WRiTE CLUB 2019 - Preliminaries - Round 8


HUMP DAY! It also means that we've passed the mid-way point in our preliminary rounds, and something tells me we've yet to see our best writing. What do you think?

Recap
For anyone just discovering us, 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 Tuesday, May 14th (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 –




For the eighth bout, we have Donald LeClaire one side of the ring representing the Crime (Humor) genre.


Cooper nudged Travis and said, “There he is.”

‘He’ was R J Middlebury, bank manager. Cooper had spent the last month casing the bank and studying the man’s routines. Middlebury was the dullest person Cooper had ever known. The man even drove the most non-descript car ever manufactured, the 1983 Plymouth Caravelle.

Middlebury was attempting to clean a small stain on one of his tires when Cooper and Travis, now masked, appeared to either side of him. “Good morning. We’re here to rob the bank,” announced Travis.

Middlebury cast a disapproving look at the smudge. Turning, he looked between them and said, “Yes, yes. Come inside. Mind the step.”

Cooper puzzled at the bank manager’s blasé reaction to the heist. Middlebury held the door open after disarming the alarm. Travis went first and straight to the security office. Cooper shadowed Middlebury as he performed his customary routine readying the bank for the day. When he finished, Middlebury sat at his desk. Cooper checked the time and saw they were ahead of schedule. The vault’s time lock opened precisely at 8:15. During Cooper’s bank surveillance, no one, save Middlebury, had ever arrived before 8:30. Plenty of time to get in and get out.

“No need to be a hero. We’ll be out of your life forever in a few minutes,” Cooper said.

Middlebury shrugged. “I’m not dying for this bank,” he declared.

Travis reappeared, a smile indicating he had bypassed the security system. As he did, Middlebury looked up and announced, “There is something you should know.”

Cooper suppressed a smile at this act of defiance. Folding his arms across his chest, he said, “Oh, really?”

Nodding Middlebury continued, “I received a call this morning from the bank president. Government regulators have shut down the bank, effectively immediately. They’ll be here at 8:30 to make it official.”

“You expect us to believe that?”

“It’s not a question of belief, but fact. The bank made a lot of risky loans that went bad. We’re undercapitalized and now shut down. Last night the FDIC sent in a team. They overrode the lock and emptied the vault.”

Middlebury saw the suspicion on their faces. “I have no reason to lie,” he assured them. “After twenty years of loyal service, I’m now unemployed thanks to the stupidity of my bosses.”

Travis looked at Cooper. Cooper looked at his watch. It was 8:15. The trio heard lock disengage. Travis raced over and strained to open the multi-ton door. The vault interior was as bright and clean as on the day it had been installed, thanks in part to the complete absence of anything remotely resembling currency.

“That is wrong,” Travis stammered in disbelief. “This is… it’s un-American. It shouldn’t be allowed. I’m going file a complaint about this.”

“Time to go,” Cooper declared.

Middlebury heard Travis grousing about the injustice of it all until the back door closed. Alone in the bank, he said out loud, “For the record, I thought you were very professional.”

#############################################################################


On the far side of the ring, we have Hijinks Aplenty who is representing the Short Story genre.


Everything was done to the letter: The candles were made of black wax, the pentagram flawless, the invocation properly pronounced. You’d checked, double checked, and independently verified that the summoning would take place below a genuine hanging tree where a witch met her fate. And it’d worked! So why deny your request?

“Is it my soul?” you ask.

“No,” the Devil waves his well-manicured hand. A glinting amber ring that you’re sure wasn’t there a moment ago reflects the firelight. “Your soul is fairly attractive… for one who hasn’t accomplished much. That’s normal. The already accomplished rarely seek a deal with me.”
You think on that for a moment. There must be something you’ve overlooked. Your spine snaps as it hits you.

“Rattlesnake blood!”

“Hmmm?” the Devil hums. He’s wandered to the tree and is idly prodding the bark, which crumbles to ash below his fingers. The amber ring sparks with each tap.

“You’d have preferred rattlesnake blood. I knew it! Rooster is pedestrian.” You beat a fist against your thigh. You should never have listened to HisDarkestNight on that community forum.

The Devil scoffs, an amused curl to his lip. There’s a sizable hole in the tree now. You look to the large branches overhead and take a hasty step back.

“Your ritual was fine. I try not to judge. Nor make pageantry out of it.” He snorts and sends a meaningful look to the star-encrusted sky. A dark gray fedora has appeared on his head.

“I don’t understand.”

“Look, times have changed.”

The tree creaks a groan. The Devil smoothly strides to you and pats your shoulder.

“These individual contracts aren’t efficient anymore.”

“Efficient?” you echo.

“Exactly! Time is a competitive advantage these days, and my time has become a bottleneck. Much as I enjoy personalization, I am no longer accepting unique requests. We have an online catalogue now that will suck your soul out right through the screen, once you’ve made a decision on which terms best fit your goals. You do have access to the internet, don’t you?”

