WRiTE CLUB 2020 - Semi Final Bout #2


Today is the 2nd and final WRiTE CLUB bout where the readers have a say in the outcome.  After these two bouts, it will be in the hands of the celebrity judges. But first, we need to decide who gets that opportunity. The voting time frame is much shorter this round, so please pay attention.

The voting for both of this week's bouts will close on Sunday, June 21st (noon central time).

Here once again are the voting guidelines –

1) One vote per visitor per bout.

2) Anyone can vote (even the contestants themselves), but although our contestants are anonymous, voters cannot be. Anonymous votes will not count, so if you do not have a Google account and are voting as a guest, be sure to include your name and email address.

3) Using any method (email, social media, text, etc) to solicit votes for a specific contestant will cause that contestant's immediate disqualification. It’s perfectly okay, in fact, it is encouraged to spread the word about the contest to get more people to vote, just not for a specific writer!

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


Welcome back to the ring our first contestant...Scottish


Raggedy Man

 

Strapped to the table, Gloria glanced toward the family of the victim, then looked away. “They despise me,” I heard her say. “I don't want hatred to be the last thing I see.”

“You’re not alone,” the warden said. “Doc Marlin is here for you.”

Our eyes met and I nodded, wishing even one person here believed in her innocence. But there was only me, and I harbored doubts. The evidence pointed to Gloria. There was nothing in her psychological makeup that suggested violence, and she wasn’t insane, but her defense had been incredulous.   

“Thank you, Doctor. Bless you,” she said into the microphone.

Gloria addressed the family, unflinching beneath the weight of obvious loathing. “I did not kill Sean. We loved each other. I swear it, by all that is holy.”

The warden gave the signal, and Gloria said her last words.

“Believe me, that devil is still out there. He calls himself the raggedy man, and he will kill again.”  

Guttural laughter shattered my concentration. Annoyed, I glanced over my shoulder, seeing a shadow, but Gloria’s sobs pulled me back. We locked gazes, kindred spirits at that crucial moment when an unseen executioner sent a lethal dose of pentobarbital into the IV.

Then, I saw horror in her eyes—her lips moved, but she was too dazed to speak. Only later would I realize what had happened.   

The sound of snickering made me furious, but I would not look away. I would not abandon her. Mercifully, she calmed and her eyes closed. Years before her time, Gloria was unjustly pronounced dead.

When it was over, I pushed through a swinging door to confront the bastard. No one was there. I hurried to the registration desk to scan witness sign-in sheets. A guard handed me the clipboard. The edge of the second page was blackened and crumbled. There was a nearly unreadable scrawl across the bottom and I stared in disbelief—shocked—then I exploded with remorse.

“No, oh no!”

As my cries ricocheted off the walls, civilians were frightened and ran. Guards with guns drawn searched for a threat. The warden’s swift intervention restored my sanity.   

“What the hell’s going on, Doc?”    

“She told the truth. The raggedy man was real.”

“What are you saying?”

“Sean’s killer, he was here.”

I shoved the clipboard into his hands.

“He signed it. Can you believe that? And look at the paper. It’s scorched. She saw him in the room and tried to warn me, but I misunderstood.”

“Be reasonable, Doc. You can’t believe the devil killed Sean.”

“Devil or man, Warden, he came to watch Gloria die.”

The exit alarm sounded and there he was. A tall creature in tattered clothing. His jack o’ lantern grimace and demonic laughter taunting us as he fled into the night.

We ran forward and hit the closing doors, shoving them wide against a blast of hot wind and sand, but the raggedy man was gone.

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Also welcome our second contestant...Peace and Quiet

REMOVED AT AUTHORS REQUEST

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

We’ll be back Monday with the final 1,000 word battle. 

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!




41 comments

  1. I read both stories twice and I’m still not sure who to vote for, I loved them both! But since I have to choose, I’m going to go with Scottish. Good luck to both of you—you both deserve to move on!

