WRiTE CLUB 2019 - Preliminaries - Round #4

Before we get started today, I wanted to point out an issue with yesterday's bout between Griff N. Dorr and Galadhon. For 1/2 the day the formatting of Griff N. Dorr's piece was skewed and caused some words to bleed off the page. I resolved it around noon, but just in case you let this sway your vote I encourage you to take another look. Unfortunately, not all our contestants follow the formatting suggestions laid out for them and it could cause an issue with Blogger. I usually try to catch most of them, but this one slipped by me.

Now, back to the fun!

WRiTE CLUB (sponsored by the DFW Conference) is tournament-style contest that runs during the eight weeks prior to the conference and it provides writers the opportunity to compete against one another for a chance to win free admission to next year’s conference (along with other prizes). Here’s the kicker—it’s all done anonymously. Writers have submitted 500-word writing samples under pen names. The chosen (pre-decided by a group of twenty slush pile readers) are paired off to go head-to-head in daily “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 can win a $60 Barnes and Noble prize. Each time you vote in a bout your name will be placed into a hat and at the end of the contest, one name will be selected to receive the prize.

How this works—two anonymous (pen name only) writing samples are waiting in the ring below. Visitors to this blog (that’s you) should read both entries and then vote by leaving a comment for the one that resonates with you the most. We also ask that you leave a brief critique for both writers with your vote because that is one of the real values of this contest—FEEDBACK. Please be respectful with your remarks!

Even though there will be a different bout every day (M-F), the voting for each bout will remain open for seven days from the date I post it to give as many people as possible to have a say. Voting for today’s bout will close on Wednesday, May 8th (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!

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

On one side of the ring stands NoPlanStan representing the Science Fiction genre.

The stars whisk by as if they’re being pulled by invisible strings. We were supposed to have orientationtraining before we got up here. But things happened so fast, we barely got out in time. And now, instead of sitting at home playing with my dog, I’m out here, watching tiny dots of light pass in front of the glass mounted in the bulkhead.
“CBE!” someone yells out. My head snaps up and people scramble all around me.
“C’mon doctor,” one of them tells me, pulling my hand. Doctor? And what’s a CBE? I’m not familiar with all the vernacular.
I follow the worker through the corridors. His face is urgent, his pace steady. When we reach a certain room his places his oversize palm to a small pad, and the door in front of us slides open.
“Here he is.” I’m ushered into a room with four other people, standing around a table. Wait, there’s been a mistake, I’m not a doctor. I’m not supposed to be here. The people part and before me on the table is a small, dark blue body. It is completely naked but its features are exaggerated, inhuman even. Is this one of them? One of the invaders I’ve heard so much about?
“Doctor Leel?” I turn. She’s addressing me. I glance down to the nametag pinned to my coat. It says: “J. Leel.” I think. The words are strange. I furrow my brow. That’s not right, my name is not Leel. It’s Livingston. I remember being a teacher. Or was that something I saw on TV? It’s all starting to blur.
“Sir, are you okay?”
They stare at me. “Look, his eyes are gray. They never removed it.”
“He still thinks he’s one of them.”
“What do we do? He’s the only doctor we have. If Menz doesn’t get treatment, he’ll die.”
I squint, staring at the people around me. They seem to have shrunk, and their skin has mutated to a deep blue. They’re exactly the same as the thing on the table. I pull back, frightened.
“Prep the second table. If we don’t get those human memories out of him we’re all doomed.”
No. This can’t be. I can’t be one of them.
“Don’t worry Leel,” one of them says and his mouth no longer moves to match his words. They just appear in my mind. “We’ll give you a quick detox. Then you’ll be right as rigellian rain.”
I don’t want rain. I want my home. I want my dog. But even as I’m thinking of them the picture changes. We’d come here to find a new home. Only we found war, even when we tried to be like them. Even when we took their memories and appearances. It only made us fight each other. And we had to escape. It was the only way to avoid extinction.
But I don’t want to go back. I liked the one I’d chosen. I want to stay.
Don’t turn me back.

On the far side of the ring, we have Sicaria who is representing the Suspense genre.

I follow the fancy-looking lady at a good distance, making sure she don’t notice me noticing her. She’s a good mark—nice clothes, uppity brown hair that she obviously pays a lot to make look blonde, black leather purse dangling from her wrist with an open zipper, and, most important, completely and totally distracted by the little kid gripping her hand. He can’t be more than six, and he’s causing her all sorts of problems.

“Stop!” she says for the millionth time as the kid pulls at her hand. Scowling, the boy lets his mom drag him away, but his gaze don’t leave the brightly colored sweets lined up in the window of the candy store they’re passing, practically drooling as he plods along the cracked sidewalk in defeat.

The kid glances at his mom as they walk by a saloon that fits in perfectly with the drab, Old West inspired street somebody thought was a good idea, and then back at the candy store I swear smells like chocolate even though the door’s shut tight. The boy jerks his hand down, hard, but his mom still don’t let go.

“Scotty, I’m serious.” The woman sounds all mean and stern, but she’s been saying she’s serious for at least three blocks now. Both me and the kid know she ain’t serious about nothing.

But I am.

