the murder” and wants to find out about Gabby. So why is Gabby herself suddenly present in the conversation? Unless both Gabby and Gertie went to meet Maude and Clarice together, but that doesn’t seem in any way apparent, even upon rereading. The lack of any sort of description that could let us visualise, identify with and separate the different characters also hurts the execution of this fighting style considerably.

    Heading into the final seconds of the round, Peter Pen’s routine — though far from perfect — finishes with a solid, superhero-twisty hit, and a good chuckle with the laser eyes surprise. I’m not certain how much staying power this mixed fighting style will have in the long run, especially if it keeps relying so heavily on out-of-place inner monologue, but it works, while BananaGram’s routine seems to leave us without any hook whatsoever, finishing with a series of humour jabs that don’t quite hit the mark.

    There goes the bell, Jim, and the scoreboard says one point for Peter Pen!

  2. While a murder mystery being solved by senior citizens is something I never knew I needed until today, I'm afraid BananaGram hasn't managed to hook me with the story itself. I'm not kidding when I say, just based of the premise alone, I would read the crap out of it... but the opening lacked anything to sink my teeth into. There is a LOT of information shoved down our throats in the first two paragraphs and makes it hard to swallow. Also the dialogue feels forced and way too drawn-out/repetitive. Don't be afraid of a contraction here or there for more flowy speech.

    Peter Pan delivered a heck of a chuckle with his hapless hero. I really feel for the poor schmuck. And I do love me some self-depreciating humor, but I would have to agree with the comment above that there is a time and place for it and it's very easy to overuse. Be careful Peter.

    While neither story gave me the tension I like, I would have to go with PeterPan for sheer giggle-factor with his piteous protagonist.

    BananaGram, don't give up! I really really really do wanna see your premise tweaked to perfection some day!

  3. Peter Pan for the win. I liked the dry humor.

  4. Banana Gram! Yes it was a bit of a slow start but the premise is amazing and, more importantly, i like the characters.

    Peter Pen has an interesting setting but the MC is very unlikeable - I personally dislike “bereft lover will do anything to win their love back” stories because it removes agency from the character that dumped them.

    If I were presented with both as a book, I would keep reading BananaGram but would put Peter aside.

    -SP Hofrichter

  5. Listening to grannies try to figure out modern technology can definitely be a funny thing to watch; however, in BananaGram’s story, the dialogue didn’t seem natural... a bit forced. It had its cute parts, and I would totally be into reading about senior citizens solve a murder. Golden Girls meets CSI.

    Peter Pen, love the “pen” name. I appreciate a guy who takes some time to mourn a breakup and also thinks about HIS place in the problem... what he did wrong. Being struck by lightning and flying?! I love a good spider-bite-gamma-radiation story! Bring it on!

    My vote is for the flying PeterPen!

  6. I like mysteries and while the premise was good, I wanted to know more about the grannies investigation of the murder. Too much time spent of cell hones and MyRide. I do like the idea of chair yoga. If there is such a thing, sign me up.

    My vote goes for Peter Pen. This line had me laughing "Or maybe now I was just like any other crispy twenty-five year old guy dying in front of her house" Not the dying part, the whoa is me. How comical! And relatable in the getting over an ex part with a sci-fi twist.

  7. Although we all probably know someone that relates to bananagram's story, I didn't feel connected. I did not know why I should care about these characters and the adventure they are about to embark on. The writing seemed a bit disconnected and forced.

    In Peter pen's story I felt connected instantly. I was hooked by the internal struggle Dave is having while outside his ex's house. The writer gives information about the character without just giving a list of facts. Peter Pen creates a picture seamlessly while also keeping your interest. I can't wait to read more about Dave.

    I vote Peter Pen.

  8. Bananagrams - I love the pen name and the concept of a geriatric detective squad, but I had a hard time connecting with this piece. Gabby was gone, then not gone. Second paragraph was all backstory that could have been worked into the narrative. And all this talk of MyRide and these new-fangled smartphones... The dialogue felt like you were trying to squeeze in all the old people cliches. You could get away with sprinkling the cliches throughout an entire manuscript, but spending so many of your 500 words on these things came off as ridiculing the more mature members of your target audience. The premise is great. Execution needs some work.

    Peter Pen - The premise is fine--lighting strike endows love-sick young man with superpowers--but I don't yet know what sets your protagonist apart, and the pacing seemed a bit slow. I think if you tighten the writing, make it a little snappier, the story will be more engaging. As it is, it feels like you don't quite trust your voice to convey all you want to say.

    I'm really torn today, but I'm going to go with Peter Pen. The writing needs some work, but there's more story in Pen's 500 words.

