WRiTE CLUB 2019 - Preliminaries - Round #11


This morning we kick-off the 3rd and final week of preliminary bouts for WRiTE CLUB before we being the process of narrowing down our contestant pool down to just two. I can promise you this, it won't be getting any easier! 

Recap
WRiTE CLUB is a tournament-style competition that runs during the eight weeks prior to the DFW Conference (who is also a sponsor) and it provides writers the opportunity to compete against one another for a chance to win a host of prizes, topped off by a free admission to the following year’s conference. Our writers have submitted 500-word writing samples under pen names and they'll be appearing in head-to-head in “bouts”, with the winner of each match determined by you the reader—by voting for your favorites. Bout winners keep advancing until there are only two remaining and that’s when a panel of celebrity judges, who include well know authors, agents, editors, and other publishing folks, choose the ultimate champion.

Even though the contest is sponsored by DFW, anyone can vote (as long as you have a Google sign-in or verifiable email address), and when you do, we encourage you to leave a mini-critique for both writers. Oh, I forgot to mention that the voters have a chance to win a $60 Barnes and Noble gift card. Each time you vote in a bout your name will be placed in a hat and at the end of the contest, one name will be selected to receive the prize. And as an added incentive to keep readers coming back for more, we're upping the ante. Readers who place a vote in EVERY bout will have their names placed in a second hat and the name selected from that pool will win a $40 Barnes and Noble gift card. Double the chances of winning!

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 I post it to give as many people as possible to have a say. Voting for today’s bout will close on Sunday, May 19th (noon central time). To help keep up with which bouts are open, you can follow along on the WRiTE CLUB Scoreboard updated right HERE.

It’s that simple. The writing piece that garnishes the most votes will move on to the next round where they’ll face a different opponent. 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).

A few more 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 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.

That’s enough of the fine printlike the man says –




Our first contestant in the ring is ElviraBrown who will be representing the Romance genre.


She couldn't believe he had found them again.  Emma glanced over her shoulder at the sleeping bundle in the backseat.  She hoped she had remembered everything.  Turning the key in the ignition, Emma cringed as the ancient Chevy whined, but refused to start.

"Come on!" she murmured, turning the key again.  Now was not the time for this.  Rain poured in buckets from the midnight sky and gusts of wind battered the unmoving vehicle.  If she couldn't get the car started they would need to wait for morning, and by then Ray might have tracked her to the apartment.  It had happened before.

Desperately, Emma pumped the gas.  "Come on! Come on!"  The engine sputtered briefly to life, only to die again when she removed her hand from the ignition.  "Shit!" 

The word escaped before she could stop it.  Thank goodness Keegan was still sleeping.  Her seven year old had a habit of lecturing her about her language, and since she was strict about him not repeating the words, she tried not to use them herself.  Taking a deep breath, Emma pumped the gas again.  It was because of Keegan that they were leaving in the dead of night.  She didn't want her son exposed to the monster that was chasing them.  She would protect him with her last breath.

With that fierce thought in her head, Emma turned the key again.  The engine roared to life, drowning out her whispered prayer of thanks. They were going to make it.  Sacramento was a huge city, a good place to hide.  They would be safe there...she hoped.

Her hand was on the gear shift, her mind already on the motel room waiting for them, when a knock at her window nearly had her jumping out of her skin.  The figure staring in at her was cloaked in shadow, but it was a shadow she would recognize anywhere, and it made her blood run cold.  Her wide hazel eyes never left his cold blue ones as she slowly moved her elbow up to cover the door lock.  The door was already locked, as she knew it would be. 

It was a habit now, as basic as breathing.  When they got into the car or the house the doors were immediately locked and rechecked once or twice to make sure.  Some would call it obsessive, this caution, but tonight it had paid off since the cause of her manic compulsion had his handsomely cruel face pressed against her window.

"Where are you going Emma?"  Ray's voice was muted by the glass and the rain.  "You can't leave!  He's my son!  He's mine!  You both are!"

She shook her head, tears streaming down her cheeks.  She didn't bother to answer.  She had responded many times before, too many times.  She imagined she could hear the click as Ray tried to open the door, although it was impossible to hear anything over the deluge coming from the sky.
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On the other side of the ring, we have Cardigan Fig who is representing the Fantasy genre.


Through the barred window high on his cell, Tulloch studied three stars of the Crow Constellation. He couldn't take this anymore. He missed being able to see all the stars. Missed walking under the night's sky--or any sky. Missed quiet. Donnelly should be here, not him. If he had to spend the rest of his life behind bars he should have the chance to kill his brother first.

He smeared his hands up his face and gritted his teeth against the need to scream. The second star of the constellation winked out. He blinked. The darkness where the star had been moved. Something flew straight at him. He ducked. The object passed through the bars of his fourth floor cell and landed with a clang on the floor.

That clang echoed through an eerily silent prison. Hairs rising on the back of his neck, he turned to the door, straining for any sound of life without. The curses, yells, sobs, moans, and groans, he'd been trying to tune out were gone.

Since his arrest eleven months ago, he'd not experienced a silence this deep.