As soon as she slows in front of a store window to study a dress that costs more money than I’ve seen in months, I make eye contact with the little boy, brushing my long red curls out of my face, and pull a lolli from my pocket with a smile. The kid’s eyes get all wide and round with excitement. I give him an encouraging nod, picking up my pace so he ain’t too far from the sparkly, rainbow-colored candy in my hand. I hold it out, and that’s all it takes. The boy breaks free and races toward me before his mom even knows what happened.

I slip into the alley next to me. The boy skids around the corner and slows, searching for me in the shadows. He creeps forward, not looking too sure of himself, but then finds me leaning against an old, rusted dumpster. He stops and looks at me all full of hope, like I’m gonna give him the lolli for free.

“Scotty!” The mom’s yell echoes through the narrow space.

I bend down, tuck the lolli into his hand, and give his arm a quick squeeze. It only takes a second.

The mom turns the corner of the alley, her flower perfume overwhelming the air around me. “You don’t go running away like that. You could get hit by a car or get lost.” She grabs my hand and yanks me out of the alley, never noticing the crumpled body of a young girl lying beside the dumpster, red hair unfurling like streams of blood.

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.

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.
Set User Profile = Blogger (instead of Google +)

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 with the last bout of the week. 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!


  1. Oooh, Sicaria's entry is so creepy, it has my vote! I loved the little twist at the end.

  2. Both excellent entries. I love NoPlanStan’s set up and the obvious confusion of the “doctor” and the removal of memories.

    Sicaria’s entry has a fantastic voice and I love the twist at the end. My vote goes to Sicaria.

  3. Wow both entries had me hooked. I couldn't stop reading either one of them. Well done! My vote, simply because of that twist at the end, goes to Sicaria.

  4. Oh goodness... Both were so good. Sicaria's entry gets my vote this time because I had to go back and read it 3 times and the twist got me every time.

  5. This is a hard one! Both entries are well done. I lovsed the twist at the end of Sicaria's story, and the first story reminded of a story one of my students is working on - thoroughly enjoyable. My vote goes to Sicaria, but if I could vote twice, both would get my vote today!

  6. Whoa, whoa, whoa--both of these are amazing!!!! I'm voting for Sicaria in this bout--the crisp writing, the building suspense and the killer twist at the end all got me! NoPlanStan's entry is strong--very well written and the situation presented is compelling! I felt, though, that there was a little too much detail thrown into the passage to fully engage me.

  7. Fantastic job! Loved them both, so hard to decide! NoPlanStan was packed full of confusion- love the set up, would love to read more.

    Sicaria- great twist at the end. I'm a sucker for a great, unexpected twist, and you got me! My vote is for Sicaria. Wish I could vote for them both!

  8. These are both so good!

    NoPlanStan: Love the confusion, and your stars on invisible strings. I was pulled out of the story for a split second when he says. "I remember being a teacher." I wanted him to say "I'm a teacher." and then start to question if that's right.

    Sicaria: Great, and definitely suspenseful! I was right there. Loved being inside of your MC head and of course, love the twist.

    Both did a really great job and this is always hard...
    My vote is for Sicaria.

  9. My vote goes to NoPlanStan! Interesting concept and nice execution in such a short format. It's difficult to get the "mixed up memories" trope across without causing major confusion without a lot of space, and I think you succeeded. Kudos!

    Sicaria - Nice scene with a cool voice, but the use of adverbs and ordinary adjetives didn't give me the sense of suspense you were going for. I think the scene works, but tweaking the language would provide more of in impact.

  10. Tough one today!! Both were excellent, but my vote goes to NoPlanStan this morning. I really enjoyed the confusion and the set up of what promises to be an interesting, unique story. I liked the twist at the end of Sicaria's piece, but the voice didn't connect with me. Thank you both for sharing your work!

  11. Both stories have a great sense of place. NoPlanStan establishes a character and world quickly, though some of the explanations can be removed since the dialogue establishes the scenario so well. My vote today goes to Sicaria, not just for the twist at the end but the last memorable image.

  12. Both stories are excellent with fabulous twists at the end. The first one reminds me of "The Host." The second, derivative of a Twilight Zone and an X-Files episode, both of which I loved. Having said that, the storytelling for both was smooth and easy to follow along. They both gripped me in different ways.

    When it's ThisClose to making my decision, then I re-read and have to get super picky.

    Stan: No need to explain orientation. Trust your reader. Also, "I follow the worker ... his face is urgent ..." This pulled me out; how can I see what his face looks like when I'm following him? And the cliched "... we're all doomed." made me cringe. Like I said, picky, because I love your story.

    Sicaria: An overuse of -ing words and phrases. At times, these lead to dangling participles and cause confusion or at least a hesitation on the reader's part as they figure out what you're trying to say. Example: "... eye contact with the little boy, brushing my long red curls ..." At first, it sounds like the little boy is brushing the curls away. So be aware of these, easily fixed.

    The summary "telling" at the end of Stan's piece--although heartfelt--kept me at a slight distance from the emotion, versus the immersive experience of Sicaria's character as we follow her throughout.

    With the tiniest of edges, vote goes to Sicaria.

  13. Today's bout is a toughie. I enjoyed them both. They each had wonderful twists. They each had stories I could continue reading. But I need to vote for one, so I went with the one where I empathized with the character more. NoPlanStan gets my vote.