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  2. Scottish -- You have one of the most distinct voices in the contest. This feels like the other two in tension and pace, but the contemporary setting and twist give it a much more modern horror feel than your previous stories.
    Peace and Quiet -- You improve with every story. This one is showing us a whole other side of you. A trailer park setting is a goldmine of characters, and you do a good job of crafting a quirky narrator. The dialect is the only thing that didn't work for me. -- Love the smell of a barbecue me -- and the Yoda phrasing -- Cobbled it together from old pallets, he did -- threw me. Great job overall, though.
    Vote goes to Scottish

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  3. This bout is a really fun read -- both entries draw some very compelling characters and tell a solid story in few words. Great job!

    Scottish -- you had me from "I don't want hatred to be the last thing I see." I will say that I had to read that first paragraph a couple of times, though, because -- while it was clear from the beginning what was happening -- the POV narrator wasn't so much. Still, that's minor and probably on my end.

    Peace and Quiet -- I absolutely loved this piece. The narrator's quirkiness was so charming -- I laughed out loud at "...him over at Chime Central..." and the Mad Cow digression is a hoot.

    These are both really well-written and both writers deserve to move ahead, but I'm going to cast my vote for Peace and Quiet.

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  4. blakejamesfoster71@gmail.com

    I am so very impressed with these two writers, over the past few rounds I have seen only a few stand out pieces. These two are beyond what has gone before.
    Nice, dark and horrific entry by Scottish. With more editing it would iron out the confusion in the beginning, which I needed to read a couple of times. That said, this genre is so popular that I'm sure people will get behing you.
    The entry by P&Q is stand out amazing. Fun. quirky, and real. The voice is totally Annie, I can see her at her window looking over at the chimes. Her mental state is so neatly tied in at the end, with the clever last line closing the arc. The begining and end tie together the smoke. This is simply a joy to read and easily gets my vote.
    WELL DONE BOTH OF YOU.

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  5. Another tough decision. Both of these are really wonderful stories and deserve to move on. But since we have to vote, I'm going to go with Peace and Quiet this time. I loved the narrator's voice and her quirky worldview.

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  6. Voting Scottish today. Love the setup and the spooky ending. Adored Peace and Quiet's beginning, but the last line fell flat for me.

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  7. Scottish: Again you amaze. Your pace is tight you accomplish so much in 500 words. They are well chosen words. You create a sense of dread from the beginning. You never fail to deliver. another great story.

    Peace and Quiet: Your attempt at some-kind of regional accent fell very flat. I thought they were typos and the story needed editing. With the inclusion of the trailer park I just had to assume you were trying to attempt a 'red neck' accent. If so it fell even flatter. It started out with an eerie feeling but it never delivered.

    My Vote Scottish.

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  8. Had to read both entries twice. Here goes ...

    Scottish: Well-written, clean, tight pacing. But the story itself doesn't feel new or original. I also didn't get any sense of dread or fear. I feel bad saying this because I've been such a huge fan.

    Peace and Quiet: A very strange piece indeed. So unlike your others. It delves into oh-so-stream-of-consciousness, then pulls back around. Some word choices don't feel authentic to the dialect. But overall I enjoyed the strangeness.

    My Vote: Peace and Quiet

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  9. Peace and Quiet: Better voice this time. But the dialect was awkward. I had to read it several times for it to make sense, which kept knocking me out of the story.

    Scottish: That was a lot to pack into 500 words, and when Gloria was executed, I was surprised by that and the fact that the murderer was there. Grabbed my attention immediately. Entertaining story. My vote goes to Scottish.

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  10. Amazing voice, unique storyline, and the last line is genius.

    Voting this round for Peace and Quiet.

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  11. Scottish- It's an interesting story and reminds me of some other books, movies, and shows I've seen. But this felt a bit like a middle to me, lacking a beginning and ending. Which people have done here before, so that's okay. But it just wasn't enough for me. Congratulations on getting this far though!

    Peach and Quiet- This is a great story. It's unlike your others. You have an impressive range. I could "hear" the accent, but in a good way. (So many writers mess that up.) You have my vote and I hope you win. Either way, I hope you'll have links to share later so I can follow you. Good luck!