A shiver ran down his spine. Moving slowly, he turned to search his cell's floor. By dim hall lights, he could pick out a small, dark blob. He bent to scoop it up. His fingers curled around a key.

Tulloch straightened, his eyes glued to the iron key he couldn't see in his hand. The identification of type of metal by weight and touch warmed his heart. Convict or not, he was still a jeweler. He looked at the door. He glanced at the window.

Ignorant political prisoner he might be, but he understood this: if a key fell into your cell, you did not stop to ask where it came from or how. You didn't wonder who gave it to you.

You used it.

Then again.

He squinted at the window. A key sailing perfectly through the bars of a fourth-floor cell, only one way that happens. He shuddered and looked at his door.

Five bars cut across the upper half of the iron door fitted into the stone wall. He could drop the key through those bars. Reject this gift and the obligations that came with it. Stay here. He shuddered again. No. No, he couldn't.

Silence radiated outside his door. His own breath far too loud in his ears, he crept to the bars, pressed his face into them, and strained to look both ways down the corridor. As far as he could tell, it was empty.

He cleared his mind of all but one thought that circled in his head: an order not to drop the key.

Hands that had once been so steady they'd done fine filigree in silvers and golds shook as he shoved his arm through the bars. He forced himself to take a deep breath. He could do this. Metal screeched against metal as he trailed the key awkwardly around the iron plating, searching for the lock. ##############################################################################


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.

Before we sign off I wanted to address the issue a few readers are having with not being able to post comments, or having those comments show up as UNKNOWN even though they have a Google Account.  There are several things at play here. First, if you are using the Safari or Chrome browsers they have a known problem with Blogger and you have two choices. Switch to Firefox as a browser (I've never had a problem using it), or change the setting on Safari as illustrated below.


The other problem is Blogger not recognizing you when adding a comment and therefore designating you as UNKNOWN. This could happen if the reader is a Blogger user themselves and they have not changed their settings since Google + went away.  To do this, follow these steps:

Go to Blogger dashboard.
SETTINGS
USER SETTINGS
Set User Profile = Blogger (instead of Google +)
Save


Hopefully, that will resolve everyone's issues and let the votes/comments reach our contestants. If you missed the first two bouts because of one of these issues, remember the bouts remain LIVE for a week so you can still go back and let your choice be known.

We’ll be back tomorrow for another preliminary 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!


86 comments

  1. Two great entries today! My vote goes to ElviraBrown for the sense of panic she instilled in me.

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  2. Again, tough choices today. Both stories built the tension, although I did not really get the Fantasy feel of Cardigan Fig's story. I am assuming it is an excerpt of a larger story, though. ElviraBrown's entry made me anxious for them, I hope they made it out of that situation. It's a hard choice, but I am going to go with ElviraBrown because the story seemed more complete to me.

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  3. Yet another set of amazing entries!!! Loved the writing in both of these--clear, fluid and powerful in rendering voice, setting and emotion. My vote in this bout goes to ElviraBrown for the masterful building of suspense throughout the passage. Great job by both authors!

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  4. Great entries today!!
    Both stories were ones I would want to continue reading.
    My vote goes to Elvira Brown. I felt like I was in the car with them, panicking along beside her.

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  5. Both were really good and tense. I thought the first one needed a little something more, but it was more gripping and gets my vote.

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  6. Two fantastic entries and another tough vote. I really don’t have much in the way of critique, either. Both were wonderfully written and created a sense of suspense and, in Elvira’s case, panic. I also want to know more about both pieces and would keep reading to see what happens.

    By another slim margin, my vote goes to Elvira.

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  7. Two suspenseful entries evenly matched today. Fluid writing in both clearly established a sense of place and character with excellent flow throughout to the end.

    ElviraBrown: Kudos to your storytelling. Clear and compelling, but... Your overuse of cliches took this down a couple of notches for me. I would have loved to read original writing. Couple that with your story, and it would have been an immediate Yes vote for me.

    Cardigan Fig: not quite as much tension as Elvira because the danger isn't as immediate, but your premise and writing are original. I love how you set up how badly he wants out of prison, but still hesitates to use the key because he knows a price is attached. I also want to know why the prison is suddenly so silent after eleven months. Your story raises so many questions.

    My vote: Cardigan Fig

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  8. Elvira: nice job painting a scene and evoking emotions in such a short space. How is Keegan asleep when Emma has clearly just gotten in the car? A 7yo wouldn’t fail to pick up on his mother’s stress like this. Also, would Emma really move “slowly” to check the locked door when Ray appears? While I feel for these characters and would keep reading, it’s not yet clear how this story is unique.

    Cardigan: does Tulloch want his brother dead or jailed? “The identification of type of metal” sentence is really bulky and confusing to read - consider reworking this phrase. A lot of words are spent on his debate whether to accept the key, even after he says he’s going to. If you delete some of the debate, there’s room to throw in a little action and really make this sample pop.

    I vote for Cardigan, because this seems like the beginning of a unique and interesting story. Congratulations to both!

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  9. Congratulations, Contestants!