  14. I want to keep reading both of these. Strong voice in both and both well written. My only real quibble is the telling at the end of NoPlanStan's piece, the protagonist's shift from confusion to understanding is jarring and seemingly unprompted (or it wasn't made clear that they had moved him onto the second bed to begin the "detox").

    Sicaria did a good job of playing with reader expectations. At first I assumed the protagonist was a pick-pocket, then with a bit of alarm that they might be a kidnapper, but the ultimate twist was quite satisfying and creepy.

    My vote goes to Sicaria.

  15. NoPlanStan's entry confused me from start to nearly the end. I don't know who "we" are, who the story's "I" is, where "here" is, what the "it" is that needs to be removed, etc. Not until the very end do I get what's happening, and by then it's too late for me to be invested in the story. I'm just not hooked.

    Sicaria's entry wowed me in slush, and still gives me goosebumps on 4th/5th(?) reading. I *thought* I knew what was happening, but nope, and then just when I think I've got the new idea sorted, nope, I get a huge surprise again. Love the mc's unique voice, but do watch how her non-standard dialect might affect your readers' comprehension. It's a delicate balance. I'd definitely read more!

    Today's vote: Sicaria.

  16. Good morning, Contestants! Congratulations on making it to the ring--You should be proud of yourselves!

    What works for me:
    Your first line is a great description
    You've successfully rooted me on a star ship in crisis
    Great twist at the end

    What doesn't work for me:
    I didn't need a definition of orientation
    Some of the sentence structure was a bit unpolished. For example, "When we reached a certain room..." could have been much more descriptive.

    What worked for me:
    Fantastic voice without being cringy or overwhelming
    Pacing was good and even got my heartbeat up a touch
    Great twist!

    What didn't work for me:
    I was confused about how far away the MC was from the mom and child. Far enough to go unnoticed, but close enough to hear conversation? That's pretty darned close. Close enough to keep the lolli just out of reach of the kid, but far enough to outpace him and go around a corner?

    My vote goes to Sicaria today.

  17. My vote is for Sicaria. Great pacing! I felt the hair rise at "But I am." No plan Stan did a great job, but I felt some of the sentences could be stronger and less confusing to the reader.

  18. Danielle Resh danielleresh@utexas.edu

    Sicaria gets my vote! I'm so curious about the rest of the story. Is the girl dead? Or is she just hiding from the kid's mom? This excerpt really drew me in. Some small suggestions-- make sure you're using really precise language (ex: changing "Stop!" she says to "Stop!" she shouts/howls/bellows/scolds). Great work!

    I love the perspective NoPlanStan decided to tackle. Sounds like a really interesting plot line!

  19. My vote goes to NoPlanStan. Although I liked both stories -- including the creepy twist at the end of Sicaria's -- I found dilemma of NoPlan's more compelling. And although MC's don't have to be "nice" for me to stay with them, I found NoPlan's MC both interesting and sympathetic.

  20. NoPlanStan: I enjoyed the story, the pace, and the ending. All good, but the sinister twist at the end of Sicaria reeled me in. Congrats to both for excellent writing. My vote goes to Sicaria.

  21. Oh my Gosh. How am I supposed to choose? Both of these entries surprised me with their twist endings! I love the first line of NoPlans. Such beautiful imagery. But I did get a little confused as the action tags don't match the dialogue so it isn't clear who is speaking at times. My vote goes to Sicaria. At first, I thought this was just going to be a pickpocket scenario. As soon as the lolli was pulled out, my heart lurched, which is why they get my vote for giving me such a gut-level emotional reaction. At that point, I became fearful for the child, but I never imagined what would come next! Fantastic job!

  22. Dang…..

    These were both great submissions. Both pieces have a narrator who is not what he/she/it appears to be. The biggest difference is NoPlanStan’s is telegraphed while Sicaria goes for the gut punch. The thing is, both are incredibly effective. NoPlanStan’s because the point is the narrator doesn’t want to change. The disorientation of not knowing who the “we” or the “I” in the tale works because the narrator is thoroughly confused at the beginning and the confusion slowly lifts as the story progresses.

    Sicaria’s because change is the point. This a story with a good misdirection that confuses the reader trying to figure out where the narrator is (i.e. how far from the mother & son) and why the child sees him/her/it with the lolli & the mom doesn’t.

    I really do want to know which of these tales is going. Both are worthy of advancing. But only one submission can leave proverbial ring.

    So I will choose NoPlanStan because “right as rigellian rain” made me chuckle.

  23. Good morning, and well done to the writers of both of these creepy stories! Both ended on uneasy notes (understatement, I think).
    I'm going with NoPlanStan today. I liked the set-up for an unusual alien story, and I liked the blue ETs. I was a little confused by what was "here" and what was "there as well as the narrator's age (seemed like a child would want to be home playing with a dog).
    For Sicaria, the high point was the red hair like blood at the end. I found myself confused about the setting, which at once seemed modern (dumpster) and Old West. The plot twist at the end, though--that was strong.

  24. Both stories were compelling and left me wanting more. I felt the pacing and quality of writing was stronger in the piece by Sicaria, so that is where my vote goes.