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  12. 🏴󠁧󠁢󠁳󠁣󠁴󠁿 The story feels familiar and I'm not sure this take is original enough for my vote.

    ✌🤫 Fun to read. Reminds me of a song I heard once. It's telling, but in a good way. Groovy! You get my vote, P&Q.

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  13. peace and quiet gets my vote today

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  14. Scottish: What an original a splendidly told story. You tell a full story in so few words, but it still makes me want to know more. Love the eerie feeling.

    Peace and Quiet: I'm not sure what you were trying to accomplish with your accent. I guess it's your idea of how trailer trash talks. Very distracting, I thought for a second you were quoting Yoda. Either way, I wasn't sure what the story was supposed to be about.
    But that might be because the strange accents threw me off.

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    1. oh yeah Scottish gets my vote in case you couldn't tell.

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  15. Scottish: I saw the end coming, but it felt satisfying rather than predictable. Great atmosphere and feeling of impotent horror.

    Peace: good voice. I like the setting and feeling this piece evokes. The sentence fragments are distracting - a few might be good, but there are so many.

    I vote for Scottish.

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  16. Scottish: Honestly I feel like this story has been done before.

    Peace and Quiet, I felt so much disgust..anything that makes me feel that way gets my vote.
    Vote:Peace and Quiet

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  17. I like the tone of the second piece but found it a bit confusing to follow. Love the term "raggedy man" and the Stephen King-style of the first piece. Voting for Scottish!

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  18. Congratulations to both semi-finalists!

    Scottish: My heart broke for Gloria and her suffering for something she didn’t do. Unfortunately, her alibi didn’t work for me. I thought it was an interesting twist to see the murderer show up to see Gloria executed like that was part of his plan, but I think I would have appreciated it more if it had been a crazy/serial killer than a version of the devil. Just watch some of you transitions - at first I couldn’t tell who the narrator was, and it was also a little clunky with the transition to the reception area/wailing/guards appearing.

    Peace & Quiet: You're writing has continued to tighten as the contest goes on. This story reminds me of a former coworker who lives in a trailer park, and I could definitely see her having this internal dialogue (minus the Yoda phrasing). Nice slice of life piece, that probably didn’t even need the mad cow disease to keep it interesting. Liked how the last line implied the narrator is also a bit crazy.

    My vote is for Peace & Quiet

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  19. This one is so close, but I have to go with Scottish. I've enjoyed all of your stories, and I'm a sucker for horror stories. Great job both of you.

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  20. Congratulations, writers! You have both been impressive throughout the competition. No wonder you've made it this far!

    Scottish:

    This feels like such a familiar piece to me that I had to go back and skim your other entries to see if this is a continuation of an earlier submission. My biggest issue with this story is that I simply couldn't get a feel for any of the characters or the era the story is set in. I also had a hard time believing that Gloria would be so calm about her death.

    Peace and Quiet:
    Each of your pieces had a unique and clear voice that was entirely unlike the stories that came before. Voice is your forte. Unfortunately, it took me several reads to fall into the rhythm of this particular voice. Reading this piece more than once seemed to make more questions surface than it answered, though. I get the impression that the MC isn't the most stable person in the world, but at the same time, nobody else in the trailer park seems to be well-adjusted or stable, either. I grew up in trailer parks around the country, and I can absolutely attest that they are full of interesting characters, but I suggest being careful about painting everyone who lives in a trailer park as somehow unstable or quirky.

    In your first sentence, you talk about how smoke is hanging over the trailer again, and then you go into the story about burning sneakers. But in the first sentence of the last paragraph, you say Crazy Chimes has been MIA for at least a week, but that the grill is staring at the MC. The grill that, in theory, is smoking with flaming rubbish. If the grill is burning, the Crazy Chimes isn't missing.