    Elvira: My heart breaks for Emma and her child. You did a wonderful job of grounding me in her scene, and I could feel her fear and desperation. I was curious how she knew Ray was on his way to her apartment, though. Was it just instinct? Did someone warn her? Keegan being asleep didn't bother me. It's entirely possible for a kid to sleep through being moved from a bed to a car, even in the rain (as long as the blanket keeps them dry). I'm not sure how this fits the Romance genre. Maybe Women's Fiction or Suspense.

    Cardigan: Since this is a Fantasy, I was expecting the cell to be in a castle or something equally rustic. I pictured rough stone walls and torches. The detail about dim hall lights surprised me because I wasn't expecting electricity, especially in a cell that has bars on the windows, but no glass. It's clear that this is an excerpt from a larger piece, but I don't think you need to even bring up the brother, since Tulloch doesn't seem to wonder if the key has anything to do with his brother. I was also left with questions such as: What does him being a jeweler have to do with anything? What is the one way that allows a key to sail perfectly through the bars of a 4th floor window? What's up with the sudden silence?

    Although both stories ended with a cliff-hanger of sorts, my vote goes to Elvira because her story felt more complete.

    Congratulations again, to both of you!

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  10. My vote today goes to Cardigan for subverting expectations and great characterization. Elvira's piece felt familiar and the circumstance and characters didn't stand out as unique like Cardigan's did.

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  11. Elvira Brown - Not sure why this is a romance entry, but I liked some of the writing. Everything is clear and easy to follow and I feel like you set the reader up well to dive into your story.
    On a technical level, a few things stood out. -- "Come on!" she murmured -- the exclamation point implies more than a murmur, making the sentence clash with itself. There are a lot of exclamation points, too, where commas and stronger dialog would suffice. Also, heavy reliance on -ly adverbs that could have been removed. Immediately, slowly, nearly, briefly. All clutter words that can be avoided with stronger verbs or omitted altogether. also, -- When they got into the car or the house the doors were immediately locked and rechecked once or twice to make sure. -- This switch to passive voice was a strange choice. Everything in the story seems so personal, so crucial to the protagonist and her son that going passive was a distancing move that pulled me out of the story.

    Cardigan Fig - Really strong opening. Pulls the reader in. From there, it gets a little introspective, would have liked to see more of the 500 words put to action. The writing is solid, but the overuse of the one-sentence paragraph looks showy. One is enough in a 500 word piece. Also, -- A shiver ran down his spine. Moving slowly, he turned to search his cell's floor -- The weakest passage in the piece. The shiver down the spine is a cliche, and the second sentence is clunky and poorly worded. Why doesn't he feel the floor, not stand up and try to look at it? You've already told us how dark it is. -- Ignorant political prisoner he might be, but he understood this -- This Yoda construction makes me feel like the author was trying to vary the sentence structure. As a rule it's a good thing, but whenever my reader ear sees this, it starts talking like Frank Oz with his hand up a puppet's... Never mind.
    Overall, both pieces were intriguing, but my vote's for Cardigan Fig, who I felt had the edge in both technical and story proficiency.

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  12. Both entries well done. I saw ElviraBrown's more as a thriller than a romance, at least this excerpt. Tension in the piece is well-done, although it felt like a retelling of a scene from Sleeping with the Enemy or a recent 911 (TV show) episode. In other words, I felt I knew where we were going long before we got there. That isn't to say anything negative of the writing as it is well done.

    In the end, I'm drawn to Cardigan for the vote. The unknown portion of the piece creates fantastic tension. The dilemma of staying in prison with revenge weighing on you or blindly binding yourself to a "helper" not knowing what is in store provides great stakes.

    Cardigan for my vote, but both worthy entries.

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  13. Both authors today should be applauded, both stories are compelling and well-written. But my vote today has to go to ElviraBrown for inducing a very real state of panic in a visceral sense. Well done.

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  14. These were both great. I would continue reading them both. But, in terms of the contest, I have to cast my vote for Elvira as I really felt the immediacy of her situation.

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  15. Cardigan Fig gets my vote today - I liked the clues you dropped throughout the story about the MC and his circumstances, without getting info-dumpy and giving us too much.
    Elvira, I thought it was a great entry and congrats on making the top 30. Really good job too!

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  16. I'm guessing ElviraBrown's piece is more romantic suspense than just romance, but doesn't matter to me (I like both). That piece gripped me the most, so that one gets my vote.

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  17. My vote: Cardigan Fig it sounds like a good story that i would like to read. the first story had some technical issues already discussed above.

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  18. Another great pair of entries! My vote goes to ElviraBrown for gripping me with great imagery and tension.

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  19. Elvira - You've certainly got us rooting for Emma to get away from Ray, but the entry lacks the details that make these characters and her particular situation and story unique. It's absolutely plausible, stressful, tense, and atmospheric,(literally and figuratively) but I'm not connecting with a unique voice. This also doesn't read like "romance." Perhaps domestic suspense?

    The prose is adverb- and exclamation-heavy, and the momentum just grinds to a halt once Ray bangs on the window and we dive deep into Emma's interiority. Short, punchy sentences at that point will help keep the tension high and the pace moving.

