WRiTE CLUB 2019 - Cage Bout #5



Reminder - The previous bouts are still taking your votes and you can follow along with all of the bout results right HERE.

Just two more contest (including this one) in the Cage Bout round and there is definitely no drop-off as far as the quality of the competition goes.

Here's how this works. Instead of two writers competing against one another as was the case is previous bouts, now it's THREE AT ONCE. The contestants will be using the same writing sample that allowed them to get this far, the only difference being that now they're up against new competitors. The readers/voters will have to choose one of the three to move on.  There will be six daily bouts (Mon-Sat), and no saves this time.



If you voted in the preliminary rounds, then there is no need to leave a critique with your vote this time, however, if this is your first time seeing these writers we do ask that you leave a brief critique 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-S), because of time restrictions the voting period will be staggered somewhat, so please pay attention to the dates posted. The voting for today’s bout will close on Tuesday, June 4th (noon central time).

The piece that garnishes the most votes will move on to the next round where they’ll face a different opponent with a NEW WRITING SAMPLE

As always, in case of a tie, I’m the deciding vote.

Here are the voting guidelines –

1) One vote per visitor per bout.

2) Anyone can vote (even the contestants themselves), but 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 cause 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!

4) Although more of a suggestion than a rule - cast your vote before you read other comments. Do not let yourself be swayed by the opinions of others.

Like the man say's


Our contestants for this cage bout (in random order) are -

MatchMaker


Adulting:

Adulting consisted of paying bills on time, doing the laundry on a Friday night, drinking skinny lattes after work, and telling social media that you just killed it in your Yoga class when in reality you sat on your couch, drank a protein shake in your yoga pants, and winced as you watched Zen girls contort into positions you could only get into while shaving your legs.

Old flings? They had nothing to do with adulting.

That’s what I told myself anyway, as I walked into the the tax office and landed right behind the most dangerous old fling of them all.

He looked good. I mean really good. Better than before, and I never would’ve thought that was possible.

The difference? This old fling wasn’t a boy anymore. He was a man. A man with facial hair and work boots. A man with calloused hands and a deep voice. A man with shoulders and property taxes.

But when he flashed his smile at me, all I could see was that boy. The one with the wild hair. The one with the reputation. The one with that life-changing, standard-raising, panty-dropping kiss.

And I was that girl again--the one with the contagious laugh, the one with no experience, the one who’d drowned in that life-changing, standard-raising, panty-dropping kiss.

I needed to get out of this line, go to Office Max, and buy myself a Lisa Frank binder so I could practice signing my name with his.

I was being ridiculous. I was an adult, not a nineteen-year-old, boy-crazy girl. I had my skinny latte to prove it.

I took a sip from the sugar-free, fat-free, caffeine-free, happiness-free coffee and tried to pay attention to the words coming out of his pretty lips.

Crap, he’d asked me a question. What was it? I wondered if, “Sure, I’ll make out with you,” was an appropriate response.

He laughed and repeated the question.

Ah. How was everyone doing from back then? My favorite topic.

See, the people he was referring to were actually adulting. They had careers, wedding plans, babies, husbands.

Me? I had a dog and a roommate.

He shook his head and muttered something about not being ready for all that. I lied and said I totally agreed. Who wanted comfort, stability, and unconditional love anyways? Along with old flings, lies had nothing to do with adulting.

