WRiTE CLUB 2019 - Preliminaries - Round #14




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 Wednesday, May 22nd (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 today is Organized Confusion representing the Flash Fiction genre.


“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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On the other side of the ring, we have PBSSpecial who is representing the Women's Fiction genre.



The smell assaulted me first. I rubbed at my nose. Wet animal and kibble.

My sister assaulted me next. “Okay pick one.”

I froze in the entrance. Two glassed enclosures took up the back of the building. Dogs on one side, cats in the other. I turned and stared at my sister.

My face must have communicated my ire, because she rolled her eyes.

“The therapist said a pet would do you some good,” she reminded me.

As if I needed reminding.

“I don’t need a pet to get over Charles ditching me. He never paid attention to me. Or appreciated my keeping his house clean. Or any of the thousand little things I did for him over the last twenty-five years.”

My chest heaved having run an emotional mile. Her exaggerated nod chided me.  My older sister had spent over forty years dictating what was best. She wasn’t going to stop anytime soon. Why should she? She’d always been right.

The dogs in the left enclosure chased each other and played with the volunteers. Too much energy. As I walked towards the cats, a medium sandy-colored dog snared me with her soulful gaze. Her pink collar read Minnie. Her calm abandoned her the moment she realized I watched her, too.

Just the sight of that need, that expectation, made my neck itch and stomach clench. “I’m not the one for you.”

She tilted her head as if trying to make sense of me.

My sister read the placard labeled ‘Minnie’. “Four month old Bullmastiff mix. She’s a beauty. She’ll be big but a great companion.”

She was beautiful. The most beautiful dog I’d ever seen.

“I need a pet that can take care of itself. A cat,” I told her.

“A dog would be better.”

The dog crept closer. Her nose wedged into the corner of the glass enclosure, as close as she could get to me. “No. They’re too needy.”

Inside the cat-quarium, an all-white cat lounged in a bed, licking its paws. The regal bearing and calm demeanor convinced me of my choice.

The worker pointed me to a solitary room and the cat was brought in.

Rex was his name. King.

The cat explored the room without thought of me. Only with the offer of treats did it let me pet him. Once he’d gotten all the treats he wanted, he walked away.

Just like Charles.

My jaw dropped along with my stomach. I’d just chosen my husband again. I backed into the door before I realized I’d stood from the chair. Turning, I fumbled with the door in my haste to leave. The cat hissed at me.

Probably for bothering him.

I stumbled out the door, my eyes immediately going for the sandy dog on the other side of the room. She was right where I left her. Her tail wagged wildly when my eyes landed on her.

I placed both hands on the glass.

“I'll take this one!”
##############################################################################


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 our last 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!


82 comments

  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  2. Great entries, and I always love a dog story, PBSSpecial! My vote goes to Confusion because its emotion just ripped my heart to shreds. Fantastic!

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  3. Wow, this is the toughest one yet. They are both excellent and tug at the heart.
    I'm going to pick PBSSpecial - animals and it ends with hope.

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  4. It's a hard choice in this bout. Both stories are very well done.

    Organized Confusion: The emotions are clearly conveyed, and the relationship between brother and sister really holds everything together here. Without a hint of genre, I started out wondering whether this was a dystopian future with people dying of techno-plagues, or a contemporary thriller with people tortured in gulags, before finally deciding it was the more everyday kind of death that happens quietly and tears us apart. Some phrasing was a little awkward, but the last line was gripping.

    PBSSpecial: This one started a little slow, but built to an emotional kick with the narrator's realization of what her choice reflected. I loved to see her working through her reactions to the breakup and moving bravely past it. I want to adopt that dog!

    I could easily vote for both entries today. I'm going with PBSSpecial, if only because it was more positive in emotional tone.

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  5. I'm going with Organized Confusion today. I enjoyed both stories, they were complete and carried an emotional impact. There was some odd wording in PBSSpecial's entry that stopped me and made me wonder. Mistakes? Typos? I'm not sure, but enough to pull me out of the story.

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  6. Great job on the bouts today! Interesting that both dealt with sibling relationships.
    Organized Confusion: nice last sentence--great impact.
    PBSSpecial: "cat-quarium" is a fun neologism! Flurry of action at the end after a relatively calm start is a nice technique.
    Very, very close today, but I'm going with PBSSpecia.