  9. Bananagram: Concept of a group of OAPs solving murder is quite cool. I'd love to see them evading the nurses at the OAP home, escaping to go and investigate mysteries. However... Even for a cosy mystery there is no tension or sense of danger or conflict (evading nurses would be enough tension for the scene). The scene needs to be set, either with some description, or by showing the characters interacting with their surroundings, not just their phones. I need to get more sense of Gabby or Gertie's characters. The dialogue was stiff and though I think it was supposed to be funny, it wasn't, to me at least. Complaining about the modern youth, phones, apps etc could be amusing, if done with wit, which would also reveal character, but here it just sounds like listening to your parents' friends moaning. I'm sorry to be so negative, but this was really not my cup of tea.

    Peter Pen: Great first line. I loved the self-deprecating humour. The MC was a bit pathetic (as intended) but he was redeemed by his humour, and you could see where his character arc might go. Great voice. When the supernatural elements came in I was quite surprised, and I wasn't quite so keen on how the later parts came over.

    Overall: Peter Pen

    1. Should add though, that like posters above, don't rely too much on that internal self-deprecating monologue, Peter, as its appeal will fade.

  10. Oh, BananaGram ... what a premise! The senior ladies are going to save the guy. Or at least check out what happened. Unfortunately, the snappiness I expected from these ambitious women never showed up. Stakes were totally missing. Ben had been arrested, but the women never discussed why they felt it important to investigate. Instead, stiff dialogue and unimportant details lowered the tension. Everyone's remarks and thoughts felt too scattered at this point in the story for me to want to continue.

    Peter Pen ... the lovelorn guy crying on his ex's front lawn. Meh. But hit him with a lightning bolt. And all the superhuman traits that suddenly ensue? I'd be interested to see how Peter handles this young man's journey and would definitely keep turning the pages.

    My vote: Peter Pen

  11. These pieces both have a lot going for them, but I need to vote for Peter Pen. I thoroughly enjoyed the voice in that piece.

  12. My vote goes to Peter Pan. Bananagram, the story concept has a ton of potential but the dialogue was stilted. It's helpful to use contractions to make it more realistic. You might want to try descriptions with characters to avoid confusion. Peter Pan, I loved your humor, but I find it a little hard to believe all he's thinking about while being electrocuted is his girlfriend. Perhaps more description of the physical pain? Also, less internal dialogue as the story moves forward. Over all I enjoyed your wit and I love the end.

  13. Peter Pen gets my vote.

    I like the grandma gang sleuthing concept in Bananagram's piece, but there was no action, and the hook of the murdered gambler was buried in a boring info-dump. The banal dialogue explaining an app-based ride service walked the dog all the way to the hydrant and back. Just say 'Uber' and get on with it. It will be tough to generate empathy for three elderlies - might be better to concentrate on one MC and have the others as sidekicks/helpers. two characters with similar-sounding names (Gabby & Gertie) will confuse the readers.

    I love the superpowers Dave acquires in his lightning strike, as unbelievable as they all are. Flying, glowing, and laser eyes may be too many to explain, though. Most superheroes subjected to unusually strong forces (explosions, chemicals) only pick up one superpower - think Flash, Hulk, Spidey - the list goes on. In one fell swoop Dave has become Superman without having been born on super dense Krypton - which begs the question - how is it that he acquires these when others who have been struck by lightning (I am one) did not? The writing is tight, and Dave's emotionally weak and immature nature is a great place to start his character arc - he has no where to go but up. That being said, he is so wishy-washy that I wonder if he even has the basis to grow a pair later in the story. I do want to know, however, and would be willing to read on.

  14. Banana: Read your dialogue out loud and you'll probably find some ways to tighten it up. Contractions would be a great way to start. If you want to have ONE character speak without contractions, that might work (I still wouldn't enjoy it, but maybe you can pull it off). Also, a huge challenge in writing about common sense things is that your reader already understands it, so having a character that doesn't understand means you better give us a reason (and QUICK) for why we should follow this character. show them superior in another aspect and we'll forgive them the ignorance on the first. Your concept is great; now you need to tighten your execution. IMHO.

    Peter: Just a thought before I forget. Maybe have your character make up his own curse words. So, instead of What the... you use What the cupcake or some such. You can come up with something clever with a little more thought, but maybe it becomes your character's catch phrase and you can tie it in later in the story. Or, maybe there's a story behind it. Your voice comes out strong, which is great. Self-deprecating humor goes a long way in a short time, so use it judiciously. I liked how you used it here.