But when he asked me to grab a drink, I decided I’d start adulting tomorrow.
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Contestant number two is Organized Confusion


“Water.”
Erin spoke without opening her eyes. Her voice rasped and hissed through her dry throat, but Dean could still hear a touch of the old imperiousness underneath.
“Always bossing me around, aren't you, big sister?” he said as he held the straw against her cracked lips. She gave a faint smile and swallowed, rough and slow, before opening her eyes to look at him.
Even the dim light of the curtained room made her squint. Her blue eyes glittered feverishly in contrast to the dark circles around them. On her scalp—too sensitive now for the touch of a razor—short, frizzy hairs wafted in patches.
“I wouldn't have to boss you around if you'd get your shit together on your own.” Erin whispered her old refrain, repeated so many times since they were children. She squeezed his hand to counter the harshness of her words.
Dean kept her hand in his as they sat together. Outside the rumble and hiss of a school bus released a cluster of laughing, fighting children. He thought of his own children settling down to homework and nightly routine.
“You should go home,” she said for the third time in as many hours. “You have a job. A family. They need you.”
“Sure. I'll head out. Right after you make yourself a meal and vacuum this dump. If I see you do those things, I'll get right out of your hair.”
Dean remembered Erin saying this same thing to him when she'd stayed at his place during one of his lowest points, as an angry, depressed college student, drowning his emotions in alcohol. She'd been there for three weeks—cooking, cleaning, driving him to meetings. She'd saved his life with her persistence, and he knew it.
Apparently she remembered saying those words, too, because she smiled again. “Don't be a smart ass to your dying sister,” she scolded. “It's rude.”
“So was pouring out all my booze, but that didn't stop you.”
“That shit was killing you.” She wasn't wrong, so he didn't argue. The urge to throw something itched in his bones.
“You should go home,” she said again, so softly he almost didn't hear her. Her eyes fluttered closed.
Dean blinked to neutralize the tears that threatened. He set the glass on the bedside table and picked up his guitar. Plucking a slow, meandering tune—softly, to accommodate her sensitive ears—he watched her chest rise and fall in shallow breaths.
He'd stay as long as she did.
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And finally, number three is Terrance East


"I can't feel my fingers."  I blinked against the bright light as my arms disappeared.
"Perfectly normal. Didn't you watch the induction hologram?"
"Of course, but I didn't think that things would just disappear." The room smelled of electricity and ozone. What had begun as a gentle hum now pulsed and throbbed.
"Your feet and lower legs should be going about now."
They did. I blinked again. A holocam hovered a little too close, and I blew a quick breath to shoo it away. I didn't appreciate that it was my last.
"Systems transference in three, two, one..."
The world went blindingly white. The transference room shimmered back into focus. The smell and sound were gone. Replaced by an overwhelming sense of the expanse of everything.
 "Wow."
"Impressive isn't it."
"It's... amazing. So much... nothing."
"You're no longer constrained by your physical body."
"This is incredible." I began to move and the room vanished as I went. I floated past the robotic operating table and the botnurse, then paused at the door.
"We don't encourage that."
"What?"
"98.724 percent of all Transferals stop to look back at their Organic. 76.387 percent have an adverse reaction."
"I'll risk it." I turned and looked back. The body on the table was pale, lifeless, and wrinkled. I knew it from a lifetime of mirrors. The head, my head, was encased inside the glowing circular opening of the transferal unit. The final vestige of humans as life forms.
Now, with transferal to The Cloud, I too would be immortal. Unlimited. At least my mind or my consciousness. Or my soul. I had wondered about that.
A yellow tint colored my world. The botnurse moved quickly to the glowing unit. It flickered..
"Level one. Adverse reaction."
"What's going on!? What's happening!?" I'm not proud to say I panicked. Totally freaked out and then -
The yellow tinted world twisted into charcoal gray.
"Mr. Templeton? Concentrate on the pinpoint of light in the center of your field of vision."
"There's nothing there!" The edges of the world were black and folding in.
"Find the light. Move towards it."
"There's no light!"

...