  25. Wow, both these stories are really good! NoPlanStan was intentionally disorienting, and the twist was really good. Or, I should say, both twists - the one where he is an alien, and the one where he doesn't want to switch back! I'd read more of this story for sure.
    Sicaria's had a good voice, I was immediately in the MC's head and also very wary of where it was going. The twist was totally unexpected and really good.
    Honestly I have gone back and forth between both over and over! I think either could win, they are both really strong entries. I'm going to go with NoPlanStan this time, but congrats to both writers.

  26. I vote for Sicaria. The imagery came alive in my head while I read it. I need more than 500 words for NoPlanStan to get the same result.

  27. Oh NO! This is the hardest choice yet. Both entries are fantastic.

    NoPlanStan - I’m confused in the best possible way. I really feel like I’m in the narrator’s head, panicked and trying to figure out what in the world is going on. I need to know what happens next!

    Sicaria - the voice here is excellent. I’m so intrigued by the narrator and what the heck she’s planning. There are so many emotions here. And oooooh that creepy twisty ending.

    I’m voting for Sicaria because I already have a great sense of the character and voice. These excerpts are phenomenal and I want to read them both immediately!!

  28. This comment has been removed by the author.

  29. Of these two entries I prefer SICARIA, so they get my vote

  30. Both had a cool hook that would keep me reading. I found Sicaria's easier to follow - some confusion on things like who was speaking, where we were in NoPlanStan's - so I'm voting for Sicaria.

  31. my vote goes to Sicaria love the twist want to read more. the first was also good, only saw one typpo.

  32. Sicaria gets my vote. The narrator had a clear voice that compelled without loads of exposition. The details were there for the twist. I just had to reread to see them.

    NoPlanStan is a good idea, but the voice of the character (1st person) and a narrator intermingled. Caused a bit of confusion.

  33. My vote goes to Sicaria. Your story was well-written and I was quickly drawn into the scene. Had to read the ending a couple of times before I got it…but when I did, wow! I hope Scotty will be OK.

    NoPlanStan – good descriptions and dialogue and I enjoyed the twist at the end. The writing was a bit choppy though, and the ending felt rushed to me (although I’m sure it’s because of the 500 word limit). Would have kept reading for sure.

  34. NoPlanStan gets my vote. I felt really drawn in by the narrator's perspective. I wish a little bit more was explained at the end.

  35. Scaria gets my vote. Well structured and built to a nice suprise.
    Stan's felt a bit confused – confused MC, confusing world, confusing situation – I wanted it to all square away at the end, but just didn't get there for me.

  36. Holy macaroni—best bout yet. Well done contestants! *Wolf whistles*

    Noplanstan: I started your piece asking questions— why wouldn’t he tell them he wasn’t a doctor? Why not ask what a CBE is? Who are you? And then—BOOM! You delivered, hook, line and centre. I didn’t care that I didn’t know the who, what or why—I was rooting for your MC. Excellent delivery, well done!

    Sicaria. Oooooh, Sicaria. Wow. I don’t know where to start to be honest—I’m awed by this sample. I felt myself reading faster as they walked down the street with little Scotty screaming. The pacing was spot on. Great visuals, great sense of place and fantastic, FANTASTIC, pacing. Oh, and that twist is gonna’ stay with me. I WANT more. Stunning, well done!

    Tough so tough but my vote goes to Sicaria.

    Congratulations to both—this bout without a doubt has been the toughest so far for me. Both samples are incredible, and I’m sorry I couldn’t vote for you both.

  37. This one's tough for me. I like the premise laid out in NoPlanStan's story but it felt a bit jumbled. By the end, it's pretty clear what's going on but, it's such a short piece, that understanding didn't really come in time for me to really connect with the story. That being said, the writing really did capture the MC's confusion. As for Scaria, the writing was clear, I had no problem following the action and the voice and scene worked for me. Then, the ending came and I was all, 'WHAT?'. I would definitely read more just so I could figure out what was going on. So, for this round, I have to say Scaria gets my vote.

  38. My vote is for Sicaria.

    First up, NoPlanStan. I truly enjoyed reading this. It held me captive to say the least! The depth of emotion shown really lent itself to developing the character in such a necessarily short amount of time. While I enjoyed the reveal, I did feel that it was a bit rough in the delivery. I was hoping for more bits of information that seemed innocent at first, but would eventually come back together in the reader's mind as the plot develops, in a culmination of revelation.

    I quite enjoyed the reference to Rigel, by the way. Well done.

    As for Sicaria. Fantastic work. The depth of this world expressed in such a short story was impressive. From the well-defined voice, the colorful character interactions and the "Old West inspired street somebody thought was a good idea," (this made me laugh), I truly enjoyed this. I am now dying to know what she was. How did she do what she did? I'm afraid I don't have much by way of feedback here.

    Both of these are simply fantastic!

  39. Sicaria's entry was great, but NoPlanStan made me cry, and gets my vote.

  40. Two fantastic stories here today. It's a gut-punch of a decision, but I'm going to have to vote Sicaria, because the story seems to have more "legs" to it. I could see that one carrying on with conflict, whereas the conflict in the first one stops the second they make the change, unless it then goes on into a plot where he somehow fights them off and goes on the run, which seems unlikely.