You stare for some time. A pocket watch slithers out of the vest he didn’t have on. Swallowing, you eke out, “Yes.”

“Splendid!” The Devil shakes your hand and turns to go. He pauses, smoke curling up from his feet. Using two fingers as pincers, he snatches up the candle flames, popping them into his mouth like candy.

“Mm, French Vanilla. Good choice.” He flicks a business card at you, says, “I look forward to your future business,” and vanishes in a spurt of fire.

The gold etchings on the card sparkle in your recovering eyes as you blink at it. The Devil’s voice suddenly whispers against your ear, “Oh, and I wouldn’t stand just there.”

A deafening crack rends the air. You flail, backpedaling before curtaining your face with your hands. The tree crashes down. Heart galloping, you tumble to your backside, branches framing you.


You resist the urge to thank God.  
 ##############################################################################


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 on tomorrow for another exciting bout. Please help all our writers out by telling everyone you know what is happening here and encourage them to come vote.

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


77 comments

  1. Ha! Love the humor in both of these entries! Kudos to both of you.

    My vote goes to Hijinks. I am not a fan of the second person POV here, but your entry was a lot of fun, and creative! I wish I'd thought of it :)

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  2. Great reads this morning. I enjoyed both very much.

    Hijinks Aplenty gets my vote because I love the idea of Satan modernizing and sucking out souls through the internet. Sometimes Satan's gradually appearing clothing was confusing. The ending, both the tree falling and the stifled prayer, was superb.

    Donald LeClaire's piece was excellent--would have taken my vote on another day. Best parts: Middlebury's compliment at the end and Travis' outrage at the empty vault ("un-American" and "I'm going to file a complaint."

    Thanks to both!

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  3. Both of these entries are freaking hilarious!!!! Loved them both (and it's not easy to write humor, but Donald LeClaire and Hijinks Aplenty did it amazingly well!) My vote for this bout goes to Hijinks Aplenty for brilliantly updating the old "sell my soul to the devil trope" (and the use of second person POV worked really well!) Donald LaClaire's piece was incredibly well done, and I loved the individualized voices of the bank manager and hapless robbers. In a perfect world, I'd get to vote for both! :)

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  4. I really enjoyed both of these entries, and would have enthusiastically voted for them both if I could.

    Donald LeClaire: I loved the dry humor of the piece, and the twist. What a novel way for a heist to go wrong! The details of Middlebury's behavior were well done. The only jarring note for me was calling a 1983 car of any model "boring" in a story set (presumably) in the present day. The last line was wonderful.

    Hijinks Aplenty: This unusual twist on the Faustian bargain was delightfully fresh. I loved the details of the Devil acquiring accessories spontaneously. At the very start I was a bit confused about what was going on, and a one-word error ("the summoning WOULD take place") had me thinking it was describing a future plan instead of a past action. I would have liked a bit of a hint about what boon the narrator was asking for. Also, the decision to use second person POV in a story firmly set inside the head of a narrator who clearly isn't me was jarring.

    After some thought, I'm casting my vote for Hijinks Aplenty for its originality and immediacy, despite the POV.

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  5. Both of these were such fun pieces and incorporated humor well. My vote goes to Hijinks this morning. I’m not normally a fan of second person POV but thought you pulled it off beautifully. I also found the modernization of a deal with the devil quite entertaining and funny.

    I appreciated the dry humor in Donald’s piece and quite liked the bank manager. However, I felt a few things would have made it better. There were a few typos and some of the dialogue read a little stiff. If you don’t already, I recommend reading your work out loud—it helps with dialogue as well as makes it easier to catch errors. I love the concept though!

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  6. Donald: this story makes me chuckle. I enjoyed Middlebury’s unexpected reaction to being robbed. Why is he getting the bank ready for the day when he knows it’s shutting down? The sentence structure could be more varied. For instance, the first four sentences of one paragraph start with “Cooper puzzled; Middlebury held; Travis went: Cooper shadowed.” Some of the dialogue tags are unnecessary or distracting. “Said” is usually best, and anything else should be used sparingly. Nice ending.

    Hijinks: great opening. This also made me chuckle with the devil’s unexpectedly brisk reaction and the reference to online devil-summoning forums. Second person is always risky but I think it works in this short piece. It reads like a “choose your own adventure” excerpt. I wish I knew why the MC summoned Satan. Why hold back this vital information?

    I’m voting for Hijinks because it ends on such a funny note. I enjoyed both of these stories and it was a tough choice. Congratulations to both!

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  7. Two more great pieces!
    Donald: There is some really great humor here, but in the end, I didn't really feel there were enough consequences... it felt like it needed something else.

    Hijinks: Great imagery here, and love the humor. Sadly, more true to life than we admit. :) I'm not a fan of the second person POV, and I think changing that could really make this piece that much stronger.

    Congrats to both, but my vote goes to Hijinks!

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  8. So totally unfair, pitting these two great entries against one another and making me choose! The prose is strong, smooth, captivating, and gave me my morning chuckle. Kudos to you both.