    My vote: Peter Pen

  15. Today was easier for me than most with Peter Pan flying in for the win.

    I enjoy the occasional mystery, and the premise of seniors solving a murder is awesome; however, the dialogue felt unnatural. The opener didn't hook me. I needed to reread it a few times to get into the flow. The premise is fantastic, but in my opinion, the opener needs a bit of tightening.

    The dry humor in Peter Pan's first 500 kept me reading. I don't mind a somewhat unlikable MC. There might be one too many mentions of "anxious" or the personal insult, but that's me being nit-picky.

    Again, two solid entries with tons of promise.

  16. BananaGram's piece would have been so much better if I knew right away who these people were. The lack of setting only confused me. The story does seem like it would be funny.

    Peter Pan's genre caught me right away (I love romance), but the hero (I'm assuming he's the hero) is some wishy-washy mess. Not heroic at all.

    But between the two, Peter's piece had more of a hook and a better sense of the world, so it gets my vote.

  17. BananaGram’s story was a fun cozy mystery that I could see being pitched as the Golden Girls meets Murder She Wrote. It was an awesome glimpse of life, but I would have liked to see more action, rather than the women sitting around talking about doing something tomorrow.

    Peter Pen’s story had an awesome voice that was very engaging and active. There was a fair amount of telling and limited visceral reaction, but it was still a fun read.

    My vote goes to Peter Pen.

    Thanks to both writers for sharing!

  18. At the end of the round, it comes down to which story I want to know about and that's Banana Gram's.

    A little polish and some good editing will go a long way. I want to know if they learn to use the app. I want to know where Gabby was the night before and why she seems so innocent in this scene. It'd take some time to that nugget to shine, but I believe it'd be worth it.

    Peter Pen's entry is interesting, though from what I hear, getting hit by lightening is quite an experience and I believe paralyzing. I'm willing to buy into the superpowers, but I need a little more of a punch packed by the electrical current that just hit our guy to get there.

  19. My vote goes to Peter Pan.

    I love the concept of BananaGram's story, and I hate that we're all commenting on the dialogue, but that's such a big part of the scene. What made the dialogue sound stilted to me was that you made your characters say everything they needed to say, if that makes sense? When writing narration, you as the narrator must be clear and specific so that we as readers can follow your logic. However, in dialogue people tend to leave out a lot of information. I want to see this story once it's tightened up though! You have so much potential for a funny story here.

    Peter, I love that your scene ends on a couple of big questions: why did the lightning bolt give him these powers? And what will he do with them? I agree that in some places the self-deprecation gets a little much, but I'm excited to see how this main character grows into his own confidence.

  20. Wow! This is a tuff one: They are both so well written. I want to ready from both of these authors. I need to know if Gertie saves Ben from an obviously false conviction. I also need to know what's happening with Dave and whether or not he gets over Laurel.

    My vote goes to Peter Pen. Not only do I want to read more, but he had me giggling the whole time.

  21. I feel kind of torn today! I definitely would read about crime solving grannies over a boy who is all "woe is me" but Peter Pen did a much better job of crafting such a small piece. My vote goes to Peter.


  22. Congratulations to both of you for making it into the rounds. I enjoyed both pieces a lot.

    I love the idea of a caper mounted by grandmas out of the nursing home. But we need something to distinguish these characters from each other and less talk about cell phones and rides. As a grandma myself, I have to say, not all of us are clueless about technology. That's cliche. Have someone know what to do and be done with it so we can get on with the story. Someone here has probably worked with tech their entire professional lives, after all. I like the idea of them having to escape the nursing home, too. Something to give it suspense and more sense of urgency. And as others have said, we need to know more about what happened to end up with Ben arrested and we need to know what makes the others care about him.

    For Peter Pen, I loved absolutely everything about it. I don't agree with some of the comments that the self-deprecating humor was too much or that he wouldn't be worrying about his girlfriend breaking up with him at a time like this. But I think these are things are exactly what makes him so interesting. I've had my heart broken and I know it can override everything, and this takes it just enough over the top to make it great.

    My vote is for Peter Pen. But BananaGram, keep working on it. You have a great premise and you'll get there.

  23. I love the idea of a bunch of seniors hustling to solve a murder, but the set up was a bit of an info dump and the dialog felt a little off. Go ahead and use incorrect grammar in dialog, it's how we speak. And listen carefully to real talking. When we talk to someone we rarely use their names unless we're yelling at them. Maybe.

    Peter Pen was a little awkward in it's setup, but it was a fantastic intro to someone's new superpowers in a nice, concise way. I also liked the character. I imagine he's like Greatest American Hero meets Al Bundy.

    Peter Pen wins my vote.