  41. Congratulations to both writers on getting through to the Top 30, which in itself is a win.

    These are probably the strongest submissions presented yet, imho.

    NoPlanStan's writing actually felt stronger throughout the 500 words to me, I particularly liked the opening line. The writing overall felt tighter, but some of the dialogue was a little hard to follow. The ending, even after three reads leaves me somewhat confused (so sorry, NoPlanStan). I am not sure what is going on at the end at all really, which is a shame, as I felt the rest of the writing was good.

    Sicaria's piece was good also, but I feel there are a few inconsistencies... It appears the girl is a street child, so I wondered how she would have any concept of how much it would cost for the mother to dye her hair blonde. Also, the language from the girl at times seems young, while at other times comes across as sounding older.
    I also wonder with kids today, if a lollipop would really entice a six year old away from his mother. Lastly, there is a quite a lot of telling in this piece, rather than showing ... this is an easy fix though.

    Both entries feel very evenly ranked, which makes the ultimate decision difficult, but based on the endings, I vote for Sicaria, as the ending here was not only a twist, but for me, was a lot easier to understand than the Sci Fi submission.

    Well done again to both writers... 500 words is extremely difficult, but you have both created work to be proud of.

  42. Both have great twists! I cast my vote for Sicaria. The voice really drew me in!

  43. These are practically impossible to split. But I have to vote...


  44. Oh why, why, why were these two paired against each other? This is such a difficult choice as these were ANOTHER two of my favorite entries. NoPlanStan's entry immediately piqued my interest. As someone who adores good sci-fi and fantasy, I am always a sucker for a well-done star-story. And to be zooming through the stars with a story like this and a character like this? WOW. Just wow. I love this premise and I could EASILY consume an entire novel with this writing and this story. It's excellent all around.

    Sicaria's piece also blew me away. I had to reread this one several times. I made the mistake of making the usual assumptions in the beginning and I went along with the story, mumbling "yeah, yeah" under my breath. Got to the end and--holy moly! It's not what I thought! That put a smile on my face and I ended up rereading it immediately just to be sure that what I thought happened was what really happened. The twist was something I *never* saw coming.

    I think because of this, Sicaria has my vote. I want to reiterate how much I loved NoPlanStan's entry, though. I *really* loved it and would definitely read more of it. I was drawn in and really want to know what happened!

  45. I would have to go with Sicaria

    1. This vote will not be counted as it is anonymous.

  46. I was eating soba noodles at Panera when I started reading NoPlanStan's entry. Halfway through I realized I was holding a fork full of food but not eating.

    Sicaria did a great job with the twist at the end but was drawn out by a few things. One being the mother wasn't serious about saying no? After walking and saying it for 3 blocks? Sounds serious to me. Enjoyed the body snatch but my vote goes for...


  47. Love these twists! NoPlan has a jewel of a concept. The ending definitely drew on my sympathy, so I can imagine what I would have felt had I experienced that character's journey and understood what he was leaving behind. Sicaria effectively rocked me. I was mildly interested in the beginning--good sense of voice, nice build-up of tension--but I did NOT see the end coming and love how seamlessly the 'jump' took place. The only part that pulled me out was the reference to the 'little girl'... because the protag's perspective is so gritty and jaded, it was hard to picture IT in the body of a child, and I missed the clues that might suggest it. That could have been intentional, to keep the identity obscure until the end, but I had to read it a couple times to be sure the girl in the alley was in fact the former vessel.

    Sicaria takes this one in my opinion. Great job to both!

  48. Both had great twists at the end. Quite unexpected in both. They both made me question what was going on...what was going to happen. Well done to both. This is a tough one. There were small blips in both that pulled me out of the story very slightly, but neither had anything blaring to mention. These are both well done, but I do have to vote for one....Sicaria gets my vote this round.

  49. Another bout with two intriguing reads!

    NoPlanStan: At first read, it was a little confusing but after re-read, I got it and thought that it was cleverly done. The phrase "right as rigellian rain" reminded me of something a character in star trek would say.

    Sicaria: The piece was straightforward and easy to follow, and since it was presented as suspense, I sort of expected the ending, it wasn't that much of a twist.

    I'm a sci-fi fan and thought NoPlanStan's piece drew me in more, so my vote goes to NoPlanStan.

  50. Can I vote for both??????
    Both are creative and well-written. I liked the story lines and the twists. Both could easily be expanded to bigger/deeper stories but work very well as snippets as well. Very difficult to pick!
    If I had to choose, I'd go with Stan's because I could feel the pain of loss of the MC.

  51. These are both strong entries. NoPlanStan, your story was interesting and your ending has a good bittersweet twist on it. Lots of sentence fragments, though, and most of them unnecessary. Also, a couple typos that could have been caught with a more thorough readthrough.
    Sicaria, I like your idea and the twist ending is interesting. That being said, your voice was inconsistent. I liked the he don't and she don't to give flavor to your character, but when mixed with a line like -- practically drooling as he plods along the cracked sidewalk in defeat -- it becomes a bit like two different narrators are talking. As solid as the writing was, there's no figurative language until the line about hair like streams of blood. More metaphor and simile could have taken this to the next level.
    That being said, my vote goes to Sicaria. Good job both of you.