    Donald LeClaire: dry, understated humor done well always has a place in my heart. The characters and setting are well-drawn, not easy in 500 words. My only complaint--and I didn't notice it until a second read-through--is the change in POV. You begin with Cooper and switch to Middlebury. A minor thing, but this bout IsThisClose. Otherwise, you kept me captivated throughout on a fresh twist of a heist gone wrong.

    Hijinks Aplenty: The 2nd person POV threw me off at first, then I realized and went, Ahhh, clever. The humor is fantastic and fresh, while you've illustrated clearly why the Devil is the devil with things appearing spontaneously, coupled with his actions during their entire conversation all as set-up for that end. And the last line... Perfect. I kept waiting to find out *why* the protagonist summoned the devil, then realized it didn't matter. Except for my initial confusion with 2nd POV, easily overcome when I got it, no faults to find.

    This bout was the closest yet, and it makes me sick I have to choose, but vote goes to Hijinks.

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  9. I thought both entries brought unique takes to what could have easily been cliche scenes. However in the end my vote goes to Hijinks Aplenty for giving us that little extra punch at the end. Nice job to both writers!

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  10. Two wonderful entries today! I enjoyed the fresh take on common themes in both pieces. Donald LeClaire's piece had a great dose of dry humor, and I enjoyed reading your story.

    My vote goes to Hijinks!
    It's been a while since I've read a passage and enjoyed it so much. I thought it was as delightful as an encounter with the devil could be. I loved the details, the online devil forum idea (ha!), and the hilarious absurdity of summoning the devil only to be told you can't make a deal. This was one of my favorites I've read so far.

    Thanks to both of you for sharing your work.

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  11. My vote is Donald LeClaire. Both had intriguing subject matter, so it was a tough choice.

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  12. I was going to go with Donald LeClaire, but after reading the thoroughly modern take on the crossroads story, I have to go with Hijinks Aplenty.

    Donald - I enjoyed your story. What rotten luck! I love how the bank manager was so nonchalant about a bank robbery. Perhaps it's because he knew the money was gone or perhaps because nothing phases him.

    Hijinks - Crisp, interesting--what's up with the amber ring, why is time so important now, why is he bottlenecked? I love how clothes appear without notice at first. I grimaced initially as the story started, but it deviated from the traditional and I applaud you for it. You earned my vote with the details and descriptions. I especially like the last line in context with the rest of the story. Well done.

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  13. WHY ARE YOU DOING THIS TO ME, SLUSHIES? Both of these pieces have so much going for them, I've had to read each three times. THREE! Both pieces remind me of the original Twilight Zone.

    Donald
    What works:
    Delightful premise
    Realistic dialogue
    I actually like that POV switch at the end. Very Twilight Zone
    This feels like a whole story told in 500 words

    What doesn't:
    Over-reliance on dialogue tags
    Sentence structure has little variance.
    Not sure why the manager would bother showing up at all.

    Hijinks
    What works:
    Fantastic premise
    Wonderful dialogue
    2nd person POV works wonderfully here, though I echo others in that I'm not a fan of 2nd person
    This is also a whole story
    What doesn't:
    The one thing I keep coming back to is, if the Devil's time is so limited, why is he even bothering to show up to a summoning in the first place? Does he show up to all summonings? If so, why don't the forum users know this is an outdated method?

    It really hurts my heart to have to choose just one. That said, I'm going with Hijinks, simply because of Donald's over-use of dialogue tags and repetitive sentence structure. Please keep polishing this piece, Donald. I thoroughly enjoyed it.

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  14. My vote goes to Hijinks! Loved the hilarity of the "efficiency expert" devil & details of the invocation (or whatever) -- so glad I bought lemon verbena-scented candles instead of the demon-favored French vanilla! And although 2nd person can be tedious in longer pieces, for this shortie, it's great! (Oh, and socko ending!). Donald LeClaire -- nice writing, but bumbling-but-not-bumbling-enough robbers, even the ironic ending, weren't enough to make me crack a smile. This reads as if it's a complete short story, but maybe if you gave yourself a few more words and permission to crank up the zaniness level, it could work.

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  15. My vote goes to Donald LeClaire. The story was funny, not in a a “hahaha” funny way, but in a way that made me smile and immediately like all the characters. I’m intrigued by Middlebury, must be more to him than appears here. The other two were not as interesting, but their indignity as the unAmericaness of banks closing endeared me to then.

    Hijinks Aplenty - Always love seeing the modern devils and how they aren’t what the average teen devil worshiper expects. And this one looks particularly interesting. However, second person is difficult to do well. Unfortunately, it didn’t work with this story. I wish it had been written in first person. Would have made the summoner much more interesting.

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  16. I enjoyed both entries today. My vote goes to Donlad LeClair. I loved the bumbling robbers, and even the blase bank employee. I would have voted for Hijinks if it wasn't written in second person. I just couldn't connect to the story because of that POV.