  24. My vote goes to Peter Pen. Even though he just got dumped, it seemed like there was some humor to the situation despite all his tears. I thought the “struck by lightning and now I’m a super hero” thing was a bit cliche so I’m not sure yet if I really like him yet...but I’d keep reading so that’s why you get my vote.

    Bananagram - I enjoy a casino murder as much as anyone else but your story was a little too slow and clunky for me. The lack of dialogue tags was really confusing and I had to keep re-reading to figure out who was talking. I wanted to hear more details about the murder but all I got was talk about phone apps. Keep writing though!

  25. First, congratulations to both of you for making it into the bouts. Certainly an accomplishment in and of itself.

    Today, I didn't feel connected to either piece. Bananagram's writing was disjointed, though I liked the whole idea of them trying to figure out the app and I could totally hear my 80 year old Mom having this conversation. Peter Pan's farcical approach to the lightning strike, combined with the self deprecation, was just too over the top for me, distancing me from the character.

    For me it comes down to the premise. A cozy mystery about retirement home Grannies solving a murder, sounds like a fun read.

    My vote goes to Bananagram.

  26. Good work, writers!

    BananaGram's premise was appealing, but the piece was tedious to read. As another commentator said, it crammed an awful lot of "older people suck at technology" jokes into 500 short words. And maybe it's because I'm tired after not sleeping well, waking up hella early and working 9 hours with no real break, but I had a hard time keeping up with the characters. Gabbie, Gertie, Clarice, Maude and Ben...that's an awful lot of names to try and keep straight, especially since none of the characters seemed to have fully developed personalities. I imagine this is an issue with the excerpt and that the characters would feel more well-rounded and individual if I read the whole manuscript.

    Peter Pen's piece had me feeling confused a couple of times, and the self-deprecating humor was a bit much, but all in all, I enjoyed this piece much more.

    My vote goes to Peter Pen!

  27. I think Bananagram picked the wrong portion of what I assume is a longer story to share with us. Like everybody else I enjoy the idea of senior citizen crime-solving (not sure I'd want to read it... depends on how it's written really), but this particular scene, while it mentions murder, is really just a bunch of old ladies wondering how smartphones work, which in and of itself is far from interesting.

    So my vote is for Peter Pen, who certainly has a more exciting situation in his excerpt. I think the interior monologue is overdone... just how distracted from your own physical state could you be during a lightning strike? I'd be hard-pressed to think about anything else! Or think at all, most likely, though I'm not SUPER familiar with the experience, luckily. The story does evoke the situation well though, both the romantic one and the physical reality.

  28. My vote goes to Peter Pen! I agree with other commentors on the fact that his inner dialogue is excessive to the point of interrupting the flow of the story, but the comments are funny and I could see this hapless, hopeless guy turning into someone who is less of a loser. All heroes have to start somewhere, right? I would read this story, though I would expect that the MC evolves pretty quickly as he's kind of a loser at the start (I assume that was intentional).

    BananaGram's story had a few humorous comments and I loved the comment someone else gave about Golden Girls meets CSI, but I wouldn't read this story simply because the dialogue is so stilted, likely due to the lack of contractions. Most people don't speak that way and if there was one character that did so, it could be a quirk of the character, but when all the characters do it, it's no longer something I can ignore enough to enjoy the actual story.

    I enjoyed the plot of both stories, but Peter's story is the one I would be more likely to read.

  29. Tough call!

    BananaGram... I love the use of older women as the mystery solvers.

    Peter Pen (nice name, btw)... What a great opening line! That's a real hook there. In fact, you have my vote based on that line alone. Yes, I enjoyed the rest, but that hook is amazing.

  30. Kudos to both pieces for making it in! While each had my attention (and my laughs) in different ways and for different reasons, my vote goes to Peter Pen. BananaGram was a fun and interesting premise, but I felt the narration was weaker than the dialogue (trying to cram a lot of information in all in rushed sentences).

  31. I enjoyed reading both stories, but my vote goes to Peter Pen. I found this writer’s story more intriguing, suspenseful, and even a little relatable for being a science fiction story.

    BananaGram wrote a great piece, but it was a little tricky for me to follow and I feel some elements were left out of the story to give us a full picture.

    Congrats to both writers for making it this far! Good luck!

  32. I enjoy the humor in "BananaGram" and the quick thoughts going through the narrator's mind as he's struck by lightening in "Peter Pan." I think about the short story, "Bullet in the Brain" by Tobias Wolff. "BananaGram" feels that it operates more with cliches to some extent.

    My vote is for "Peter Pan."