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  7. These are both beautiful and heart-wrenching. I LOVED the brother-sister dynamic in Organized Confusion's piece, and the last line had me in tears. PBSSpecial's was equally lovely--the instaconnection with the dog, the parallel between the MC's encounter with the cat and her relationship with her ex really rang true. In the end (and this is a toughie!) I'm voting for Organized Confusion because the passage really got under my skin and made me want to read more. As always, superb job by both authors!

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  8. Both great entries today! Interesting match-up between two pieces, both dealing with relationships on a different level. Both worked really well, and conveyed such emotion. It's Organized Confusion by a nose!

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  9. I enjoyed both entries today. Thank you for sharing them!
    PBS, I enjoyed your writing and the realization that the cat was so much like her ex.

    Organized Confusion gets my vote today because of the emotion you were able to draw out in your 500 words! The last line was incredible. I felt a little choked up after reading it and couldn't believe that you'd done it in such a short space.

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  10. Both are great - each emotionally poignant in their own way.

    Organized Confusion: Loved the gentle brother/sister relationship, I could feel their history. Your last line made me linger.

    CBS: Great entry. You nailed the description of the cat and I loved how in the moment Rex walked away from her, she had an epiphany.

    In the end, I'm all for the hopeful rescue...CBS Special gets my vote.

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    1. OBVIOUSLY I meant PBS Special...sorry...the coffee is just now kicking in!

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  11. Organized: nice writing, good job establishing a realistic sibling relationship. We never learn exactly why the sister is dying - I think cancer? The details about Dean’s depression did a great job of pulling me in, but not knowing what the siblings are fighting now keeps me from being really grounded in their story.

    PBS: I never mind unnamed characters in flash fiction, but repeatedly referring to “the sister” felt a little bulky. Especially since the ex is named, it might smooth out the writing to name the sister as well. You introduce Minnie twice, with her collar and then her placard. Fantastic connection between the cat and the ex. And I love a good dog person!

    This is an extra hard choice. I vote for PBS, for creating a stronger emotional connection to the MC for me. Great job both!

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  12. Both stories have a strong emotional tie and back story and both kept this reader's interest.

    My vote today is for PBSSpecial as it has a more personal resonance to me.

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  13. OhMyShoot, Write Club, why do you do this? Two amazing entries and you pit them against one another?

    Organized Confusion: The beginning had me wondering, What's going on here? What happened? "Imperiousness" threw me off for a bit, that maybe his sister had been a ruler and now they were in exile. Then I soon realized what was what as they bantered back and forth. You've *shown* beautifully this particular sister/brother relationship. I love how you place the backstory so it pulls us further in. We feel the bond between these two, and I understand Dean wouldn't even have the richness of his life were it not for her. It's a special talent to be able to convey all of that in 500 words or fewer so we truly feel his loss as he's losing her. That last line had me in tears. The subtext was perfect.

    PBSSpecial: Excellent beginning that pulled me right in. The word "ire" stopped me. It felt out of place for the tone of the story. Then "having run an emotional mile." Pure gold. The MC's emotions are flat-out all over this piece and I feel every one. Good job! You've shown the sibling relationship concisely. Also well done. The double mention of Minnie's name put me off. The recognition of the cat's actions to her ex-husband and her own flaws... priceless. Perfect lead-in to the end.

    This bout reminds me of another where I wanted to pick both entries, they're that good. So whichever one doesn't make it through, I'll vote for a save when it comes time.

    For now, because it's not easy to bring me to tears in fewer than 500 words...

    My vote: Organized Confusion

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  14. I loved both stories. Organized Confusion—your last line was pure gold; so poignant and beautiful.

    PBSSpecial — I loved the dynamic in the piece and your use of words and emotional turmoil. Beautifully done.

    It’s a difficult vote today, but I’m going with PBSSpecial.

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  15. Oh, this is really close. Both of these have nice writing, great emotional beats, and are rounded out with a satisfying ending. I thought PBS had a few sentences here and there that felt a little stilted. So my vote is going to Organized Confusion by a smidge because it read a little smoother to me.

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  16. Oh this is hard. I really liked both. For OC, I could absolutely feel the emotion and I really wanted to know what was killing Erin. For PBSSpecial, I like the nuggets of gold in the story. There were a few words repeated but overall didn't detract me from the story.

    My vote goes for PBSSpecial.

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  17. These are really close. I'm going to vote for Organized Confusion because I felt it a little more, but both authors did a nice job today.