    It's entirely possible that I've missed something, but I keep coming back to that inconsistency. The MC can see Crazy Chime's single-wide. They can see his grill. They can see when he puts sneakers or other inappropriate things on it. So how do they make the jump to "even though his grill is smoking up a storm, I should go steal it because, clearly, Crazy Chimes is dead or missing"?

    There are some beautifully written sentences in this piece. I especially love "Him with a store’s worth of wind chimes dripping from his trailer."

    This was an extremely difficult decision this time around, but my vote goes to Scottish.

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    Replies
    1. thought i would reply to this as it was very clear to me reading it, that that Annie says she is betting it's him burning something again, and that once he burnt trainers. the smoke isn't attributed to anything in the first like, actually. so Chimes could be MIA. at the end Annie looks at the grill but doesn't say it is that that is smoking, she wants to steal it.
      As you asked if you missed something, yes you did. I hope you don't mind me telling you, as we all read differently, but as this is the last bout we vote on, it makes sense to read thoroughly.
      I am with you, this is a tough call but I found Annie so different, that I couldn't go any other way. Different always is more appealing that something told over again.

      Delete
    2. Thank you for sharing your take on this story with me. I will reiterate, however, that I read this multiple times over a couple of days. I can assure you, I certainly didn't make my decision lightly. In fact, I've been a fan of Peace and Quiet since their first story.

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    3. no worries, we certainly haven't had it easy this round. Can't wait to see what comes next, and so glad it's not up to us as it just keeps getting tougher!

      Delete
  21. Well done both of you for getting to this stage in the competition, but honestly you deserve it.
    Both pieces are well written and completely different to each other.
    Scottish, I felt excited at first that this was going to be really great, but sadly although the writing is strong, it is to reminiscent of The Green Mile or many other typical horror stories. The twist wasn't original and the voice was a little muddled, which made me need to reread it for clarity on whose was telling the story.
    For Peace and Quiet, this was also well written and at first I thought 'am I going to like this?' but almost immediately that was spun on it's head and Annie's voice filled me with a clear picture of her spying on her neighbour and her obsession with him. Her voice flowed, I don't think the dialect matters because it completely works for her. This piece is totally original, and my only need to reread this was for pure pleasure and the joy of realising at the end that yes maybe Chimes Central (btw brilliant phrase) may be completely crazy in Annie's opinion; Chainsaw Annie is as much so, if not more crazy herself... talking to the faces in the clouds (linking this line to the smoke in the first line, excellent and IMO accomplished writing). so well done Peace and Quiet, I love this unique take, it is funny and like others say, quirky, and a little sad. You get my vote P&Q and how I long to read more, maybe from the pov of Chimes Central!

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  22. My vote is for Scottish. Great story

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  23. Scottish gets my vote. This piece seemed rougher than the previous short fables, but it felt more like a story with lots more behind it. Peace & Quiet -- I applaud you for stepping away from the emotional manipulation of your earlier submissions but howling with laughter over mad cow Chainsaw Annie still isn't my thing.

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  24. Both writers have submitted wonderful work! I'm impressed all around.

    Scottish: Deliciously creepy. It took me a moment to figure out who the narrator was, and a word error (incredulous) pulled me out for a bit, but by and large it worked. The twist didn't fall as much of a surprise, though.

    Peace and Quiet: It's really difficult to pull of an unreliable narrator like this in such a short piece, but this is skillfully done. As someone with southern roots I have to say the dialect generally worked, though on occasion it sounded more UK than redneck.

    My vote goes to Peace & Quiet, because I really enjoyed the whole voice and vibe.

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  25. Scottish - a very well written story that reads quite tightly. The setting reminds me of scenes in several horror movies I've watched, and I could envision it clearly. It feels very King/Koontz inspired, and the name Raggedy Man reminds me a lot of King's, Trashcan Man. There are a few areas where I think this could be tightened further though, and improved on edit.