    Cardigan: A well-defined MC and a conflict-heavy situation in a short scene. Well done. I"m curious about the supernatural silence and origins of the key, the "political prisoner" aspect, the "obligations" that come with the key, the backstory with the brother, etc. Some of your sentences want a bit more polishing to add clarity and tighten the tension: If he had to spend the rest of his life behind bars he should have HAD(?) the chance to kill his brother first. And this, perhaps? He cleared his mind of all but one thought. Don't drop the key.

    All the looking/glancing/looking/squinting got to be a bit much. I'd rather read more emotional conflict and less eyes going back-and-forth.

    Today's vote: Cardigan Fig

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  20. Elvira's needed just a little more sense of urgency, or at least more than 30 seconds of scene. They were both brief, but Cardigan Fig's intrigued me more.

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  21. I desperately need to know what happened next... in Cardigan Fig's effort. That gets my vote today.

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  22. I liked the writing in the first piece, but the story subject matter was a familiar one. There was no new perspective on the domestic situation that made it interesting.

    The second story was interesting, mostly because it presented situations that were hard to understand because there were so many unexplained details. Why did he want to kill his brother? Why the silence in the prison? Was the key invisible? How did the key get propelled into his cell?

    If this was a longer piece, I would have wanted to read it. My vote goes to Cardigan Fig.

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  23. I enjoyed both of these entries the first time around, and reading them again makes my decision just as difficult. I really liked ElviraBrown's sense of urgency, the buildup of the scene around the main character. It's clear who she's running from and why.

    At the same time, Cardigan Fig's description of our convict is phenomenal. The fact that we know his previous life as well as the current one is amazing and it's something that's really hard to do in such a small spread of words. I commend you for doing it so well.

    As a result, my vote goes to Cardigan Fig. I liked the tension in ElviraBrown's piece, but Cardigan Fig's sample put me in the character's head and left me wanting to read more.

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  24. Once more unto the breach brave writers - well two more deserving of congratulations.
    ElviraBrown representing the Romance genre.
    Not my go-to genre. The feeling of desperation worked, but I felt more thrilled than romanced. The ending left me wondering which way this story was going. Monster and cruel plus midnight set up images that were ominous. Tighter phrasing might have left more words to add to that cliffhanger

    Cardigan Fig who is representing the Fantasy genre.
    I wanted to enjoy this piece as there was a gem - no germ of an idea there. But it was buried in too many odd sentences. Most worked but some threw me out of the story. A missing comma? Or is that me? For instance: "his eyes glued to the iron key he couldn't see in his hand." Okay, the next part clarifies 'how' he knew. But it jarred me.

    I'm torn between these two pieces. I'm ignoring the genre and voting for the thrills evoked by ElviraBrown.

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  25. ElviraBrown gets my vote. I enjoyed both, but was sitting in the car watching this one.

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  26. I'm going with Cardigan Fig today.

    Both are well written. ElviraBrown's is too familiar. I knew what would happen before I finished the first couple paragraphs whereas Fig's was unique. Liked them both but have to go with unique today.

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  27. Voting for Cardigan Fig, thank you both for sharing!!

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  28. There's a common thread of suspense here that I think both writers wove well!

    Elvira, I was right there in the car with Emma as she felt that fear and maternal instinct to protect. A couple things broke the spell for me: her concern about cursing downplays the tension because, I have to imagine, someone fearing for their life probably wouldn't worry about something so trivial (unless that's an important character trait). Also, the paragraph beginning with "It was a habit now, as basic as breathing" had wonderful background info, but it hit right in the middle of the action and left me with a feeling of security instead of suspense.

    Cardigan, I liked the breadcrumbs you drop about Tulloch and his life before prison. There's this animosity with his brother (not sure if his bro is Donnelly?) and his life as a jeweler that I expect we'll dig into later. Some of the phrasing was more cumbersome than it needed to be and ended up distracting from the action:

    - "The identification of type of metal by weight and touch warmed his heart"
    - "The darkness where the star had been moved" (Took me a couple reads to understand you meant 'darkness where the star had been' and not 'the star had been moved')

    I think reading this out loud and cleaning up some of the clunky punctuation would make this excerpt really strong. For that potential, and the great writing throughout, I'm going with Cardigan for this round.

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  29. Elvira: I thought this piece was gripping and though I expected the knock on the window of the car, I still jumped a little because I was caught up in the descriptions in the story. Though it was a well-written piece, for me, it was a predictable storyline.

    Cardigan Fig: I felt that the writing was quite lyrical and the story original. Though it wasn't as complete a piece compared to the previous story, I wanted to know more about Tulloch's situation and also where the story would be heading towards.

    My vote this bout goes to Cardigan Fig.

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  30. I enjoyed both stories. Drawn in by the stakes of both and would continue reading both. My vote goes to Elvira because there was nothing in the story (confusion about setting or wording) that pulled me out of it.

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  31. Congratulations to two strong stories starting off this new week!

    Elvira’s story was very relatable to anyone who’s suffered a form of family abuse. I appreciated her fear before knowing what he was capable of, and my heart broke with the line about answering too many times. I think the choice of genre through me off, I was expecting a reconciliation or the promise of one at the end, and didn’t find it.