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  17. My vote goes to Hijinks. The twist in Donald's didn't quite hit the mark for me. And wording like "Cooper puzzled" felt distant. I would have liked body language or internal reactions to show that he was puzzled. Hijinks' piece was SO GOOD! Entertaining, surprising, and witty!

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  18. These are both, to my mind, MUCH better than most of the entries to date. Shame they're up against each other.
    For me it shades to Donald LeClaire, mainly because of the absurdity of the situation. Bad luck HA.

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  19. Donald Le Claire - The writing was decent, but there wasn't a single bit of figurative language used. It amazes me how many of these entries don't make use of metaphor, simile, allusion, hyperbole, or any other form of figurative language. As authors, describing things in refreshing ways is our stock in trade, and although there's only 500 words allotted, there's plenty of room to show the readers something of our style and flair for words. The author describes the bank manager as boring and almost nondescript, and the robbers don't have much personality, either. That leaves the situation to provide all the humor, and the setup wasn't all that funny.
    Hijinks a Plenty can also write, and I felt a little more of the author's personality coming through. Also devoid of figurative language, and what better opportunity to use some than when describing the devil. Instead, the author focused on touches of clothing and jewelry appearing on the devil, which leads nowhere. Missed opportunity. Dealing with the devil is a bit cliche, but the author did try to put a new spin on it. The last line is great, and the second person was well-executed, though most people advise against trying it, this author pulled it off.
    My vote goes to Hijinks a Plenty.

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  20. I love funny, and both of these made me laugh. Good job.

    My vote goes to Hijinks who's wit hit my funny bone in all the right places.

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  21. Both of these entries are really funny, and I enjoyed them. My vote goes to Hijinks, who made me laugh, and made me a little scared! Loved it.

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  22. My vote goes to Hijinks. it was funny and had an interesting twist. all that complaining about not having time to do one on one all the while doing a one on one, that's a head scratcher. the first story was hard to identify with anyone in the story or the strange situation,

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  23. Another tough round. Two comedies as well which is always hard to pull off. Both tell a complete story while also seemingly could be part of a larger piece. In the end, my vote is for Donald LeClaire. The deciding factor was Hijinks’ use of 2nd person. It was slightly jarring. Twice I thought I had missed the opening quotation mark for dialogue.

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  24. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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    1. Reposting due to my own typo!

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  25. Congrats both on getting in to the Top 30.

    Initially these entries both stand out to me more than previous submissions selected, as the writing in both is definitely more polished. There are fewer grammatical errors and better sentence structure, but really one would expect that in a writing contest.

    I like that both entries are self-contained stories, rather than excerpts, as within the 500 words we get a complete story.

    In the first submission, by Donald LeClaire, while written fairly well there are so many wasted words stating things like: declared / announced which add nothing to the overall story, and actually slow down the speech. These words could have been saved to use elsewhere to perhaps better show in places actions and emotions that might have helped build a bit more drama.

    I noticed words missing too, and wondered if this was simply an error, or because the writer ran out of words. For example towards the end Travis says: "I'm going file a complaint." I think it should read, I'm going to file a complaint. Not sure if this was to save a word or not.

    Obviously the humor here is dry, but I didn't really find any humor in it. Really sorry.

    My biggest question though with this piece, is why on earth would Middlebury show up for work when he has stated himself he has been made unemployed and the bank has been closed?

    Again, I think the writing style is stronger than most of the entrants so far, and I liked the fact that it is a short story, but it felt a bit too flat for me. Having said that, I do feel if this entry had been pitched against some of the earlier ones, I might have voted for it to go forward, as the writing itself I feel is stronger than some earlier submissions. It is a shame for the writer that it got pitched against what I feel is another of the strongest entries so far.

    Hijinks Aplenty's story again feels much more polished than some of the earlier entries, and the story being a complete little piece means we don't need any backstory to understand what is going on. That being said, I have to admit on first read I was a little confused. I read both pieces three times to be sure I wasn't judging too quickly.

    I think this piece has more writer creativity interspersed, the parts where the devil suddenly gets more accessories/clothing, I thought were very clever.

    A couple of things confused me though...
    Firstly it starts out with us reading from obviously the devil's POV as we hear his thoughts... him saying he has been summoned and he has decided to show up. But right after that we are in the POV of the person who summoned him.

    Also, the use of the 2nd POV, while not too jarring here, gets really confusing when the devil, in the first paragraph thinks to us as the reader and it is written: You'd checked / why deny your request, and then we jump into a 2nd POV where the MC says "Is it my soul?" you ask.

    That is a lot of you words in what is the beginning section, coming from two different characters, and I found it quite confusing.
    I read it through also, converting 2nd POV to first POV, and I felt it really intensified the piece.

    My main question on this piece was why if the devils is so busy and no longer makes personal visits, is the entire piece of writing on something he says he no longer does? Perhaps this is his very last visit? or the MC won a lottery for a personal meeting with the devil?