"...empleton? Mr. Templeton? Can you hear me? Mr. Templeton?"
"Yes?"
"Do you have functionality?"
"What the hell was that?"
"0.047 percent of Transferals suffer an initial boot issue. Yours was a full boot rejection. We restored from your system backup and you should be just fine."
"Should be?"
"There's a 99.994 percent acceptance rate."
"So that's 6 out of every --"
"It's not relevant, Mr. Templeton. You are free to go."
"That's it? Just go?" My consciousness spun around slowly. It was a different room. No table, no body, just the big picture window from our kitchen back in Texas.
"We've programmed a familiar environment with reference cues and the sensation of physicality. It will help you adjust. You may go."
With that, the walls dissolved and infinity stretched out beyond the vision of my backyard.
#################################################################


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

We’ll be back tomorrow with the final cage bout. Please help all our writers out by telling everyone you know what is happening here and encourage them to come vote.

This is WRiTE CLUB—the contest where the audience gets clobbered!



77 comments

  1. Terrace East. For the creative concept and suspense.

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  2. This choice is hardest by far--I voted for all of these in the early rounds, and I love each one so much!!! It's MatchMaker by a hair for me!

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  3. The head hopping in Organized Confusion lost me, but it's strong otherwise. Terrance East has the start of something really interesting, but I didn't get enough character, which is a problem when almost the whole thing is dialogue. My vote goes to Matchmaker, for the voice and the character.

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  4. My vote goes to organized confusion

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  5. First, congratulations to the three for reaching this round. My vote goes to Organized Confusion.

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  6. Congratulations, Contestants!

    As I said in the rounds, any story that can make me cry in under 500 words has earned my vote.

    Organized Confusion, all the way.

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  7. OrganizedConfusion is still so intense and emotional! I vote for that.

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  8. Terrance East gets my vote today.

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  9. MatchMaker. So voicy! Love that.

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  10. MatchMaker, you're great, but...
    For the vote this round: Organized Confusion. Still hits my heart hard.

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  11. Organized Confusion! So proud of this top-of-my-list submission!

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  12. Terrance East gets my vote for this one. Love it.

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  13. I'll misquote Perrin. Terrance East you're great, but... Organised Confusion.

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  14. My vote goes to Organized Confusion.

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  15. Voting for Matchmaker in this round.

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  16. Congratulations to all three writers. My vote goes to Organized Confusion.

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  17. This one was really difficult for me. Terrance has a well-crafted SF concept. Organized Confusion is able to establish a powerful backstory in such few words. MatchMaker has a great sense of voice and good use of humor. I'm going to choose Organized Confusion for this one because it was able to evoke strong emotion through dialogue and subtle action alone--a show-don't-tell success.

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  18. Vote to Terrance East for stronger lead-in lines.

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  19. I'm giving this one by the slightest of margins to Terrence East

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  20. I vote for Organized Confusion in this round.

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  21. My vote goes to Organized Confusion.

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  22. Some of my favorites are here. Now it gets hard. Organized Confusion gets my vote though.

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  23. Matchmaker for how fresh it is.

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  24. Voting for Organized Confusion.

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  25. Organized Confusion for this one, but it was a tough choice! Congrats to all!

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  26. This is pure torture. I think I am going to have PTSD from having select a winner from a batch of my favorite stories. I LOVE ALL OF THESE STORIES!!!!! I have to give my vote to Terrance East as it still remains one of my top favorite stories!!!

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  27. I have to vote for Organized Confusion. This story really resonates with me.

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  28. Replies
    1. Sorry, but anonymous votes are not permitted. This will not be counted.

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  29. Since I missed the initial voting, providing feedback here separated into 3 comments (one for each entry):

    MatchMaker
    The initial word/definition setup is really fun! I was kind of expecting there to be more moments of that throughout and was disappointed when there were not. Granted, that sort of device may not work in such a short piece, but could be very charming as a way to kick-off chapters in a longer one.