    Cardigan Fig’s piece pulled you right into the story, with just enough back story to pull you in. A slow start to something with a lot of potential if the word count was just a bit longer.

    My vote to Cardigan Fig for the hope of a brighter future outside the prison.

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  32. ElviraBrown -- The romance seems more like suspense/ thriller right now. Though maybe this is like Sleeping with the Enemy, but with a child added in?

    Cardigan Fig -- Not sure it feels like fantasy yet. But I am curious as to what will happen next.

    Which seems to be the real "theme" today, doesn't it? What will happen next? And both of these nail that. Both make me want to read on. Both are a good way to open a story and pull a reader in.

    So which hook interests me more? Guess I'm voting for the second one because I want to know what crime his brother did that landed him in jail, and who is breaking him out. Cardigan Fig has my vote.

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  33. Two very good entries. I want to know what happens next in both. My vote goes to Cardigan Fig today.

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  34. Congratulations to our next two contestants!

    The stakes are clear in Elvira Brown's piece, and I was rooting for Emma, but the writing seemed to bounce between being deep in Emma's point of view ("now was not the time for this") and a slightly more filtered style of narration ("with that fierce thought in her head..."). There's also quite a bit of narration between action and speech, which slowed down the pacing.

    Cardigan Fig: That second paragraph is rough. There's an extra comma after groans, I think, in the third paragraph. Still, I'm interested.

    Cardigan Fig gets my vote.

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  35. Cardigan Fig gets my vote.
    I have a lot of questions for this story. Political Prisoner? Keys, silences, what responsibilities? I want to know more.
    WIth Elvira Brown, I understood the stakes, but I didn't get a sense of momentum, or something that was pulling me through the story.

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  36. Well done, both entrants.
    Good writing, although neither really grips me.
    Elvira, I have been in this situation, so I know what you are attempting to describe...
    Cardigan, gets my vote today.
    Good luck for the save round

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  37. Both entries are well written in the aspect of drawing the reader in with lots of tension, angst and mystery as to why they find themselves in those particular situations.

    Cardigan Fig was just slightly confusing as to why a key would block out the star as, to my mind, a key is small, especially as it is thrown through bars of a cell window but apart from that it was full of intrigue.

    Elvira Brown is more my genre of reading and I liked the tension of the piece. My only criticism of this piece is at the beginning - 'Emma glanced over her shoulder at the sleeping bundle in the backseat' which gave me the impression of a baby or toddler but it turns out it's a seven year old boy sleeping in the back seat.

    My vote in this round goes to Elvira Brown.

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  38. Another pair of great entries. Thanks to both authors.

    Elvira Brown: The tension was powerful and the threat immediate, drawing me in to Emma's fear. There were a few missteps, most of which others have mentioned (the "bundle" meant baby to me, how is a 7-year-old asleep when he just got in the car and Mom is freaked out, why did she slowly and surreptitiously check the door lock when this is a long-standing conflict, some dialogue that felt overused). A bigger issue for me is that it doesn't bring a fresh take to this old, if important, story.

    Cardigan Fig: There were many confusing spots. How did a single key block out the light from the star? I assumed it was a bundle or package. Given that there's a dim light from the hall, and Tulloch's eyes are clearly fully dark-adapted, why is he not using vision at all, to search for the key or identify it? If it's important what metal it is, why not tell us? I didn't get what his thoughts were about his brother or how they connected to his immediate reality. Perhaps he's in jail for killing his brother, only he didn't and his brother is not actually dead? It's not at all clear. The unnatural silence outside the cell is mentioned a few times, but again it's not anchored to anything. The only fantasy element I see is his brief thought that there's only one way the key could have been delivered, but that yet another unanswered idea. Still, it's an unusual concept and would leave me wanting to read more, looking for answers to the story questions.

    My vote goes to Cardigan Fig for originality.

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  39. For Cardigan Fig, I had too many questions and not enough grounding in the character to be care about his escape in the way that I cared about the other entry.

    For Elivira Brown's piece, while I didn't like the panic I felt, I had the feeling strongly. That's the mark of a some good writing (subjective, though, my response is).

    Today, I vote for Elvira Brown.

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  40. Two very different genres. Both had their pros and cons.

    The basic set up of ElviraBrown’s submission had the issue of being almost a checklist of the standard items for a tale of someone fleeing an abusive spouse: the stormy weather, the car with engine issues, the spouse/villain doing the romance equivalent of twirling the moustache by declaring the smothering possessive nature of the personality, etc. What saves it from becoming cliché is the way in which those elements were present and the emotions conveyed.

    Cardigan Fig’s entry had a good premise. Some of the phrasing/descriptors were a little forced (For example “The identification of type of metal”). It’s not clear why the prison should suddenly be so silent because of a brick (or what it was) gets launched into the cell. What works is setting up the atmosphere and giving a feel for the MC’s desperation tinged with caution.

    Although I would probably read the full version of Fig’s story, for the purposes of the 500 word entry, I’m going with ElviraBrown’s submission.