  52. NoPlanStan representing the Science Fiction genre.
    Interesting but confusing, especially when I read, "...his places his oversize palm..." Clever use of the MC's confused realisations, yes, but I wasn't engaged - and I knew where it would end. However, full marks for not leaving me hanging.

    Sicaria who is representing the Suspense genre.
    I like the unexpected twist at the end - it triggers all manner of thoughts. Mainly,'I' is a changeling of some kind. However, I felt the sentence length made my reading harder as well as the few strange words that broke my concentration. A flawed piece but intriguing. With editing of things like breaking up some long sentences, this would be stronger.

    My vote goes to Sicaria by a twisted squeeze.

  53. (I *love* trying to format with Blogger. Even when using Ctrl+Shift+V instead of Ctrl+V to paste, it's still picky. It's even worse with images that are embedded inside an email -- not attached, embedded like it's the freaking 90s with AOL-- or in a Word doc! Like... I have a keyboard, not a magic wand. Granted, I drop everything into HTML. But sometimes that shows just how bad the coding is, plus then I have to add line breaks. Still, it beats using the compose mode, for me. I feel your pain, DL. I really do.)

    NoPlanStan - Is this like Invasion of the Body Snatchers from the POV of the Snatchers? Well that's clever. I wasn't into it at first, but that ending twist, wow, I see how this story made it to the preliminaries!

    Sicaria - Well that had a creepy twist at the end. (Oh, I see, today is TWIST ENDING day... ha ha ha.) Your story reminds me of Stephen King, and also of Dan Koboldt's first entry the year he won here. But some of the sentences are reallllllly long. It got distracting. I'm not saying I didn't like the words in them, it was just something about the way they were written that made the length so overwhelming, if you see what I mean.

    NoPlanStan gets my vote this time.

  54. Wow, both of these are fantastic! It is really hard to choose. Both stories had great plot twists at the end. I'm so curious if Sicaria is doing a story on skinwalkers.
    I think, purely on the fact that NoPlanStan's work reminded me of another story I've read I'll vote for Sicaria. But honestly I'd vote for both if I could.

  55. NoplanStan, I really love the non-hostile alien takeover bit. Humans have complex lives and emotions and I love seeing aliens not prepared to handle our shit. Like “Oh Earth looks nice… why do they hate themselves????” The dialogue here kills me though which I hate to say because yesterday you would have totally had my vote.
    Hot damn Sicaria! But also how dare you! The suspense is there for me but the wording needs to be cleaned up so it reads cleaner because I did have to reread a few things.
    This round goes to Sicaria for me.

  56. This is an interesting pairing -- both entries deal with POV characters having identities different than who they appear to be. They are both pretty effective in the different ways they approach this concept, and I enjoyed reading both pieces.

    NoPlanStan does a good job of using dialogue to establish what's "really" happening in the scene, and I get a good sense of the POV character and can relate to both his confusion and then his reluctance to "go back" to his natural form. The story develops well and it's an entertaining read.

    But there are some things I quibble over also, like what's a "CBE"? Yes, the doctor doesn't know initially ether, but it seems to be a big deal, so it would be nice to have it defined at some point as the doctor realizes who he really is. "When we reach a certain room his places..." -- "certain room" is needlessly vague, and a misplacing of "his" for "he" only add speed bumps to the flow of the story. And if we really wanted to really pick nits, "Rigellian" is likely meant to be capitalized since it's probably referring to rain on a planet around Rigel. More problematic is the collapse of the urgent flow of the story as it bogs down into the info-dump at the end.

    Sicaria approaches the concept of the MC not appearing to be who they really are from a much more sinister direction and it works well. The writer does a good job of keeping the story flowing and establishes a solid voice for the POV character. This is also a very entertaining read and the twist at the end is effective and handled very nicely -- I like the way the switch is smoothly revealed through the use of the red hair and using the blood simile adds to the emotional impact. It's tempting to want to over-tell a bit like that, but this is a great example of showing how trusting your readers can pay off.

    There are some suggestions I could add as well: The mother and Scotty seem a little too stereotypical and the use of a "lolli" to lure the child is trite and unconvincing. This being clearly has dark and supernatural powers -- offering a hint of that in the process of luring the child would be more effective I think. Some of the descriptions are also a little weak. "Fancy-looking" falls flat compared to the excellent touches of the open purse and the dyed hair. I'm also not sure why the MC would comment about smelling chocolate through a closed door -- it struck me as odd.

    But overall, I find Sicaria's piece more compelling, and I give them the edge in this round.

  57. Whoa. Love the twists in both stories. The writing was a little choppy in each (I don't feel we're entirely grounded in pov in Sicaria's piece), but the story in each is very intriguing. Hmm. Hard to choose. Okay, voting for Sicaria. I think with more than 500 words, I would have voted for NoPlanStan, but it's just not enough to pull me in. Darn. It's so hard to be critical of these pieces!

  58. The second one really grabbed me. What is this character? What happens next? Leap from child to child? Why? So much I want to know. It has my vote.

    The first one, Stan, was good. But aliens just didn't excite me as much.