    I did have a bit of an issue with the definition of Adulting. It starts off listing items that are, in fact, expected of adults, but then strays with the lie about Yoga. I don't see how that fits with adulting. I get that it's meant to be humorous, but given that the narrator later talks about how certain behaviors are not adulting, it especially falls flat here because she's already showing that she's not really taking being responsible seriously. So you lose the contrast and humor later. If that part of the definition acknowledged what a pain it was to maintain commitments even when you didn't want to, it may work better (e.g. "...telling social media you just killed it in your Yoga class even though you secretly wanted to die the entire time," or "complimenting the girl who can do a headstand in your Yoga class even though you bitterly envy her and wish she'd fall on her face for giving you a complex." Amusing situations depicting relatable impulses, but that aren't the appropriate ones to have as an adult would work better). It also really didn't work for me because Yoga is laid back. It's not that hard, especially as most instructors tell you to just do what feels right for your body and don't shame you for not doing something. So the narrator comes off as vain and lazy, killing the humor for me.

    This line: "A man with shoulders and property taxes," was absolutely brilliant! Laugh out loud funny. Ha! Gives a nod to the adulting theme nicely and falls in line with the "appeal" of being grown up.

    Nice contrast in description of the fling as a man and boy. Smooth, easy read.

    I don't get why the narrator highlights "the one with no experience" as a fond, nostalgic point. That along with the boy's reputation plays into so many classic cliches that it deadens the individual charm the narrator had going for her. It sounds too much like the "he was a confident, sexual creature, and I was the naive, innocent flower, just waiting for him to show me the ways of the world." It's been done to death and isn't interesting. Nor does it jive with the flair and modern sensibilities seen throughout the piece.

    The Lisa Frank binder reference flew over my head. Not familiar with this at all.

    "I took a sip from the sugar-free, fat-free, caffeine-free, happiness-free coffee..." Ha! Very effective humor here. Underscores the opening theme with a lovely sarcastic edge.

    "I decided I’d start adulting tomorrow." The ending isn't super effective for me because the narrator has already ostentatiously failed at adulting several times and doesn't even appear to be trying not to. For example, "lies had nothing to do with adulting," yet she just lied and made no effort not to lie. If she were constantly combating herself throughout to make the "adult" choice, then the last line would resonate and wrap this up in a great, "Whatever! I can't take it!" fashion. But as it is, it's lukewarm because of her engaging with a fling and gushing over him when that's not adulting, the issues aforementioned with the Yoga line, and the lies about what she wants out of life. She's just not really trying that hard. Without genuine struggle, the backbone of the humor is lost.

    it's a really cute concept with some charming moments, but I think it needs more commitment to the theme to amp up the humor it's aiming for.

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  30. Organized Confusion
    Fantastic job at depicting the pain and frailty of Erin's condition. The reader can almost feel the sickness she's enduring.

    “Always bossing me around, aren't you, big sister?” Minor quibble here, but I find it really hard to believe that someone would talk to a sibling like this. It's really the "big sister" that trips me up. I guess if the two had a background of calling each other "big sister" and "little brother" almost like nicknames, that would work. But to me it comes off as an inelegant way to introduce the fact that they are siblings. A more authentic approach to that line that meets the same ends might be: "Always got to be the bossy older sister," he chuckled as he held... That plays off of the friendly sniping siblings tend to have about their ages/birth orders.

    "On her scalp—too sensitive now for the touch of a razor—short, frizzy hairs wafted in patches." GREAT detail about the scalp and sensitivity. Brings a heavy weight and deeper hint to her circumstances. However, not sure about "hairs wafted." The hairs are attached to her head, so they aren't really floating or moving through the air. Maybe "curled," "sprouted," or "struggled"?

    "Outside the rumble and hiss of a school bus..." Wonderful juxtaposition of youth and vibrancy outside her somber, ill-struck room. However, "hissed" was already used to describe her breathing at the start. Consider something else, like squeal or screech, or you could just get away with rumble by itself, I think. Avoids repetition and emphasizes the nature of her breathing as a unique sound.

    "Apparently she remembered saying those words, too, because." This part of the sentence isn't needed. It's implied by her response and smile that she remembers (since we just got the context of why that line matters, we can connect the dots. It's more has more impact to let us do so).