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  41. Both good beginnings of larger stories. Good tension in both.
    Elvira's gripped me a little more (one tip - I think I'd tighten in places - for instance I'd eliminate "she couldn't believe" right off the bat to make it more compelling) so my vote goes with her.

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  42. Both of these stories left me wanting more. Both writers drew me into the scene and had me invested in the characters. And I liked the slow build-up of tension. My vote goes to ElviraBrown but it was really close. I’m rooting for Emma and want to know what happens in the end.

    Cardigan Fig – I enjoyed your story a lot but just wanted more to happen with Tulloch. He seemed to hesitate just a tad too much.

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  43. My vote is for Cardigan Fig: Interesting situation. I know nothing about the character or the world, but a political prisoner wrongfully convicted has many possibilities. I want to know who this character is.

    Elvira Brown creates some tension, but the limited possibilities did not entice me to read more.

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  44. I wonder if other worlds have the same constellations? I mean, in another solar system, the view would be slightly different, right? Or maybe there's a multiverse thing going on?

    Anyway. I like both. I'm just more inclined to read a fantasy. So Cardigan Fig get my vote.

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  45. Cardigan Fig has my vote today.

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  46. 2 tense heart pounding situations. My vote is for cardigan fig. I want to know more.

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  47. Cardigan Fig gets my vote this time.

    While I liked ElviraBrown's writing style, especially with how well the suspense was weaved in, it was a scene I felt like I've seen before in books, movies, and even a few songs. If there was something to make it stand out more, I would've been more inclined to pick this one but unfortunately I want to know more about where Cardigan Fig's story is going.


    Both were really well written, and best of luck in the future!

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  48. Oh ya'll these were hard. I am riding in a car so I don't have much time to comment right now but I don't know that I would have much of a critique on either of these, just praises. That being saif Brown gets my vote this time if only because of the emotion that it pulls from me. Both are very well done, great job.

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  49. Both great entries, although I had the same issue with both of them - I couldn't see the genre in either one, particularly Elvira's. (I can imagine a fantastical reason for the appearance of the key in Cardigan's.) Elvira's story did a great job of building tension, but it's a story I've read before, so I was less interested in continuing to read. Cardigan's built less tension but I was more intrigued in getting answers to the questions it raised.

    In the end, my vote is for Cardigan.

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  50. You guys rock!
    ElviraBrown: Nice creepiness when you have Ryan proclaim, "You're both mine!" Ick. I have some problems with the wind, rain, and action. We've got a kid sleeping through all this, Emma and Ryan seeing details about each other's eyes, and Ryan standing there while getting soaked and buffeted.
    The wind and rain seem too extreme for this.
    Cardigan Fig: an intriguing plot set-up. It's interesting that Tulloch would consider whether or not to use the key. I would expect him to use and it and run as fast as possible, so I liked that twist. I liked the use of the supernatural.
    Cardigan Fig has my vote today.
    Well done to both.

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  51. Both were very good. My vote goes to Cardigan Fig.

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  52. EliviraBrown
    What worked:
    Add little specifics like "Chevy" instead of "car" and talking about her ingrained habit of locking the doors give your piece depth.
    I liked that she immediately recognized just his shadow. That helps me understand how linked their lives are through history and fear.
    What didn't:
    As much as I want to see stories empowering women, and I believe that this story will eventually do that, this section focuses on the victimization and powerlessness of this woman. I know there's only so much that can be covered in 500 words, but it leaves me with a bitter taste in my mouth, especially since her situation is so predictable and, unfortunately, common. While I feel her fear, I don't have a sense for why your story is different from other stories at this point.

    Cardigan Fig
    What worked:
    I like the emotional turmoil and inner conflict the MC feels about being given a key from an unknown benefactor. That second guessing shows depth of character.
    The detail about him being able to assess information about the key in the dark because of his experiences as a jeweler was a nice touch.
    What didn't:
    I don't feel like you used your 500 words as effectively as you could. This is a high-tension scene but we spend so much time in the MC's head thinking along with him that it loses some of its punch.

    My vote goes to ElviraBrown.

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  53. Both entries are very good and I was intitally torn as to where to place my vote. However, the visceral response induced by Elvira Brown's piece tips the scale.

    My vote is for Elvira Brown.

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  54. My vote is for Elvira on this one. :)

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  55. Yet another round where two deserving writers go head-to-head, giving us stories that both feature door locks. I enjoyed both entries, and felt pulled into each of the stories. Both have clear reasons they deserve to win, so I have to get picky in order to find enough to sway my vote.

    Elvira gives a scene with strong emotional content that the reader can easily relate to -- I feel the blend of Emma's fear of Ray, her frustration at the car, and the love and concern for her son. The story is believable and flows well, with a good blend of immediate actions (her trying to start the car) and intermingled backstory that fleshes out the characters and situation. The POV stays consistent and the bits of dialogue are inserted smoothly. The stakes are clear, the writing is generally clean, and I would keep on reading.