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  18. This was a difficult choice as both stories were well-written and really tugged at my emotions. It was close, but my vote goes to Organized Confusion – loved everything about this story. Great job!

    PBSSpecial – your story was great, too. Only quibble – I would have said “keeping our house clean,” instead of “keeping his house clean.” After all, she was there for 25 years so it’s her house too, no? Just a suggestion.

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  19. Organized Confusion’s entry was interesting (in a good way). As flash fiction, it is self-contained and a snap shot of lives being lived, even to the end. It is poignant. I think it could have been polished just a bit more. For example, the “Apparently she remembered” seemed out of place. It’s clear she did, and there is no need to equivocate about it.

    PBSSpecial’s writing was good & crisp. It does a good job of setting up the scene. It just didn’t payoff for me. At the end though, I just don’t like the MC. Undoubtedly the ex is a bad person, but she comes off as self-absorbed, asking for but not heeding advice. While the story will probably have a redemptive arc for her, I’m not sure it is a story I would enjoy.

    All that being said, my vote goes to PBSSpecial. Ultimately, the fact the story caused me to have such a visceral reaction to a fictional character is a testament to the writing.

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  20. my vote goes to Organized Confusion, well done very emotional. the second story was good, but i couldn't sympathize with the protagonist.

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  21. My vote goes for PBSSpecial. Nice job at tugging at my heartstrings!

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  22. This is a good battle -- while many of the earlier Write Club entries appear to be segments from larger pieces, here we have two complete submissions of flash fiction going head-to-head. In many of the previous bouts, I've considered that an entry may be part of a longer story so I've leaned more on the writing itself to evaluate it. But in this bout I can also add weight to how successfully the writers constructed the overall story arc in their entries and not feel like I'm being unfair to one or the other.

    Organized Confusion (OC) gives a very touching, emotional scene between a brother and his dying sister. The pacing fits the piece well, blending enough of the brother's inner retrospection with the live events of their interaction. The writer is very effective at pulling at the reader's heartstrings, and I'm moved by the situation and Dean's commitment to be there for Erin, just as she was there for him when he was in the depths of his alcoholism. OC does an equally excellent job in showing the biting banter between the two siblings, and illustrating how their familiar, sibling-squabbling way they speak to each other is only a brave facade over a much deeper love between them. The writing is clean and I have no issues with it. I like how OC brings in the sound of the school bus and the life-filled kids outside as a contrast to the quiet, near-death situation inside.

    As a scene, the piece works wonderfully. But as a completed work of flash fiction, it is a little more problematic. There's no real story arc, no obvious character development or change, and no clear story progression within the piece. While the ending line is poignant and moving, the situation at the end of the story is exactly the same as it was at the beginning. The reader just knows more about the characters in the scene.

    I think that when the fiction is 'flash,' it doesn't mean that there's no need for a story arc -- in fact, I might argue that it's even more imperative. While a piece of flash doesn't necessarily have to have a surprise 'gotcha!' twist at the end, there still has to be a sense of growth, change, journey, evolution, or revelation in some way within the reader. That's the only thing I find missing in this otherwise very moving and well-written piece, and unfortunately, I feel it's the most important element in a complete work of fiction.

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    1. (Review continued -- split due to length)

      PBSSpecial gives an example of Women's Fiction, but I took the liberty of reading it anyway even though I have that pesky Y-chromosome. I still found it easy to relate to and enjoyable, and I think there was a lot of merit in the piece. The MC is well-defined and I could feel some of her pain of the abandonment by her husband, and her being conflicted as she both resisted the idea of the pet yet begrudgingly went along with looking for one. The pace of the story is very good, beginning right at the shelter and ending with her decision to adopt Minnie -- there's enough of the backstory brought in to get a good understanding of the MC without bogging down in unneeded information.

      Some of the writing is not as technically polished as it could be ("Wet animal and kibble" is not a complete sentence; the repetition of "assaulted" could be varied; "My chest heaved having run an emotional mile" is a bit too dramatic; etc), but there are some really nice elements, too ("cat-quarium," the descriptions of the cats and dogs, etc). But what really makes this work for me is the story arc itself. In just 500 words, we see the MC go from resistant to an animal, wanting a cat, having the impactful moment of epiphany that she was choosing an animal just like her husband, and finally putting her hands on the glass of Minnie's cage with eagerness -- all done smoothly and efficiently, without feeling rushed or forced. That's excellent writing and shows how effective a piece of flash can be.