  33. I enjoyed both and was annoyed by both in equal measure.

    Loved the satirical humour in BananaGram's "Cozy Mystery," even if a lot of the description personally struck too close to home (yes, I am on the verge of that demographic myself and yes, I have a flip phone). Peter Pen's "Science Fiction Romance" kept my interest all the way through, although I wanted to slap that whiny loser and tell him to grow a pair. But perhaps he will, thanks to the lightning bolt.

    My vote goes to BananaGram.

    1. Looking over some of the other comments, I must say that I think many readers missed BananaGram's very clever pastiche of the rather breathless, chummy writing style typical of "cozy mysteries." It reminded me of Agatha Christie's absolutely appalling "Tuppence and Tommy" series written towards the end of her life, which in my opinion marred her otherwise stellar writing career.

  34. Okay this was very difficult for me. Both had elements I liked and disliked. The dialogue became to repetitive and stilted for me in BananaGrams. There were a lot of characters but no description or identifying features. But the premise is awesome and for that alone I'd continue reading just to see what they get into.

    PeterPen's character didn't seem likable to me and If I'm going to spend so much time in his head (as he seems to)I'd have to like him. Struck by lightening, thinks he's going to die (and maybe he did) and he does nothing but think about his ex. No description of pain or how he feels about dying young or anything else really. What I did like was the supernatural element to the story. I'm a sucker for those.

    Gotta go with Banana Grams. I may read fantasy mostly but I've watched Golden Girls since I was 5 (Bea is my girl). Add some more description of place and people. Keep track of POV. I'm down for the ride :D

  35. My vote goes to Peter!

    From start to finish, Dave demanded my attention. He managed to keep the plot moving forward while endulging in the heartache that comes after a breakup. He managed to capture the truth that no matter what is happening, the heart cannot be silenced.

    BananaGram grabbed me from the start, but I was thrown from the story when I got to the dialogue.

  36. This one has been the toughest one for me thus far.

    Bananagram...I *LOVE* this idea and would totally buy the book and devour it in a day...and then pray someone else in your characters' circle was murdered so there would be a sequel. Really love the idea. There was a lot of dialogue, but I think it was a little too much. Still love it, though, and I WANT to see this in a bookstore.

    PeterPen...I'll be honest. When I saw "Science Fiction/Romance" as the genre, I groaned. I'm not big on all. But I love Dave. Really love Dave. I'd like to see something different than a lightning strike (I haven't read a lot of superhero stories...but it seems familiar). I thought this was delightful.

    By a slim margin, my vote is for PeterPen. I felt the prose was tighter...and if your character can win over this Sci-Fi hater, that says a whole lot.

    And Bananagram, I'm serious about wanting to read that series.

    Great work from the both of you.

  37. My vote is for Peter Pen. I am always attracted to a self-deprecating voice, and this one had me giggling from the start. I love the idea of Bananagram's entry, but I couldn't get past too many characters introduced and stilted dialogue.

  38. Very interesting, both. I feel like Bananagram has the more interesting idea, but needs to tweak the execution. I would probably pick up that book before Peter Pen's book. But for a short submission, I think Banana should have been a little tighter and reworked some action into it.

    Peter Pen has a great sense of humor and gets my vote on this one. Only thing that caught me was that the voice sounded more like a teen, despite references otherwise. It was a significant disconnect for me. (Guys in their twenties aren't still thinking about how their parents view their cursing and some of his priorities felt young.) However, if you reworked the guy as a teenager, I think it totally works.

    Great concepts, both of you.

  39. Both good. I like Peter Pen more.

  40. Today's vote to Peter Pen.

    PP: There's a lot of potential, once the writing is tightened up a bit. I'm a fan of crispy 25 yo broken hearts. Appreciate the touches of humor, but self-deprecation can only carry you so far.

    BG: This premise also has great potential for yucking it up, but make sure your inept characters are funny, not merely being made fun of. It's a thin line.

  41. I have to vote for Bananagram. It made me LOL.

  42. My vote goes to Peter Pan. Both entries were hilarious, but I preferred the tight POV of Peter Pan's lightning (and love) struck narrator. Bananagram's multi-character ensemble had me scratching my head to figure out what was going on. Too many character names, too little character development.

  43. My vote goes to Peter Pen.
    I really love the idea and the imagery of a bunch of little old ladies going to solve a murder, but I'd like a little more context in the story and character building.
    The lightning love strike was a really tight story. The world is set, there's conflict and change, and we're left with possibilities of what happens next that we can ponder.