    Some of the few minor things I might suggest are:

    -- While the opening line does a good job of rousing curiosity, it is a little too vague character-wise since we have no idea who "she" and "he" are yet -- I'd at least use "Emma" here, and then switch to the pronoun for the second sentence, and maybe give the reader a taste of who the "he" is in that next one also: "She swore to herself that Ray would never touch the sleeping bundle in the backseat," or something like that. Plus, the use of "found them" is also a little confusing. He's "found them" and yet he hasn't "tracked her to the apartment" yet and might not until morning. So has he found them or not? Yes, later in the story his appearance shows he has indeed, but in that opening sentence, make it a little more clear that he's coming but not there yet, if that's what you want to start with.

    -- For the most part, the figurative language and descriptions work well, but there is an over-use of cliches: "Rain poured in buckets," "dead of night," "jumping out of her skin," "her blood run cold." Finding unique ways to describe the scene can dramatically improve the writing.

    -- When Ray appears at the window, the car is running and her hand is on the gearshift. Why the heck doesn't she just immediately gun it and go? He's on foot, so she'd at least get a head start. It felt odd to have her slowly react to his presence, and even more so to have the story drift off into backstory about her obsessing over door-locking. This is the pivotal, high-drama action-point of the scene, so it's odd to slow the pace down at this moment.

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    Replies
    1. (Review continued -- I hit the 4000-character limit, so I have to break it up)

      Cardigan's entry is also a very clean read. I get a good sense of who Tulloch is, his current situation, and some of the reasons why he's in that cell. It's also a good opening in that it provides a well-defined point of decision that will (probably) lead to the unfolding of the remaining story. Even though the bulk of the scene is inside Tulloch's head in the silent darkness, where the only action is a key clanking into his cell, Cardigan does a good job of keeping the reader's interest and moving the story forward without bogging down in backstory and world-building, and smoothly sets up the stakes and tension as Tulloch gets the key and works to unlock the cell. Several story questions are raised that make me curious -- why's Tulloch in prison? Who or what threw the key into the cell? Why does Tulloch want to kill his brother? I enjoyed the piece and would keep on reading.

      There's also not much I can suggest, either, other than:

      -- While I am a huge proponent of the Oxford comma before 'and groans', you don't need one after it in the list: "The curses, yells, sobs, moans, and groans, he'd..."

      -- I think the writer does a generally very good job of varying hs sentences, but the heavy use of short, "noun-verb" sentences can give a little too choppy, staccato rhythm to the flow.

      So, once again, I find this is a bout where one contestant gives a scene with stronger emotion and drama, while the other one gives one with a little cleaner writing. By my (somewhat arbitrary) Write Club grading scale, I have to once again give the edge to the cleaner writing -- my vote is swayed (barely) to Cardigan Fig.

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  56. I liked most of Elvira's piece. The end had me scratching my chin a bit just because my emotions shifted. I felt fear throughout the story, but I think the antagonist's only line could have been creepier and then it ends with a comment about the rain that implied hesitation to me. I kind of felt the terror fizzle as if this were an annoying instead of a "monster". Maybe that's intentional in the larger context. Anyway, you have my vote because other than that concern, it was good.

    Cardigan was well written, probably part of a good larger story just less for me to latch onto in this selection. Good job, both.

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  57. Romance is not my favorite genre, but ElviraBrown's piece out-trumps Cardigan Fig's selection. Elvira gets my vote.

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  58. Ooooooh—I’ve been absent from writeclub for a few bouts but dang the competition is still fierce!

    ElviraBrown: Great pace! You had me hook, line and centre! I'd love to read more. It gave me chills, and I kept imagining Ray like the husband from ’Sleeping with the enemy.’ I do think your sample could do with a little cutting and polishing—that would really make this strong.

    Cardigan Fig: I found the word ’smeared’ caught me off guard, was he spreading something on his face? But having said that the rest of your visuals were really strong and I was super intrigued by the voice in his head.(His own voice or????)

    Well done both but Cardigan Fig gets my vote!

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  59. Wow. This was good. Elvira pulled me through till the end of the story with the feeling of tension running through it. It wasn't original but it didn't have to be. The writing is what gives it power. Cardigan-you would've gotten my vote if you'd stopped at "You used it". From the next sentence on it seem very anti-climatic. I got annoyed with the character and that's not a good sign. Once you make a decision to use it. Use it and move on to the next disaster. If you want to show inner conflict consider moving his indecision to before that line. Either way, great premise and fantastic last line in the first paragraph.

    My vote goes for Elvira.

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  60. Elvira's piece immediately made me think of the book Sleeping with the Enemy. I wish it felt a bit more original. Would have loved to see the writer flip the predictable roles, so the father was the one taking the child and getting away from the mother, to make it less of an obvious and well used plot. This would have felt a bit more unique.

    Fig's entry while more unique in story, had parts that were very confusing.
    It also had a few cliches, such as: shiver down his spine. On a rewrite, this would be something to replace with more original wording.
    There is a tense change too. Most of the piece is written in the past tense, but when reading about the hairs on his neck it is written in the present tense (so rising on the back of his neck, should be rose on the back of his neck).
    Wondering why he is referred to as an Ignorant Political Prisoner - that felt like it came out of nowhere and is unexplained - it is a pretty big statement for something that is neither explained nor mentioned again.
    Some areas, as mentioned caused me confusion. For example, in this sentence: The identification of type of metal by weight and touch warmed his heart - this is confusing in the way it is written and adds little to the overall story.
    And this sentence is very clumsy sounding in the way it is written: Hands that had once been so steady they'd done fine filigree - Done fine filigree - reads very awkward for something that is so delicate in its nature.