      If Organized Confusion's piece was a scene within a larger story, I'd apply my normal Write Club judging criteria, give it the benefit of the doubt as to overall story arc, and vote for it to win in this bout -- the writing was very effective and the emotional connection with the characters was excellent, and truthfully the writing was somewhat cleaner than PBS's. But when these two entries are judged as complete works, I have to vote for the one that does the better job of story-telling over scene-setting, and in my opinion, that's definitely PBSSpecial.

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    2. Reading your critiques here has really made me miss our time together working on novels. I don't suppose I could persuade you into critiquing one of my manuscripts for me? Please? Pretty please? :)

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  23. It was fun reading two well written stories about relationships with big sisters. Both authors share similar images for the big sisters, I want to know more about the main characters, and both big sisters are women I’d like to know. This made deciding on today’s winner difficult.

    In the end, I cast my vote for PBSSpecial. At first, I thought I was just pulled to a story about a dog, because I’m a dog lover, but then I realized what pulled me to this story was the growth of the narrator. She recognized her own flaw and decided to fix it. In Organized Confusion, the main character is compelling, but experiences no change. He’s as loving and sympathetic at the end as he was at the beginning.

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  24. The entries were excellent again today. I could see voting for either. However, PBSSpecial, while fun, was not quite as clean and the premise was not as interesting to me.

    My vote goes to Organized Chaos because it pulled me so completely into the scene. The way the backstory wrapped through the piece really brought the characters to life.

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  25. PBSSpecial had a really good arc for such a short story, it was like a full short story compacted down (though that compacting made the scene with the cat seem too extreme). But ...

    I vote for Organized Chaos, because it's just a big emotional gut punch. Awesome and effective. It's almost the opposite - just a simple scene rather than a whole story, but beautifully rendered and powerfully written. All the detail and emotion is crammed in rather than a lot of events (That sounds bad - I don't mean PBSSpecial is badly written, it's good too).

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  26. Organized Confusion: I could feel the love Erin and Dean have for each other, and I got a solid sense of their roles in their relationship. That last line gutted me.

    There were a couple of clunky sentences, such as "her voice rasped and hissed..." You don't need both, "rasped" is descriptive enough.

    PBSSpecial: Another sibling-love story, only with rescue animals. That's a delightful combination. I love the way it dawns on the MC that a cat is basically like her ex, and that its name is Rex (King) and that, like her ex and a king, he'd expect her to do everything for her and not really give back.

    I would have liked to get a name other than Rex and Charles. The sister could have easily slipped "Rachel" or whatever into a sentence, and that would have helped connect more with the MC. Having the only names be her shitty ex and an equally self-absorbed male cat made me feel like the MC doesn't see herself as important in her own life.

    Some of the sentence structures were a bit awkward, such as: "My jaw dropped along with my stomach." I understand the feeling you're trying to convey, but it just reads strangely to me. Something like "My stomach fell to the floor as I realized I'd chosen my husband all over again." is tighter and just as impactful. And finally, I think you could have started with the sister's first bit of dialogue. The sentences that come before don't enhance the story, and the smell of the place could have been woven in elsewhere. The use of the word "assaulted" twice was a bit jarring. Especially the second time. The MC clearly knew they were at a shelter before they entered, so she willingly drove there herself or willingly came with her sister. Her sister telling her to pick a pet at the shelter the MC entered on her own volition didn't feel like an assault.

    Both stories tugged hard on my emotions, but my vote goes to Organized Confusion today. I got a better sense of who the two siblings were as individuals, as well as to each other. And any story that can make me cry in 500 words deserves my vote.

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  27. My vote is for Organized Confusion.

    Organized Confusion: The emotion in this piece is clearly shown, not told. The flow of dialogue, memories, and the present works well. The characters' relationship to each other is well-developed. Part of me would have prefered a less pedestrian story line, something with more novelty; however, the strength of this piece is that it captures something so human and so simple, yet so poignant and beautiful. The love, sadness, and commitment to each other is clearly depicted. I was confused at first, thinking the setting was a hospital room--I wondered how many school busses let kids out in front of hospitals...so perhaps the home setting could be clarified a bit earlier in the piece.

    PBSSpecial: I like the idea of the pet reflecting the ex's treatment of the main character; what a great concept. I didn't get a clear sense of the emotion of the story, though. The writing needs a bit of work; it seems forced and almost cliched at times. Also, the sister just sort of disappears in the latter part of this piece. She's the driving force early in the piece.