  44. I did like them both but Peter Pen gets my vote today.

  45. Peter Pen... strikes my funny bone!

  46. My vote goes to Peter Pen.
    BananaGram had a great start, someone's been arrested, and there's been a murder, but we don't know who the victim is. After that, our crew gets bogged down in technicalities, and unfortunately, we don't get any clues as to what they may find to help Ben. Also, it may have played better to have one tech savy granny, it would have made the conversation a bit more interesting. I think it's a good start that just didn't quite fit in a 500 word snippet.
    Peter Pen gave us an interesting hint with the pen name, so the flying aspect completes the picture. Great way of intertwining puns into the story - and representing how our mind presents us with the weirdest thoughts. I feel like the just dumped part was a bit overplayed, though I'm guessing it will play a bigger role further into this story. Would enjoy seeing where it went next.

    1. LOL!! I didn't even get the peter pan reference! Love it :)

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  48. BananaGram-Whoa, 4 characters in the first short paragraph is a bit much. A couple issues: Most important thing for an amateur detective is WHY they are investigating and not leaving it to the police. There does not seem to be any reason for the old ladies to be searching for clues when all they know is a murder happened. What connection do they have to Ben? Is one of the ladies having an affair with Ben and is his alibi for the time of the murder & she doesn't want the affair to get back to her husband? Etc. Either that, or a strong connection to the victim who right now is just a body so that can't be it. Second question: If they don't know how to use MyRide, wouldn't they just call a good old-fashioned taxi to take them? I like that you have tongue-in-cheek older people being inept at technology, but it seems a bit overkill instead of just a one-liner. Plus, this makes me wonder what they could possibly be able to do to solve a crime in modern times if they can't even use a cellphone. Issue three: With the 4 main characters (not sure if you will be switching between POVs) all four old ladies sound exactly alike in their dialogue/personalities (I realize you only have 500 words so it's tough). With the lack of dialogue tags on several sentences, you could substitute any one of the ladies saying each statement. It would be better to mix them up a bit--one can be the tech savvy grandma who has a smartphone and video chats/Skypes with her grandkids, another can be the inept tech granny who's good with knitting needles (don't get too close!), the chair yoga lady can use her bendy yoga skills to sneak around the casino and bypass laser alarms a la Catherine Zeta Jones in Entrapment (but less sexy), etc. Lastly, I just cannot get past a cozy with a character by the name of Clarise. All I can think of is Silence of the Lambs when I see that name which doesn't bring up a cozy feeling at all. Consider a name change. Other than those few things, the premise is great! Very Murder She Wrote meets geriatric book club. Would definitely read (I'm a sucker for cozies). :)

    Peter Pen-great voice! Superhero getting his powers, now I wonder what *else* he can do. Would delete the short paragraph about having dinner with Laurel's parents. Also...if lightning struck my front yard I would be outside in like 1 second flat to check out the damage and see if there was a fire that needed to be put out. Plus, in this day and age, an Instagram/snapchat pic/selfie for posterity. Where is Laurel??? Slight confusion at first when he's hovering above the ground in a beam of light, I thought he was about to be abducted by aliens. This is probably clear to the reader of the entire novel but just in case, make it 100% clear the hovering is a power he got from being zapped by lightning and not a prelude to abduction which causes his powers. Quick fix.

    Both were fun but my vote goes to Peter Pen for voice and overall clarity of writing.

  49. BananaGram
    Senior citizens talking about tech confusion is always a hoot for me and I would want to read more (love the chair yoga). However, the characters lacked depth. I didn't really know what they looked like. I wanted to be able to see these characters in my head and see their gestures, tendencies. For example, are any of them in a wheelchair, have a cane? Does one of them play with her wheelchair or her dentures throughout this entire scene?(very specific, I know, but it's just to give you an idea) Little personality traits like this will make the story come alive and also help the reader remember who is who.

    Peter Pen
    I liked the self deprecating humor(with the assumption that it won't continue so heavily through the rest of the story). A lot of it made me laugh, particularly when he hopes she doesn't discover him so he won't have to tell her he'd been there crying. I didn't expect the superpower twist though I felt like all the superpowers were revealed too quickly. Easing them in and letting reader discover them slower can keep the mystery going and feel a tad less cheesy.

    By a hair it's Peter Pen for me.

  50. Hmm. Didn’t like either one this time, but liked Peter Pen better.

  51. BananaGram- This is a wonderful humorous story! It reminded me of "Golden Girls". I love the part about "MyRide". My biggest issue was the story felt like it just suddenly stopped. For this particular piece you might have needed 1000 word count to really paint the whole picture. It might have been better to have a different piece for such a shorter word count. Additionally, it was a bit confusing at times as to who exactly is talking. That said, I really wish there was more to read as this story has real potential!!!