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  60. NoPlanStan
    What worked:
    Whether this is a complete flash fiction piece or a scene from a novel is unclear, but it doesn't matter because either way, you've managed to give us a beginning, middle, and end in just 500 words.
    What didn't:
    It's tricky to tell a story from the POV of a confused character without also confusing your readers. I think this piece needs a little fine-tuning to find the balance between providing enough detail for understanding but not so much that the twisty turns are spoiled.

    What worked:
    Again, another piece that gives us enough resolution to feel like we've read a beginning, middle, and end, even if it's part of a longer tale. You've definitely primed my imagination with this scene.
    What didn't:
    You're asking several of your sentences to do too much. They'd be more effective if you broke them apart a bit and gave each element its time to shine.
    It feels like you're holding back on the creep factor. Crank it up to 11 with careful word choice!

    My vote goes to NoPlanStan because they managed to get more backstory in and tell me more of what led up to this moment. I've got to reward a piece that manages that kind of efficiency in a 500 word contest.

  61. I guess I want to understand more from Sicaria’s piece. It’s fun, well-written but I’m just too confused about the twist. I’m sure there’s more to it, but as a bout where I’m only reading one piece by this author I don’t want to be left confused at the very end. All-in-all I think the writing was very nice. It could use just a little trimming on some unnecessary words, but I enjoyed it.

    My vote goes for no plan Stan— I think you have a very creative and unique idea here, and I was able to tell what exactly was going on from your writing. A few typos, but easy to look past. Great job!

  62. My vote's going to Sicaria! The voice was intriguing, the writing crisp, and the twist at the end shows great storytelling. NoPlanStan was definitely a close second, though. The concept was incredible, but I felt there was a bit too much telling instead of showing when it came to trying to explain the background information.

  63. I love how both of these entries hinge on a similar concept in such very different ways: taking over an alternate life in either a mental simulation or a physical body theft. Both of these had twists that were pulled off so well. I really struggled with which of these two to vote for!

    For NoPlan, I loved that the reader is immersed in the character's own confusion. However, I feel that this piece might have benefited from a few more details as I didn't understand certain elements of this, like whether the doctor was originally seeing things different due to the simulation, or just not noticing details like the skin colour?

    Whereas for Sicaria, the story had more details interspersed that allowed me to process each progressive twist. Therefore, my vote for this round goes to Sicaria!

  64. I vote for Sicaria. I prefer suspense over sci-fi and the ending was something that completely surprised me in a good way.

  65. My vote is for Sicaria. I thought Sicaria's story had the most originality, though both fun to read.

  66. My vote goes to NoPlanStan. I’m just prefer as Sci-fi.

  67. Both of these were fun reads and left me wishing I could read more. Who are these beings? What was their time on Earth like? NoPlanStan's piece would make for a great novel or movie. Sicaria's story was written in a way that had me at the edge of my seat wondering what was going to happen next. The ending is horrifying and leaves me wondering what kind of force we're dealing with.

    In the end, my vote goes to Sicaria, but it was a close call.

  68. I vote for Sicaria.

    The exposition at the end of NoPlanStan was too telling instead of showing, while Sicaria just gave us the basic idea and we fill in the blanks. If Stan dropped the expository ending completely, and left the specifics of why they're all aliens to us, it would be stronger, and I think Sicaria is a perfect example to show that.

    What I didn't like in Sicaria was the low-brow vernacular being at odds with some of the description. Sometimes the description worked and was in the voice of the main character ("uppity brown hair..[etc]..blonde"), but other bits like "sparkly, rainbow-colored candy" are too descriptive to suit the voice, if that makes sense. It's a fundamental problem with doing a unique voice - you are kind of forced to not describe things too well because nobody does that in normal speech. It's a tricky line to walk.

  69. Both have interesting concepts, but Sicaria drew me in more. I thought it was going one way - and was ready to dismiss it because I'm not into predatory kidnapping - but the twist at the end made me do a double take.

    Sicaria has my vote!

  70. Sicaria created a character that I immediately cared about within the first paragraph. She definitely gets my vote.

  71. I really liked both stories, and they both have twisty reveals toward the end that made me go back to re-read and see how they were set up. I love that in a story. Kudos to you both! But I have to choose.

    My vote goes to Sicaria. No Plan Stan did a fine job, and the false memories in an unreliable narrator is tough to pull off in a few words, but I spent a lot of it just plain confused. This made the ending a bit less than a twist and a bit more of "Oh, right, got it." As a result, it made the character less compelling and the reveal had less impact. Sicaria drew me in from the first lines and lured me into expecting a simple purse-snatching, so the twist hit like a gut punch. The only thing missing was a hint early on that the narrator was a child (or at least LOOKS like a child). Otherwise, beautifully done.

  72. My vote goes to NoPlanStan. Great sci-fi. The misdirection on the doctor title red herringed me into thinking that was the mystery. Liked the hint of the gray eyes. Small errors - should be '...*he* places his *oversized* palm...,' plus I think 'Rigellian' should be capitalized.
    I also liked Sicaria's entry, but the use of the 'don'ts' and 'ain'ts' distracted me from the story.