    As both are matched fairly evenly it is hard to choose one, but as the actual story itself feels more original in content, I will vote for Cardigan Pig.

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  61. My vote is for Elvira this go around.

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  62. Cardigan Fig wrote a story that's right in the middle of what I enjoy reading. Well done.
    - tara.roquemore@gmail.com

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  63. Tough decision. I think Cardigan Fig gets my vote on this one, although Elvira's is compelling. Cardigan's leaves you wondering what's next?

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  64. I'm voting for Cardigan. I enjoyed both, but the jeweler's story piqued my interest a touch more.

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  65. I vote for Elvira. I really got pulled into the scene. That feeling when the car doesn't start - I connected with that

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  66. I vote for Cardigan Fig because I want to read more. Neat premise. While Elvira's entry had my heart racing, the story has been done before.

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  67. Voting for Elvira on this one. I felt like the scene was well built, and I could feel the emotions of the character. I had a good sense of place with it.

    While Cardigan's story does sound more interesting to me, and more like what I would want to read, the writing quality of Elvira's was better. The writing felt a bit more stilted, and while I could understand the character's emotions, I did did not think they came through as well.

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  68. I liked both of these, but I'm going to vote for Elvira's on this one. I felt that Cardigan Fig's was more original, but Elvira's is more to my personal preference.

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  69. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  70. Both entries were gripping, but my vote goes to ElviraBrown for the terror and urgency of the piece. Cardigan Fig's was good, too, and made me curious to know more of the story, but Elivira's really grabbed me.

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  71. I liked both pieces, but have to go withCardigan's for the win. It just kept my interest more and fits with what I see such short writing to be.

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  72. I liked both pieces, but have to go withCardigan's for the win. It just kept my interest more and fits with what I see such short writing to be.

    Mike Stewart
    (sorry mistyped the prior)

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  73. Congratulations to both writers, but my vote goes to Cardigan Fig.

    Elvira: Really nice tension, but it was difficult to feel invested in the characters. It could be a limitation in word count but getting dropped into that scene felt almost melodramatic.
    Cardigan: Nice scene setting and hints at world building, and I'm quite interested in seeing where this story goes. Prose was a little messy with some clunky sentences.

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  74. Trying again on a different browser. Congratulations to both writers, but my vote goes to Cardigan Fig.

    Elvira: Really nice tension, but it was difficult to feel invested in the characters. It could be a limitation in word count but getting dropped into that scene felt almost melodramatic.
    Cardigan: Nice scene setting and hints at world building, and I'm quite interested in seeing where this story goes. Prose was a little messy with some clunky sentences.

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    Replies
    1. For whatever reason your name is not registering - so just leave your name & email address in the post itself and it will then count.

      Delete
  75. Two great starts today.

    Elvira: great writing. On thing that left me wondering was the backstory on the he-found-us-but-doesn't-have-us-so-we-must-get-away. Did he find them? Or was he merely close on their trail (had yet to find their apartment). I got hung up on that. But, this is a snippet out of a larger work, so I'm sure in a full draft that would be worked out. Really strong writing.

    Cardigan Fig: really good set up. I like that how it writes a promissory note on the Tullich's brother. The key coming through the window is a little Deux ex machina, but (and this is a big 'but') as the story progresses the origin of the key can be a really powerful agent, and the god-likeness can make throwing a key perfectly into a fourth story window seem like a mundane thing. Your writing is solid, and you build a fantasy world well (Tulloch as a name, the Crow Constellation).

    ElviraBrown gets my vote.

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  76. Elvira: I like your style of writing. There was some great atmosphere with that piece. I also liked how you put snippets of background in, like her swearing and mentally checking herself because of her kid. Things like that make the characters feel more real.

    Cardigan: I like all the questions and mysteries you presented in that small snippet. It definitely got me interested in the world that you are building. The writing could have used some smoothing as there were some hitches when I was reading it, but what was happening definitely made me want to read more.

    Overall, it's a hard choice. Elvira had more polished writing, but Cardigan grabbed my attention more.

    I think because I'm curious, my vote goes to Cardigan Fig.

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  77. Elvira: I like your style of writing. There was some great atmosphere with that piece. I also liked how you put snippets of background in, like her swearing and mentally checking herself because of her kid. Things like that make the characters feel more real.

    Cardigan: I like all the questions and mysteries you presented in that small snippet. It definitely got me interested in the world that you are building. The writing could have used some smoothing as there were some hitches when I was reading it, but what was happening definitely made me want to read more.

    Overall, it's a hard choice. Elvira had more polished writing, but Cardigan grabbed my attention more.

    I think because I'm curious, my vote goes to Cardigan Fig.

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  78. Replies
    1. Not only is this past the deadline - it is unknown. Therefore it will not count.

      Delete
  79. Replies
    1. This past the deadline - so therefore it will not count.

      Delete

 

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