    Peter Pen- I have a 10 year old son and I read him your story. Just lines in he had a big smile and was hanging on every word! We both loved it! We loved how this guy is not your typical superhero. It brought a great new twist and we were both laughing as we read the story. Even without a ton of action we were hooked so the inner monologue was not an issue for either of us. This was a story we both wanted to read more of and wish we knew what happens to this guy later!
    My vote is for Peter Pen!

  52. Interesting stories today. Both had their own quirks and were unexpected.

    While I wasn't particularly hooked by either, I love the idea of both and wish to see what comes next to better appreciate them.

    There was a little too much dialogue not enough plot in BananaGram's cozy mystery but the characters did have me smiling.

    Peter Pen had a great voice but was a bit overwhelming at times.

    My vote this time is for Peter Pen.

  53. Peter Pen was the clear winner in my book.

  54. While BananaGram had the more interesting premise in this pairing, I think I will have to go with Peter Pan for the better execution.

    JoAnne Turner

  55. BananaGram: Cute, but lots of dialogue and I don't really have much idea about who these people are or what they're trying to do.

    PeterPen gets my vote.

  56. I did like them both but Peter Pen gets my vote today.

  57. Vote: BananaGram

    BananaGram's concept was wonderful, though I would suggest being more careful to make each of the character voices more distinctive. The scene would have more tension and pull if you cut out a bit of the As-you-know-Bob dialogue pieces and filtered in more of the mystery-solving element.

    PeterPen had a strong character voice, but it didn't have enough tension. The break-up happened before the scene began and the lightning strike ended it. There wasn't much in between for me to sink my teeth into.

  58. I liked both the entry's concepts, but wasn't captivated by either entry's prose. Of the 2, I think BananaGram's prose needs more polish - while the tone was charming, the wording felt clunky -so my vote goes for PeterPan.

  59. BananaGram: I love the idea of the story. Murder mystery and a group of grannies? Potential for solid humor! But the execution needed work—lots of filler words and passive sentences, and it kind of falters near the end and sort of goes nowhere. With some big revisions, it could be part of a really great series of stories!

    PeterPen: Love the idea of a rejected love interest whose first thought after getting superpowers is “Will Lauren take me back NOW?” But I felt like there was too much inner thought and not enough to pull me into the feeling of being electrocuted and flying/having laser beam eyes. Ultimately, the writing was smoother, and the premise was fun, so I give the win to PeterPen.

  60. I’m going to cast my vote for BananaGram, I love that the story stars members of an older generation. It’s not something I’ve run across much in my sphere of reading, and I applaud the portrayal of the elderly as worthy of a protagonist role rather than as an accessory character to a younger person.

    On a side note, kudos to Mr. Peter Pen for the most creative pen name I’ve seen so far!

  61. My vote goes to bananagram. I never knew I needed murder solving Memas in my life until you showed it to me. Thank you both for sharing!

  62. Bananagram - okay, I did not expect old people to get together to figure out a murder. That pleasantly surprised me. I loved the dialogue and "MyRide" was a clever nod to Uber and Lyft. I'd love to read more about from this group of geriatrics.

    Peter Pan - I liked the idea of this guy getting super powers and agonizing over getting dumped. I think the cohesion and flow need some work. I would love to read more what happens to our protagonist.

    Both were great and I mean that. This is very hard to decide. I'll have to go with Bananagram for this one.

  63. Peter Pan vs Bananagram interesting stories.

    Peter Pan promise of extra ordinary magic, overlooking the one true thing, we’re all magicians when we find the right partner.

    Bananagram is Sunshine boys with Golden girls. A fast and funny read to be sure.

    Bananagram I want to read more. My vote is for you.

  64. I love the premise of the story by bananagram and laughed in a couple of places, but the overall story needs tightening up. Crisp dialog and less info dumping will make that happen. Keep this story going.

    Peter Pen had some glaring issues with its internal thought handling, but overall grabbed my attention immediately. The lightning bolt theory might need a little thought. Lightning bolts are typically killers not body changing experiences.

    In the end Peter Pen gets my vote.

  65. Bananagram: The story and humor seem interesting, if cliched. I was confused at first, making it difficult to keep reading. I also found the writing to be rough.

    Peter Pen: The writing here is more solid, but still could use some work. I'm not a fan of sentence fragments. There is more story here and less cliches.

    My vote is for Peter Pen.

  66. Tossing my hat in for Peter Pan.

    This piece had a good humor, and an interesting idea. The POV character definitely had his own voice, and Peter managed to throw in some character building in 500 words that you don't normally see.

    Bananagram was funny, but fell short with how it needed another once over in the editing department. There were back to back sentences with the same words, both in and out of dialogue, and it was a little too info dumping.

  67. Peter Pen for humor and a great opening line.

    Banagram’s opening question threw me.