    I think Hijinks Aplenty's submission had some real creative gems though that makes it stand out against the other entry. Loved the part about the tree being destroyed, and the last line was very clever. The writing felt fairly tight and polished, and other than a bit of confusion in the start, and the fact that I feel first POV would strengthen this piece (that is a personal preference though, and I commend the writer for trying something that is known to be difficult to pull off), 2nd did not really hinder it the way it can.

    Today my vote goes to Hijinks Aplenty.

    Congrats again to both of you for making it into the ring.

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  26. Hijinks Aplenty gets my vote. I liked the novel concept and the presentation. Donald LeClaire's piece left me flat - seemed like too much telling, too much info dump in the dialogue.

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  27. Oooof this is a tough one. I love me some realistic comedy, but I love me some Faustian bargains as well. Had to read these a few times to be sure which way to vote.

    My vote goes to Hijinks Aplenty, the rejected Faustian bargain with the reality shaping Devil, and apparently fire can be flavored, and just a bunch of great details. Up to and including hells change in policy regarding souls. I can absolutely see it all. That being said the phrase "creaks a groan" hits my brain weird. It feels like one or the other would have worked and double checking the words are synonyms so it sounds redundant. Otherwise loved the premise.

    Now Donald LeClaire great premise, curious to see how this could go. Will the guy want revenge for mismanagement? Will he start his own bank? Will he turn bank robber against the company that fired him? I mean there are many many ways this kind of plot could go, but there was one huge thing that occurred to me during re-reads. The robbers had no weapons. No means to coerce or threaten the manager into cooperating. So in the context of this story two guys in hoods come up to someone say they are robbing his bank, and while I get why the manager cooperated, I don't see why the robbers wouldn't prepare to intimidate him. It unfortunately broke the immersion into the story for me.

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  28. Voting for Donald LeClaire. I thought it moved faster and had more voice. However, I felt that the POV was underutilized. I found myself wishing it was from Middlebury's perspective with 'Middlebury was attempting to clean ...' as the opening line. I loved the second person perspective in Hijinks' piece, and the premise was funny, but I felt more could be done with it.

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  29. Today my vote goes to Hijinks Aplenty. It was a unique take on a fun story and the writing felt quite polished and well thought out. At first I was a little thrown off by the 2nd person POV but by the end I had settled into it. I don't think it really added to the story for me but it didn't detract from it either.

    Donald LeClaire's premise was fun, too, but the writing fell a bit flat for me. There were action beats followed by unnecessary dialogue tags which kind of distracted from the story. I think it could be tightened up and infused with a bit more tension and then it would be really good. But up against Hijinks Aplenty, it really just didn't stand out as much as it needed to.

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  30. Both were excellent. I found myself smiling at the irony in the first piece by Donald. Everything planned out perfectly, working like a well oiled machine... Until it flipped. A definite chuckle for sure.

    The second piece by Hijinks was an interesting take on an old story. I liked the flow and the conclusion of the scene. It was well written.

    My vote goes to Donald this time.

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  31. Let's start with a round of applause for our two brave contestants who got this far.
    Donald LeClaire representing the Crime (Humor) genre.
    Amusing opening with a name that says so much - R J Middlebury. Yet, I wondered about him as the crime ticked away - more than just a name and not so simple. So, who is un-American now, Travis? Great pacing with gradual dripped reveals. Last thought made me wonder - and confused me. Was it the FBI or Middlebury who cleared out the vault? Or are they all in this together - Cooper, Travis and Middlebury? Will there be more?

    Hijinks Aplenty who is representing the Short Story genre.
    Unusual to have 'you' as the POV - brave so it gets my approval, so far. But I had to re-read the crafted opening. I like the flawed advise from a community forum - where else do wannabe-necromancers go. But as the Devil says, “Look, times have changed.”. I love the ending - well, the whole paced piece. A truly modern approach to the 'soul business'. Humourous. As for the writing, the content flowed over the mistakes - if there were any. Want to read more.

    So, Hijinks Aplenty earns my vote for his humourous and clever take on the age-old summoning tale.

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  32. Both of these were hilarious.
    Hijinks gets my vote this round. The POV through me off at first and it made the writing seem a little distance. The line "my spine snapped" through me off a little because I thought the demon had actually snapped her spine in half.
    Donald I really enjoyed the cheated robbers in this.

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    1. For the record I wrote this one my phone with a toddler climbing on me. Sorry for the gross, massive typos. I was just trying to vote while I could.

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  33. Going with Hijinks. As someone above said, I'm not a fan of second person but it's a good device here. Donald's had a little too much telling rather than showing - something I fight with, so I notice it more now.

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  34. Both stories were funny and I enjoyed the endings. My vote goes to Hijinks Aplenty the fresh take of how to sell your soul.

    Donald LeClaire – I enjoyed the humor but couldn’t get behind any of the characters. They all seemed so “meh” - a little bit more personality would have helped.

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  35. Both brought smiles. Well done. My vote is for Hijinks because I lol at the end.

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  36. Wow. Two funny pieces on the same day....

    My vote goes to Daniel for the fun characterization of Middlebury and the twist at the end. I like that a full story was told in the limited words.