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  28. This comment has been removed by the author.

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    1. Reposting due to typo - more haste less speed!

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  29. Wow!! This is the toughest choice so far - can we get two votes, please? Hahaha! Today I'm going to vote for PBSSpecial, because it is more hopeful and I'm a total dog person. However, Organized Confusion has my first redemption vote if they don't win this round. And vice versa for PBS. Well done, both of you!

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  30. Organized Confusion presented a good piece about love. Remaining accessible during the most difficult of times is an act of love. The last line was perfect.

    PBSSpecial wrote a good story, but it did not move me like the first one. My vote goes to Organized Confusion.

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  31. Organized Confusion - this is quite a well written piece and the end line is very poignant.
    What nagged me throughout the entire read, and re-read though was the fact - especially given the last line, which basically tells us death is but a breath away - presumably we can guess from cancer, given the mention of hair loss - sorry if that is the incorrect presumption, but as a reader filing in gaps that is my interpretation - so my problem with this piece is that fact that someone literally inches from death from a disease as horrific as cancer would be so weak and likely dosed on high quantities of pain medication that I doubt they could have this type of lucid and extended conversation. The piece even starts saying how raspy and hissing her voice is, presumably from being unable to speak properly.

    I doubt being this close to death, the MC could manage to talk much at all, and if they did, would this really be their final conversation with a loved one?

    There was some good use of description within the passage, but the overall piece lost authenticity with me as I really felt the ability for this conversation to occur (or to even be physically possible) this close to passing on is unlikely.

    PBSSpecial - this was a fun piece of writing, and as an animal lover it will of course win points!

    I didn't like the use of "assaulted me" twice within the first couple of lines - I get repetition in narration, but here, especially with a word as aggressive implying as assaulted, it doesn't work. It just doesn't feel like the right word - I think a better word could have been chosen (in both instances really).

    I found it strange that the MC does not even have a name, when you provide a name for the husband and animals. A name would have given her more presence, and on a rewrite might be something you consider.

    This sentence I found confusing: Just the sight of that need, that expectation, made my neck itch and stomach clench. “I’m not the one for you.”

    The speech: I'm not the one for you - is that the MC thinking, and speech marks got added in error? Does she say that out loud as the speech marks infer, or is it the dog thinking?

    And here... The cat explored the room without thought of me - "thought of me", reads clunky and awkward, and how can the MC know what the cat is even thinking? Better would be: the cat explored the room oblivious to me.

    Towards the end of the writing the door is mentioned three times in the space of a couple of sentences. Not sure so much focus needs to be put on getting up and leaving the cat-quarium and going out through the door - feels like over-telling there regarding something that adds little value to the story. Would have loved those words to have been used to flesh the end out a bit more and have the MC actually interacting with the dog (who I feel she would have spent time with, before making such a big decision on choosing).

    Maybe on a rewrite, a bit of time spent with the dog she chooses after moments ago dismissing, and picks without spending any time at all with would be more plausible, as I think it highly unlikely that you would choose a dog (a lifetime commitment) without first interacting with it. Likewise the rescue home would probably insist you get to know an animal before deciding to pick it (for life).

    Two entries, again pretty evenly matched.

    Both with some rewriting have promise, but as they are presented here today, I pick PBS.
    I feel the first one lacked authenticity in the MC being able to hold down this type of conversation when they are so very close to death. Had the last line (as great as it is) been omitted so that the MC's death was not obviously moments/ or even hours away, I would have probably voted differently.

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  32. Well done for getting through.
    Think both entries are about matched.
    Feel that the story about choosing a pet is a little improbable.
    Animal sanctuaries surely have strict rules about pairing a pet to an owner. A flippant choice as written here would not be possible.
    The death bedside story is equally flawed.
    Having worked in the medical field, someone so near to death would not having interactions as described; although it would be really beautiful if it were possible. Medication, of the terminal patient, would sadly render this touching scene impossible.
    Both pieces have some tender writing, such a shame the situations were not thought through to make them realistic.
    Vote goes to OC because it was a braver choice of topic

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  33. Congrats to both writers for making it through!

    My vote goes to Organized Confusion today.

    PBSSpecial: The parallels between the animals and the main character's relationship choices was brilliant, but the characters weren't developed enough for me to feel invested in the story. I think the characters sort of got lost in the analogy, if that makes sense. With more space, you could really show each character (main character, sister, Charles, Rex, and Minnie) and make the parallels and the main character's realization that much more powerful.