    The opening is a bit clunky and distant. It took me a little bit of time to figure out why. I think it is the use of the word "victim." It puts a lot of distance between Gloria and this unnamed victim. Later it is clear she was very close to this person as the writing tells us she loved Sean, aka the victim. If that first sentence read for example: Gloria glanced toward's her husband's /lover's family (whomever Sean is to her) instead of "at the victim's family," it immediately ups the emotion, as the connection between Gloria and Sean was obviously a close one. Later too, I think it would feel more realistic if Gloria screamed her innocence right until that last moment, rather than seemingly taking what is happening to her in her stride.

    The line: "There was a nearly unreadable scrawl," is extremely awkward sounding. Scrawl is by its very nature something that is hard to read, so the "nearly unreadable" is unnecessary. Deleting those words would make that sentence flow much better too.

    And in this sentence: "As my cries ricocheted off the walls, civilians were frightened and ran." Again reads very awkward, and the use of the word civilians seems odd, as it makes it sound as if this is taking place on a military installation, which I don't think it was/is.

    Lastly, using the devil as the murderer felt very King-like, and not particularly original. It would have been super-chilling if right after the injection was given, Sean himself stood up in the viewing area and everyone could see he was alive and well and that Gloria truly was innocent, but by then it was all too late. That would have given me chills.

    On the whole though it is a very good piece of writing.

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  26. Peace and Quiet - This has to be one of the most unusual pieces of writing in the entire contest, and is so different to your other entries. Like your opponents piece, it is extremely well written, and this is probably going to be the hardest bout to decide yet. You put us right in the MC's head, where we literally hear her thoughts as she flits from thinking about one thing to another and back again at break neck speed. The way you put us in her mind to see it zig-zagging back and forth is extremely skillful. The line about the MC "pledging her chainsaw skills," is hilarious.

    I'm not sure what I can offer here as far as feedback. Some people have mentioned the dialect, but I didn't have any problem with it. I don't know how it can be "assumed" by some readers, from the dialect used that the author meant this character to come across as "trailer-park trash" or as a "redneck." Nowhere in the story was either referenced or inferred. What I got was a zany, quirky character.

    I do agree with one reviewer who mentioned, when writing about a trailer park, you need to be careful not to stereotype characters, but to be fair to this author, there are only two characters in this entire piece, and one is portrayed through the eyes of another, so really there is only one character. She does not come across as stereotyped at all, but rather as a strong-voiced character.

    The best part of this piece though for me was the ending where we learn that Annie is a completely unreliable narrator, that is gold, and makes me question everything she just told me. Loved that so much.

    Very hard vote to cast, but for the great voice and the very original premise, I'm casting my vote to Peace and Quiet.

    I wanted to close by adding that as in the previous bout, there are a couple of comments that have been made in this round that border on disrespectful towards one of the writers. The contestants in this round, as in the previous round, have battled their way here from hundreds of submissions down to the final four, which means they are probably pretty good. For some reviewers to take the time to write glowing feedback for one opponent, and then in the same comment find absolutely nothing positive to say about the other writer's entry (who has also earned their place in this semi-final), and instead only write negative things, and to then repeat the comment almost verbatim in another post/comment, really ruins the spirit of what this whole contest is about.

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  27. This comment has been removed by the author.

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    Replies
    1. Not sure there is anything in the rules that states votes need to be shorter than the stories posted.

      Delete
  28. wow good stories, my vote is for Scottish

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  29. My vote goes to Scottish.


    For Scottish the scene had great tension, uncertainty, and details. The protagonist's sense of helplessness, the devils voyueristic cruelty, and just all of it is so good! I suppose the only weakness I can read here is the year. It struck me as modern but could have been 70s onwards.

    For peace and quiet Annie's internal monologue kept my attention and was fun, but with a title like Chainsaw Annie it seemed a broken promise that it only ended up being used as a punchline. Had she gone on a chainsaw spree at wind chimes wind chimes or gone after his pallets of patriotism it would have been an epic climax. Additionally the characters word choice and mannerisms read as british maybe cockney.

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  30. Great stories. Tough call, but I gotta to go with P&Q!

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  31. Great stories! I had to read Chainsaw Annie three times because there was just so much there, lol.

    Vote goes to Scottish.

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