    While I liked Hijinks' piece, I struggled with the second person POV. It didn't seem necessary and was thus distracting. Good details and humor.

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  37. Donald LeClaire
    What worked:
    Well-written with no obvious errors. It read quickly and smoothly.
    I like the hybridization of crime and humor. The irritation of the would-be robbers - "It's un-American!" - tickled me.
    What didn't:
    There were a couple of logistical things that became obvious as I read it a second time, most notably, why is Middlebury going about his normal routine for opening a bank that he know is not going to open?
    The talk of the car in the opening paragraphs hinted that the car would play an important role later and it didn't.

    Hijinks Aplenty
    What worked:
    I am a HUGE fan of stories that twist traditional roles. I am also quite fond of stories that show the more reasonable side of the devil, don't ask my why. I found this story quite charming.
    What didn't:
    Although I have much more tolerance for 2nd person than most, I'm not sure it works here. There's just no reason for it. WHO is telling me this story about myself? The only two people involved are Satan and myself!

    This was a very difficult choice for me, as I truly loved both entries. Ultimately, I have to vote for Hijinks Aplenty because of that charming devil.

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  38. I really liked both of these! Hilarious! I think I'm going to have to go with Hijinks. The use of the second person POV was risky but I think it worked. The technologically savvy Devil was great. The whole thing clicked by for me at a good pace, and I was sorry it ended but also satisfied by the conclusion. The last line was fantastic.

    Donald did a great job, and in a lot of other bouts, it would have been my pick. There were a couple spots that felt a bit stiff, but the humor and irony was spot-on. Another great ending line too.

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  39. Donald LaClaire's entry about the bank robbery fell flat. The banker being so bland a character made him uninteresting. There is little revealed about the criminals. Were they armed? How did they know the banker? For humor to be funny, it has to have an element of truth. The robbery being so uncharacteristic eliminated the humor for me.

    Hijinks Aplenty gets my vote. It was original, had some good lines, and the second person POV was a risk, and well done.

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  40. My vote is for Hijinks, despite the second person POV. The concept was intriguing and clever.

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  41. I'm going with Donald LaClaire. It simply matched my taste.

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  42. Two entries I found very entertaining in today's round -- kudos to both of the combatants! I enjoyed how both blended touches of humor into stories with somewhat darker themes: an almost-crime and an almost-deal-with-the-devil.

    Donald's story was fun to read, and the characters are distinct. The dialogue helps move the scene along and the mild twist of an empty vault gives it an amusing ending.

    But there are a few things that I think could be a little tighter. There's a shift in POV from Cooper to Middlebury and back and forth as the story progresses. Maybe that's intentional, but I think it's a little disorienting. It feels like Middlebury is really the central character here, and there is more of his story still to be told. I think it's better to stay anchored in one POV throughout the scene, and I'd choose him. But I would remove the line where he "saw the suspicion on their faces." -- earlier, "Cooper and Travis, now masked, appeared," so even with a solid POV, he still wouldn't be able to see much of anything on their faces. Also, I'd eliminate the "announced" and other tags and just go with "said". Yes, it's bland, but that's the point --- it becomes invisible to the reader, serving only to notate who's speaking and not to detract from the dialogue itself.

    I liked Hijink's take on the selling-your-soul-to-the-devil trope. There's a nice blend of humor and edginess in this piece. This was also a very fun read, with a lot of clever details that add to the story.

    I am not a fan of the 2nd-person telling, though, but I'll commend you on pulling it off pretty well. Still, I think it would have more impact in first-person, or close third. I really like the spin of the devil being modern, internet-based, and pushing for efficiency and volume-based business. But it also kind of contradicts the whole story -- he's too crunched for time to make the deal, and yet he's got the time to casually banter with the MC? I think the story might actually be improved using the exact same premise, but having the encounter instead be with some low-level minion -- "the big guy's just too busy to see everyone in an individual appearance, you understand." Also, while I think the sudden appearance of the hat and the ring and things is clever, I'm not sure I get the point -- how exactly does it tie in with the narrative?

    Overall, while I definitely enjoyed both entries, I think Hijinks is the winner here. The writing is a little tighter and the story a little stronger.

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  43. Good job to both writers!

    Donald LeClaire: I agree with others regarding the overuse of dialogue tags. In many cases, you could cut the tags because you've already included an action that connects the dialogue to the speaker. For example:

    Middlebury shrugged. “I’m not dying for this bank,” he declared.

    vs.

    Middlebury shrugged. “I’m not dying for this bank."

    If you cut unnecessary tags throughout, I think your pacing will improve dramatically. I would also look for words and sentence structures that might be overused.

    That said, I rather enjoyed the exasperated atmosphere of this piece. You created three distinct characters who work brilliantly together. Even though this piece is complete plot-wise, I kind of hope these guys run into one another at the neighborhood bar later in the day and toast one another's health and misfortune.