    Organized Confusion: I'm going to disagree with anyone who said this lacked character development or didn't have much of a story. You've woven an entire lifetime into 500 words, showing the entire scope of Dean's relationship with his sister. She grew from a bossy child to a mature young adult who was willing to sacrifice her life to save his. And she did save his life. He's no longer the baby brother in need of care or the alcoholic in need of hard love. He's a grown man with children and a routine. He's putting aside his life--and squashing his grief--to comfort her as her life slips away. It gives me the same sort of sweeping feelings, but on a sibling level, as Jamie Lawson's song, I Wasn't Expecting That. Well done.

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  34. My vote goes to Organized Confusion. So emotional and real.

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  35. All it takes is a dog. PBSSPecial gets my vote although I will say both pieces did a great job building strong relationships and making me care about characters in only 500 words.
    I suspect the loser will breeze to victory in the Cage Bout.

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  36. Organized Confusion -- I like the story. It's nothing original, but the setup is good and the delivery is nice. A couple wasted words -- repeated so many times since they were children. -- you describe her old refrain, and a refrain is something that is repeated. You also explained earlier that she was his big sister. -- as an angry, depressed college student -- doesn't matter to the story when he was at his lowest, and for older generations, when you say it's the college years, the tendency is to take it less seriously. -- Don't be a smart ass to your dying sister,” she scolded. “It's rude.” -- First, it feels forced, and a clumsy way to explain she's dying. Also, you don't need the sister, because he knows who she is, the speech tag, because who else would be saying it, and the it's rude, because it's redundant, because anyone being a smartass just said something rude. If you shore these up you save a good 20-ish words, which could be better used for simile, metaphor, allusion, any form of figurative language, which this story, along with so many in this competion, lacks. The last line is okay, but offsetting it so far from the rest of the story is gimmicky. You went single-spaced, it should be one line down. Let the words do the work. Don't try to force emotion by slowing the reader down. Otherwise, a solid entry.

    PBSSpecial - The story was cute, and I'm sure hits the mark with the animal nut and the dumped lover in all of us. I think it missed the mark in other ways.
    First, the sentences were all put together the same -- My chest heaved having run an emotional mile. Her exaggerated nod chided me. My older sister had spent over forty years dictating what was best. She wasn’t going to stop anytime soon. Why should she? She’d always been right. -- There's a distinctive choppiness about these sentences, and it's throughout the whole piece. We always advise to vary sentence length, but also, it's the structure that should be varied. Also, not a lot of action nouns and verbs there. Lots of haves and to be verbs. Stronger verbs and nouns would punch this up a lot. -- My jaw dropped along with my stomach. I’d just chosen my husband again. I backed into the door before I realized I’d stood from the chair. Turning, I fumbled with the door in my haste to leave. The cat hissed at me. Probably for bothering him. I stumbled out the door, my eyes immediately going for the sandy dog on the other side of the room. She was right where I left her. Her tail wagged wildly when my eyes landed on her. -- Here, I loved the realization that Rex was just like her husband, but just when you want to focus on the mental, the story concentrates on the physical, all the fumbling, bumbling, stumbling, and the repetition of the word door took the focus off of what was interesting. Also, more choppy sentences, the sentence fragment adding to the lack of flow. Last, and I know I sound like a broken record, not a single piece of figurative language. In a 500-word piece that's designed to showcase writing, I'm amazed how few uses of figurative language there are in the 28 pieces that have made the cut so far. 500 words allows plenty of room to tell a story and still show the reader some facility with the language and a little flair that shows us the writer behind the story.
    My vote is for Organized Confusion

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  37. I vote for Organized Confusion the emotions were strong and gut wrenching. The relationship between brother and sister was beautifully written. PBSSpecial also had some great emotions but it didn't make a lot of sense for a woman who is struggling with such heavy emotions to be told she needed to take on more responsibility by adopting a pet.

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  38. Organized Confusion
    What worked:
    This pieces has strong emotion and description that grounds me in both the physical world and the emotional pain of this interaction.
    What didn't:
    There is some repetition, particularly in establishing their relationship.

    PBSSpecial
    What worked:
    I like the parallels between the ex-husband and the aloof cat she thinks she wants. Her realization and determination to break out of old patterns speaks to me.
    What didn't:
    Some of the language and phrasing came across as overwrought. The epiphany at the end felt a little rushed.