  68. I'm voting for Peter Pen. There is a lot of potential for Bananagram's submission. It's very funny, but the dialogue feels unnatural in parts. I like the unique voice in Peter Pen's submission.

  69. Who is Banana "apeeling" to?
    As a "mature" woman I would be interested in reading about a circle of girlfriends who solve crimes using wit and humor. However, if these women don't know what an APP is, I've already lost confidence in their cleverness. Plus, the cluelessness of older people and technology has been done ad nauseam and isn't really funny anymore. Assuming Banana's target audience is my age (who invented all this technology, BTW) it may come across as insulting. If Banana can create a group of women who solve crimes based on their mature life experiences, sense of humor, or cleverness, I'd be inclined to read.

    Peter's Super Dave
    While I'm not a super hero fan, (don't hate them, just not interested,) I would probably read this based on the internal dialog of Dave. While a guy crying over lost love in his just-now-Ex's front yard might be a little vanilla, I get the feeling that the rest of the story isn't about his relationship but his newly acquired powers. I would continue reading just to find out what he does with them. Does he come back to impress her? Does he cause havoc with her relationships? Does he totally forget her and move on with saving the world? (And in turn hang out with supermodels, or something?) We need answers PP, now!

    Banana, keep writing, mystery novels are awesome. I think yours might need some depth, but girlfriend groups are a cute idea.
    Peter, continue to blend Dave's superpowers with his human side and I think you'll have a great character.

    One vote for Peter Pen.

  70. BananaGram: There were a lot of named characters in a short piece for me. Additionally, the piece didn’t feel very cohesive to me in terms of building tension/making me want to read more. The characters bounce around talking about everything BUT the murder....rideshare apps, smartphones, casinos, etc. I understand that the characters are in a retirement home, and that’s a fun twist on the mystery genre, but I didn’t feel engaged with such a short period of time with the plot.
    Peter Pen: I thought there was really strong characterization here, and a great voice. The piece definitely starts out with a bang (ha) and kept me hooked throughout. I really enjoyed how, even in the midst of getting struck by lightning and dying/getting transformed, the narrator’s thoughts keep running back to why Laurel broke up with him.
    Winner is Peter Pen for me!

  71. Bananagram's story seemed like a fun take on a murder mystery with these slightly incompetent detectives. The concept is a lot of fun and over the course of a novel I think that these characters would become really endearing, but the short format did't let me get to know them well. I wanted more tension and conflict. Maybe they could disagree about what mode of transportation (they seem to settle on MyRide quickly) or there could be more mentions of the murder to remind us what's at stake.

    PeterPen's bolt of lightning is a really good way to draw you into the story immediately. It was hilarious and the characterization was really clear. I love that his main concern is his ex. He's the perfect sad sack that superpowers would make hilarious. In a novel I might even want to see this scene stretched out a little more with him discovering his abilities more gradually.

    My vote is for PeterPen because it felt more focused and I understood the characters more clearly.

  72. My vote goes for Peter Pan... liked his opening line.

  73. My vote is for Peter Pen.

    I do think Bananagram's story is going somewhere fun, but I'm not sure it's starting in the right spot. I was having trouble distinguishing between all the characters. If one of them is the protagonist, I would start with her. I felt like Peter Pen's character was more grounded (haha pun!).
    -Jennifer Kinzler

  74. My vote is Peter Pen, I was instantly imagining myself as the character getting struck by lightening!

  75. BananaGram, cool concept. I can see the humor in those characters. Peter Pen, good hook and nice character building. I can see a fully formed character arc in the making.

    One vote for Peter Pen.

  76. I'm going with Bananagram for its humor, although I also enjoyed Peter Pan a lot!

  77. I vote for BananaGram for introducing new genre and interesting start.

    Peter Pen nice use of lightning for comedy.

  78. Peter Pen, I liked the humor but it quickly got tiresome and my mind began to wander. I perked up again when he saw that he could fly, which by the way is a cool concept.

    BananaGram, I liked the concept of grannies taking it upon themselves to solve a murder but I was turned off by their cluelessness with technology because it's stereotyping that generation. There are many older folk who are tech savvy. If you bring that to the page it not only would be a delightful breath of fresh air for readers but there's so much more you can use to deepen the characters and make it insanely funny. Cats and dogs on Instagram (you could even have a debate/argument of cats vs dogs) knitting videos on Youtube, maybe one character watches weird videos that makes all the others shake their heads. You can also bring in a little frustration with their sleuthing because now that Youtube has clamped down on weapon videos the girls can't do their research.

    Because I see much promise with BananaGram, it gets my vote.




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