  73. Sicaria has my vote today. I do love a good twist. I also thought the writing was tighter, though the (obviously intentionally) poor grammar gave me pause--unless this is necessary to the story, perhap it's best to stick to standard grammar? This piece was full of details that enticed.

    NoPlanStan: I found this piece confusing, especially at first, but perhaps that's the point. The concept is interesting.

  74. I love both of these, but I have to go with NoPlanStan. I'm hooked in, I want to know what happens.
    Sicaria's work is awesome and very compelling. I want to know what happens next, and I want to know why this character has taken the boy.
    I chose NoPlanStan's piece because I knew what the character wanted. Don't turn me back. With Sicaria, I wanted to know why the boy was taken. What was the goal? What are the stakes? That's what would have made it a stronger piece for me.
    Many applause for both candidates this week!

  75. I love a good science fiction story, and NoPlanStan's piece was interesting.

    My vote goes to Sicaria though because I did Not expect that twist ending! It felt more like paranormal suspense though with that switch in the consciousness? Great job though!


  76. Voting for NoPlanStan. Immediate immersion, good tension, solid writing.

  77. Science fiction is normally my jam, and NoPlanStan does such a great job with this piece. I was "in" the story but didn't connect with the POV character's feelings. I needed more time to sink into the world.

    Sicaria... I'll say that I'm a sucker for a twist, and this time is no different! The first time I read through the switch snuck up on me, but the second time through, I got to enjoy it. Really enjoyed it.

    My vote is for Sicaria.

  78. My vote is for Sicaria for really putting the 'suspense' in the suspense genre...I was on the edge of my seat!

    Thank you both for sharing your work.

  79. These are both really great entries. I'm going to go with Stan for my vote. It got a little confusing at points, but the dawning realization of what happened hooked me. Sicaria's suspense was there, but my suspension of disbelief wavered in regards to the mother's behavior.

  80. I liked both of these stories but I felt like I had more of a complete story with NoPlanStan. Sicaria had a great story but I felt like there was too much time spent on the set up with the little boy thus not leaving enough time for us to learn more about the dead girl in the alley. For this reason my vote goes to NoPlanStan.

  81. Congratulations to two more well matched opponents!

    Noplanstan’s piece has so much potential! With just a few more words, it would absolutely blow me away. The line about trying to fit in and changing to be like them was almost heartbreaking as a commentary on society. Loved the touch of detail for the rigellian rain that makes your world feel so thoroughly thought out.

    Sicaria’s piece had me thinking we were following a purse snatcher until we found out they’re a body snatcher! The narrator had a distinctive voice, and I would be interested in seeing how they fit into Scottie’s world.

    My vote is for Sicaria for the completely unexpected twist.

  82. Voting for Sicaria for description, voice, and the twist of body snatching vs. kidnapping or purse snatching which was expected.

  83. This comment has been removed by the author.

  84. I vote for NoPlanStan -I liked the prospect of the premise more than the other.

  85. Two great entries, though I have to go with NoPlanStan on this round.

  86. Sicaria takes my vote!

    Sicaria, my one small piece of criticism is with the accent/voice of the main character. There's clearly some specific dialogue traits that we see in the piece, but because they aren't present from the get-go, at first I thought they were errors on your part. If this is part of a longer work and that vocal quirk is established earlier on, then disregard. Here though, I think it would work better right from the start to establish a baseline expectation for the reader.

    Stan, I feel like there's a lot of info-dumping happening here. This feels too big for 500 words, and yet, too small at the same time. The personal stakes for the MC are clear by the end, but I don't think the horror of the situation escalates in a manner that truly conveys something profound has occurred.

  87. Both had unexpected twists, but NoPlanStan pulled me in quickly and kept me there. I want to know more. My vote is for NoPlanStan

  88. These are both solid. I liked NoPlanStan's entry for the aliens, and how they're survival is a threat to his desires (even though he's one of them). I got stuck on what a CBE was, and kept waiting for the reveal, which took me out of the story. Also, I had some sense that it would turn into a dream sequence, which distracted me.

    Sicaria's was suspenseful and well written. I was confused by the dead woman at the end. If this was a "body transfer" where the narrator's consciousness leaves behind one host body and goes to another host body, then what makes the mother the good mark? Hard to answer every question in 500 words. I'd keep reading this if more were available.

    My vote is for Sicaria.

  89. NoPlanStan - I love the concept behind this piece. It starts in media res and the stakes are real. I found the passive language and filler words tripped up the flow.

    Sicaria - While I want to hear more of your voice in this passage--I didn't hear it until about halfway through--this is really strong. It caught me by surprise with that twist at the end, and it was very effective.

    My vote goes to Sicaria!

  90. This one is hard for me because. I've gone back and forth a dozen times trying to vote on this one.
    NoPlanStan gave me the information I needed to start asking the right kinds of questions to keep me engaged all the way through the end. I enjoyed trying to find the spin.
    Sicaria didn't pull me in as fast, and at times I was wondering why we were paying so much attention to the mother and daughter when the story is limited to 500 words, but then, click, and I got it! I reread the section and enjoyed it so much more the second time around.
    NoPlanStan had my vote until the last few lines of Sicaria's story. In the end though, I have to go with Sicaria.

    1. Sorry, this vote came in after the deadline and will not be counted.




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