    My vote goes to Organized Confusion.

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  39. Organized Confusion: I really like the history and depth of relationship built between the two characters. He's not coddling her in her final moments, and that says a lot about how comfortable they are together, and also how fond they are of one another. When he thinks of his family, she knows it. You never had to explain any of that--you just showed it with a few choice words and some strong dialogue.

    PBS Special: This really felt like a complete story. In so few words you managed to introduce a character, explain her circumstances, and create a "will she/won't she?" situation. I also enjoyed the dynamic between the two sisters. The more lighthearted older sister was a good foil for the downtrodden younger sister.

    Very close, but my vote goes to Organized Confusion.

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  40. Loved both of these but my vote tonight goes to organized confusion.

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  41. And into the penultimate Bout with two more writers deserving congratulations.

    Organized Confusion representing the Flash Fiction genre.
    Although I had to re-read parts of this near the beginning, it came together tragically at the end. So sad I'm crying. Unexpected given what seemed to be said and yet those exchanges came into tear-filled focus. Siblings can choose to share so much.

    PBSSpecial who is representing the Women's Fiction genre.
    More sibling exchanges but different interaction in this one. The descriptions and dialogue make the scene come alive. Again some sentences had to be re-read or skimmed past. Almost choosing her husband - clever. Amusing but maybe the cat knew something more about the nameless 'I'. Or does the writer prefer dogs?

    Another tough choice but Organized Confusions wins my vote for squeezing my heart.

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  42. I'm not crying; you're crying. Well done, Organized Confusion. This one struck very, very close to home. Seamless backstory, believable dialogue, so much emotion.

    PBSSpecial, I was charmed by your comparison of that haughty cat to her ex. Some of your lines sparkle, but the piece overall needs another polish or two. Varying your sentence structure and adding more dialogue would help.

    Today's enthusiastic and emotional vote to Organized Confusion.

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  43. Though I loved the animals in the piece by PBSSpecial, the last line of the story by Organized Confusion stuck with me. My vote goes to Organized Confusion, of course.

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  44. Oh no! This one is a toughie! They're both good. I'm voting for PBSSpecial because I want to see what happens next.

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  45. Goodness... Another hard choice. Noth were well written and drew me on but it was the second one by PBSSpecial that made me smile and then read it out loud to my husband who laughed at end. This story has so much potential!

    PBSSpecial gets my vote

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  46. Organized Confusion tugged at my heart strings. Tough decision

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  47. Took longer to get into PBSSpecial's entry, but it won me over by the end. Even though I'm totally a cat person.

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  48. I am a sucker for sibling stories, which makes a choice between two all the more difficult! Casting my vote for PBSSpecial because I loved that moment of realization in the room with the cat.

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  49. I like both of these a lot - tons of emotion in both of them. PBSSpecial did a great job with the realization of the protagonist making the same mistake again. As much as I adore adoption stories though, the siblings' supportive relationship in Organized Confusion's entry hit me harder. The last line was particularly poignant.

    I vote for Organized Confusion.

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  50. Both are terrific. Great writing. Going with PBSSpecial for the wrap up that ends the scene and makes you appreciate all the possibilities that may come next. Organized's piece is excellent, but today hope and puppies win out over the inevitability of death.

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  51. I vote for PBSSpecial! Writing was pretty tight :)

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  52. I love both, and I loved the back/forth of the brother/sister bond of Organized Confusion. From my context as a person (because of my own family and such), it tugged at my heart quite a bit.

    I had a harder time connecting with the main POV character in PBSSpecial.


    This time, I vote for Organized Confusion.

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  53. My vote goes to PBSSpecial.
    Premise, backstory, promise of future possibilities, it drew me in.
    Organized confusion's story was heartbreaking, full of character, and beautiful.
    Thank you for your stories!

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  54. Both of these had lovely sibling connections. Both were very well written. Both pulled strong emotions.
    I'm voting Organized confusion today if only because the beginning was more interesting to me then PB's was. PB that doesn't make you the loser in my book though, just a tiny bit out maneuvered in my eyes.

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  55. Organized Confusion - Heartbreaking sibling story, right in the feels. You get my vote.

    PBSSpecial - Well written. I was confused by the line "Rex was his name. King." No idea what King meant here. It was great, other than that.

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  56. Organized Confusion--I loved this story. For the writing, I became a little distracted by all of the adjectives in the first half of the story. But you definitely tugged at my heart.