    Hijinks Aplenty: A very nice portrayal of the devil, but I'm not sure why he was summoned or why he showed up if he's so pressed for time. The writing is solid, but the line "Your spine snaps as it hits you" threw me a bit because I read it literally. There's a lot to like in this clever piece, but I really, really dislike second person POV and think this would have worked much better in first.

    My vote goes to Donald LeClaire.

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  44. Not a huge fan of second person, but Hijinks Aplenty did a good job of "modernizing" the devil and I particularly enjoyed the dialogue.

    That said, my vote has to go to Donald LeClaire. It could use some polish to tighten up some sentences, but the characters were strong, the premise was strong, and for the most part it worked. I absolutely love that last line of dialogue.

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  45. Two brisk and entertaining pieces today!

    Donald LeClaire: Crime fiction is not normally my thing but this was funny and had wonderful details that made the story come alive. In 500 words, I felt this wasn't just a scene from a larger story, but a complete story in itself. Good job!

    Hijinks Aplenty: I'm a fan of second person POV and I always like reading pieces that employ this POV. I liked the humour in this piece and also the characterisation of the devil, which in my view is more well-developed than the MC. This also feels like a complete story and not merely an excerpt.

    My vote goes to Hijinks Aplenty.

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  46. My vote goes to Donald LeClaire. I rather liked the almost tongue-in-cheek humour aspect of the piece.

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  47. These were both fun! Voting for Hijinks Aplenty, which had me grinning at the end.

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  48. Donald LeClaire - Loved the concept of this a lot, but the writing fell short of pulling me in. I smiled, but extra filler words and the occasional passive line slowed up the humor and lessened the effect. With another tune-up this will be great!

    Hijinks Aplenty - Maybe I'm a sucker for a slick Devil, but there's something really perfect about Satan himself being in too high-demand that he has a web service. I clicked with the protag's enthusiasm and then shock. There were a few grammatical moments where it could have been tighter, but overall it was a strong piece.

    Vote goes to Hijinks Aplenty!!

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  49. My vote goes to Donald LeClaire, though I enjoyed the dialogue of both pieces.

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  50. What a toughie!

    For Donald, I wasn't quite into it by the end of the piece. I didn't connect with the main character. A bit more spit and polish, and I'd be hooked.

    For the second piece, I found the second person telling most enjoyable. That surprised me. My vote goes to Hijinks this time.

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  51. Donald LeClaire -- That is a most creative use of a robbery gone wrong. You made me laugh.

    Hijinks Aplenty -- Oh my, when even selling a soul isn't left as a last resort. Interesting.

    Both were good, and both seemed uncommon. But Donald gets my vote today.

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  52. I ... 🤔
    I really like the bank robbery humor.
    But I'm a huge fan of Supernatural. And I'm picturing Crowley, when he was on, doing this.
    So I'm torn.
    But Aplenty gets my vote.

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  53. Both Entries were great but my vote goes to Hijinks Aplenty. I loved that the Devil uses the internet now. So creative!

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  54. My vote goes to Hijinks Aplenty. It takes some skill to write in second person and make it work so well. The concept of the devil joining the tech world was laugh outloud funny to me.

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  55. What a fun round! I enjoyed the professional bank robbers and the super bland and couldn't-care-less bank manager, but found myself a bit confused at the end--for a moment, I thought the money being taken out the night before was part of the heist.

    My vote goes to Hijinks. First, because I love second person when done right (and it sure was). Second, because the modern twist to the sell-your-soul story was such fun--from looking up ritual suggestions on internet forums to the devil doing deals in bulk online. And third, the devil himself was so well done--I loved the ever-shifting wardrobe, and the fact that he just casually brings down the tree throughout the conversation.

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  56. Donald LeClaire gets my vote today. Something about a well done yet fruitless robbery combined with a amiable bank manager just tickles my funny bone.

    Hijinks was well done, just not my cup of tea. Though great imagery with the devil basically stealing the soul of the tree while they're talking. Excellent job with that.
    - tara.roquemore@gmail.com

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  57. Donald LeClaire--the bank manager has a distinct character voice, but the other characters are entirely interchangeable. Also, the only description we have of any of them is that the would-be burglars are in black masks. The vault has some description, and the car is specific but the rest of the scene is pretty blank canvas.

    Hijinks--I know what the devil ends up wearing, but I know more about the tree than I do about him. Also, this is a point of personal taste, but 2nd person narratives are not my cup of tea. Still, I think of the two, this is the more rounded out piece.

    My vote goes to Hijinks.

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  58. I think my vote goes to Donald LeClaire on this one. I still feel the piece could use a bit of polish and definitely would do better as longer than 500 words, but it had more of a voice than the one with the Devil and I knew what was going on more. Plus, there was a little voice inside me as I read it, cheering for the banker who didn't care about the bank being robbed, and laughing about the fact that there's no money. Unique idea.

    Hijinks Aplenty had a good premise (and I particularly liked the last line), but I had a very difficult time delving into the 2nd person narrative. I really feel like the story could be a lot stronger if it had been written in 1st or 3rd person. I like the fact that the devil says times have changed, but the story itself seems to lack the background info we need to root for the main character to succeed in his deal with the devil.