    "The urge to throw something itched in his bones." This line feels a bit misplaced to me. It is a helpless and rage inducing situation, and anger during grief can come out of nowhere, but this just feels dropped in. And the end with Dean gently playing his guitar is so poignant, I think keeping the softer tone throughout is more powerful, especially as it's expected for men to deal with tough emotions with anger. Super refreshing to see a tale where a guy explore grief in another way. So I definitely advocate removing this line.

    Very strong final line! A sad story, peppered with striking emotional beats. I do wish we could get a little less of the weight of sickness (wonderful though the descriptions are!) to showcase more of who Erin is. Devoting fewer words to redundant explanations and more to individual details (what items are even in Erin's house? What trinkets does she keep that could help us understand how she's lived up to now?) or gestures would really make this shine.

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  31. Terrance East
    Nice lead-in with Templeton's limbs vanishing! That's a intriguing way to get the reader's interest. It does confuse me a little bit, however, in that later, when Templeton looks back at his body, it sounds like there is a a machine I'm imagining is like an MRI device? How does he see his limbs vanishing if he's on his back with his head in something? And how does he blow away the holocam? I'm having a hard time understanding what the "circular opening of the transferal unit" looks like, so it throws the actions at the start into question.

    "It's... amazing. So much... nothing." This line throws me off a bit since the description of the transference is "an overwhelming sense of the expanse of everything." I get that there's now a sensation of more space, but it seems contradictory to feel that space and describe it as "everything," then remark on so much "nothing." If "everything" stays, consider dropping the "nothing." Just have him trail off with "So much..."

    Stopping to look back at the Organic and that inducing adverse reactions is super interesting! However, I wonder two things about this:

    1) If it is such a known issue, why in the world don't they do something simple to address it, like having the botnurse pull a screen between the Transferal and their old body the moment the process is done? Or why not have the subjects sign a paper that promises they will not look back as part of the procedure agreement? Especially with how high those percentages are for negative reactions, it seems like needless liability and poor medical practice not to have discussed this with patients, nor have a process in place to mitigate it. If the amount of folks who had adverse reactions were lower, say, 6%, then I could see them still allowing this option (should still be something discussed beforehand, though). Maybe do have that waiver and the overseer (botnurse? Are they one and the same?) reminds Templeton of it before he chooses to turn around.

    2) I'm not sure why include the adverse reaction remark only to have Templeton suffer from a much more rare boot up problem. Kind of feels like a needless bait and switch. If he's going to have an issue, it's fine to have him be one of the folks with an adverse reaction. Maybe he initially feels fine, but once he thinks about it more, starts to freak out. It doesn't necessarily detract that he has a different problem, but it doesn't add anything either. So if you're going to mention the reaction deal, which is very interesting--because how WOULD people react to seeing their own lifeless bodies?--then give it focus and explore it more.

    If I'm misunderstanding and the boot issue was tied to the adverse reaction, then I guess that's because a boot issue is a problem upon initial OS power up. It shouldn't be triggered by a later action. To that end, I don't get how this is even is an "initial boot issue" when Templeton appears wholly separated and functioning prior to looking back. For a boot problem, he should be experiencing something amiss the moment he separates from his body. He gets an expanse of everything and BAM! Then sensations fall apart. If it occurs later, then that's a problem with the overall transference, but I wouldn't describe that as a "boot" problem. More like, "0.047 percent of Transferals suffer from an initial issue. It's a small bug that can occur in the copying process. We restored..."

    The percentages feel very specific and obscure. I got sidetracked trying to calculate what numbers would actually derive those values. I know it's meant to sound more precise and robotic, but it's distracting.

    Tough choice! Organized Confusion feels more complete and well-written. But Terrance East dabbles in some more unique concepts. I give it to Terrance East. Would like to see more deep-dive focus on those unique elements in future samples!

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