    PBSSpecial--I loved this story, too. I wasn't overly fond of your use of "assaulted" twice so close together. I absolutely love how it came together for your character. It's a tough one, but you have my vote.

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  57. I'm a cat person. So a bit biased. Also, I have lost people to cancer. So Organized Confusion for my vote.

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  58. I find it practically impossible to choose between these two. Whichever one doesn't get through has to get my vote in Save Week next week. I'm voting for both.
    Well okay, today I'll vote for Organised Confusion just for the poignancy.

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  59. Almost impossible to choose. As a reader I care less about the technical correctness of the piece and more about how the story makes me feel. For that reason Organized Confusion gets my vote.

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  60. Fascinating (random) matchup of two well-written sibling-relationship stories. I may be a bit biased due to the recent death of my own difficult sister, but my vote goes to Organized Confusion as more emotionally truthful. Although PBSSpecial -- I applaud going for a dog instead of a cat.

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  61. Congratulations to both writers who are heaving a sigh of relief for making it this far!

    Organized Confusion’s piece was a touching example of what family relationships should be like. We see his thoughts as he thinks about repaying her for what she’s done for him while we also see that she was quite the spark in his life.

    PBSSpecial’s piece hit home on the idea of people falling into regular patterns. Even the people and animals we choose are picked because of our own continuing bias. The only reason I’m not voting for this one today is the slightly dragged out start - I live a cute waggling dog, but it didn’t make a lot of story sense until after she made the realization that picking the cat was picking her ex all over again.

    My vote goes to Organized Confusion.

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  62. My vote is for Organized Confusion because it tore at my heart.

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  63. This is a really tough call. Both stories are excellently written. And I love the snapshot of relationships we get from both of them.

    My vote has to go to Organized Confusion because that last line actually had me in tears.

    - tara.roquemore@gmail.com

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  64. Both stories are deserving of moving forward - this is a tough one for sure!
    Lots of emotion in both. I like the ending in #2, but in the end, my vote goes for #1 for the pure heartbreak brought to life in so few words.

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  65. I vote for Organized Confusion. The scene is really well written, and the emotions and voice really come through. The banter between the two is very touching.

    PBSSpecial had good writing, but it did not grab me. I admit this was possibly more of a preference on my part, but I did not like the style.

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  66. I thought they were both well done. I liked PBSSpecial’s moment of self awareness for the MC. Hopeful for a change and a fresh start. My vote goes to Organized Confusion. The writing was lovely; and the depiction of love and devotion between family members really moved me.

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  67. Both of the stories are well written. PBSSpecial's characters realization that she chose her husband really caught my attention. My vote is for PBS.

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  68. A hard choice, but my vote goes to PBSSpecial. I liked the humor in the piece, though, personally, as a cat lover, I can't understand picking a dog over a cat.

    Organized Confusion -- excellent job showing the sorrow, and frustrated helplessness of the main character.

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  69. I vote for PBSSpecial. It drew me in and I'd love to read more.

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  70. Two more solid entries. Organized Confusion broke my heart, and PBSSpecial gave me hope. Both powerful reactions. I'll have to vote with the one that resonated with me more, and today that has to be Organized Confusion.

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  71. Both wonderful pieces, solidly-written and competently told. Organized gets my vote here, simply on the basis that the writing style grabbed me a bit more.

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  72. Whoa yea my vote goes to Organized Confusion, you give us a window to a human moment that had my eyes misting. Pacing was spot on, the physical descriptions, the past they shared. Compelling and empathetic, and amazing. What I like best about it is that there's no mention of the disease or injury or anything, we can infer and deduce but the why doesn't matter as much as these two sharing the memories and moment.

    PBSSpecial you also created a human vulnerable moment. I loved the term cat-quarium and also how the behavior of cats and dogs emotionally affected the character. She chose the pet that she needed to heal and that's a great moment.

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  73. Organized Confusion took me into that bedroom and painted such a great picture I could smell the taint of impending death in the air, the musty smell of sickness and stale air. I could also feel the underlying fear in the voice of each character and the intimacy of the brother sister relationship.

    PBS had an awesome hook! I loved the reference to wet animal and kibble! The comparison of the cat to her husband was clever. In the end I felt there was more tension in the Organized Confusion short. As such my vote is for Organized Confusion!

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  74. Replies
    1. This vote is past the deadline - so therefore it does not count.

      Delete

 

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