    Donald LeClaire has my vote.

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  59. Enjoyed both entries very much! Sorry to have to choose. I particularly liked the bank manager’s compliment to the disappointed would-be bank robbers in the Donald LeClaire entry. I appreciated the gradually appearing accessories in the Hijinks Aplenty entry. Very close, but Hijinks gets my vote today.

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  60. My vote goes to Donald LeClaire. Cute story!

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  61. These were both great! I got a laugh out of both and enjoyed the tone. I could see myself having the same kind of luck as the bank robbers in Donald LeClaire's story. I also loved how Hijinks Aplenty's story spoke to a common issue these days-the impact of the internet on the way the whole world functions.

    Ultimately, my vote goes to Hijinks Aplenty. I really enjoyed the portrayal of the Devil.

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  62. I really enjoyed both stories. Donald's had me entertained with the nonchalant bank manager. However the switching of POVs really got to me. I had to reread the end twice then go back to the beginning to figure out whose POV we were in. I did that with another sentence in the piece. I think you did a fine job with interspersing backstory in this short piece.

    Hijinks gets my vote. I'm not a fan of second person but after the first couple sentences it fell into the background. The snapped spine threw me out but I loved the premise of the story. Also it wasn't unrealistic that he'd answer the call to tell the summoner to use other means. It's an opportunity to market and pass out his cards...almost like a "spread the word" or "tell your friends" moment. Great job!

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  63. The devil made me do it.:) I pick hijinks

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  64. Both entries are humorous, but I liked Donald’s better. My vote goes to Donald.

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  65. These were both great. It was a very close decision. I'm going to go with Donald. I laughed throughout and I could really see these guys in my head. Hijinks was good. I'm not a fan of second person, but I liked the story.

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  66. Congratulations to both on making it on this middle round of week two!

    Donald LeClaire’s story was very amusing to me as a former bank teller. Several twists on the classic tropes, with the manager being so accommodating and then the vault being empty. The line about making a complaint was the hilarious linchpin of the story. With a little bit of editing for smoother reading, it’d be great!

    Hijinks Aplenty’s piece was a fun, modern twist on summoning the devil, right down to finding all the info on online chat rooms where people are only known by usernames, and with a great jumpstart right into the story. Also, an interesting twist with our (unknown) protagonist finding themselves calling on God at the end. Overall, I think the distant narration of the piece put me off a bit, not quite drawing me into the character enough to be as devastated that my plan didn’t work out.

    My vote goes to Donald LeClaire for a humorous take on bank robberies and the state of banks in general.

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  67. My vote goes to Hijinx Aplenty. Very clever and perfectly paced for 500 word piece.

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  68. Grrr! I think I am getting high blood pressure from the stress of my favorite stories going up against one another. Hijinks I love dark humor! The twist at the end made me laugh. I love this modern spin on the devil.

    Donald LeClaire your story started out a bit slow and just when I thought "okay another crime story" you threw Cooper at me and made me raise an eyebrow. Once you gave me the hint that something wasn't quite right you sucked me in and held me until the end. Your ending was just the kind of punch in the gut twist that every flash fiction story should have! I've thought about your twist ending countless times so kudos! My vote goes to Donald LeClaire for the awesome twist at the end!!

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  69. Two distinct voices today.

    Donald: I'm a sucker for bumbling crooks. This struck me as quite Dave Barry-ish, and you earned a point for the Caravelle. (My first driver was the second-most non-descript car ever, a jade green '79 Ford Granada.) I love RJ's attitude, but him going through his opening routine if the bank is shut down and he's been fired is too implausible. My suspension of disbelief just collapsed. Perhaps have this scene at the end of the previous day? I think the last line would have been more powerful if he had spoken it aloud to Travis and Cooper as he escorted them out, and would have eliminated a distracting POV shift.

    Hijinks - You pulled off the risky second-person voice well. It works in this short piece. I appreciate the panache of this new-fangled devil, but some of your sentences made me go huh? "Your spine snaps as it hits you..." The devil got violent? He's being lashed with his own vertebral column? Oh, wait...no. Work on your clarity a bit and this piece will really sparkle.

    Today's vote: Hijinx

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  70. My vote is for Donald LeClaire - thank you both for sharing, both pieces were quite enjoyable!

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  71. Any time you can spin Satan from traditional to tech-modern, you get my vote. Well done Hijinks.

    I did quite enjoy the dark humor of Donald and looking forward to seeing their words in the wildcard.

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  72. Very well matched, these two. My vote goes to Hijinks Aplenty.
    I greatly enjoyed both stories. A good, funny round this one.
    The deciding factor for me was the present tone of Hijinks compared to the more passive tone of Donald Leclaire. A stylistic choice, of course, nothing wrong with it. I just felt more engaged in hijinks piece.

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  73. I'm going to go with Hijinks Aplenty, although I enjoyed both pieces.

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