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WRiTE CLUB 2021 - Preliminary Bout #11



We're back!

I hope everyone enjoyed their holiday break, but now it's time to get back to business — and that business is selecting another bout winner.

We have five remaining preliminary matches this week, beginning with today. Remember, the voting for each bout remains open for an entire week.

Here's a reminder of what is happening. WRiTE CLUB (sponsored by Wild Lark Books) is a tournament-style contest that will run for nine weeks (which includes a week break for the holidays). It provides writers the opportunity to compete against one another for a chance to win a free publication package (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 (decided by a group of twelve 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.

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, the voters can win a $50 Wild Lark Books gift card. 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 Sun, Jan 2nd (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. What is okay, in fact, encouraged, is 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 print…here we go!



On one side of the ring stands The Sparky One representing the Contemporary genre.

I sat on the cold concrete floor in shock.  Had Iris hit me?  I wasn’t sure if I was more shocked by the violence with which she’d touched me or the words she’d flung my way. 

 “I’m sorry,” she stammered and reached out a hand to help me up from the puddle I’d collapsed into on the floor.

 I ignored the hand.  Did she really think a gesture like that was enough?  Pain sliced through me, so acute I couldn’t even tell if it was real, physical pain from falling, or the agony her words had caused.  How could I have been so foolish?  I wanted to kick myself for thinking I could change her mind.

 “Juliet…. Please?”  She looked at me and I could see the pain and confusion in her eyes.  The longing and the fear.

 I climbed to my feet, a little shaky, but uninjured.  Except for my soul that felt as if it had been torn into a thousand tiny scraps and left to blow in the wind.  Pieces of myself seemed to drift away as I stood there.  “What?”  I asked finally.

 “This…  Whatever this is between us.  We can’t keep doing it.  It has to stop.”  The words felt dragged from Iris’s lips.  As if she didn’t want to say them any more than I wanted to hear them.  They felt heavy as they hung between us, tangible enough I could reach out and touch them.  I wished that was real.  I wanted to pick them up and fling them back at her.  I wanted them to wound her as deeply as they had wounded me.

 I swallowed hard.  I was not going to cry.  Not here, not now.  She could break my heart, but no way was I letting her have the satisfaction of seeing it, of knowing it. 

 I pushed past her and left the alcove.  Left her behind in the space that had once felt like the only safe place in a cruel and ignorant world.  A place where love had triumphed over bigotry and intolerance and willful misunderstanding.  A place that gave me far more solace than the church ever had.  God had never felt as present or tangible to me as he had when Iris and I squeezed together in that cramped alcove and showed each other the truth.

 I sob caught in my throat as I dashed up the stairs.  How had it ended like this?  I’d been so happy.  I hadn’t felt like that since middle school.  I thought I’d found my soulmate again, the person who made me complete.

But here I was, wrong.  And once again, I was alone.

 The bell rang and people drifted into the hallways, chattering and laughing as they hurried to class.  I drifted with them even though I couldn’t even remember what class I had next.  It didn’t seem important.  How could I focus on math or literature or French or biology when Iris had torn my heart to pieces?

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


On the far side of the ring, we have Turin Turambar who represents the Romance genre.


Christianne jumped out as soon as the towtruck had pulled up before the garage. She didn’t wait to see which bay the driver dragged her useless car into but headed straight for the office door.

The sign on the frosted glass indicated the place would be closing in ten minutes. The streets were deserted. She was the only fool still out in Geneva’s old town this late on a weekday.

A tiny box of a lobby led directly onto a wide staircase. There was just space for a spindle-legged table holding a bowl of business cards and an umbrella stand perched by the bottom step. The place looked more like her oncologist’s than a mechanic’s entrance.

Both were equally unpleasant places at this hour. Of all the nights to be stranded by the roadside, the end of an exhausting day of testing was hardest to deal with. And there were still days of waiting to come, before she received her results.

“There is no luck,” she muttered, and trudged up the steps. “I’ll make my own way.”

At the top, she squared her shoulders and pushed into the office, perhaps more forcefully than she’d intended. The frosted glass rattled in its frame as the door swung shut behind her.

# # #

Here was something new.

Rory looked up from unpacking his takeaway Thai and studied the latest arrival. He stayed open late on Wednesdays because he couldn’t very well go to the gym every night and being the only garage available brought in enough additional income to make it worth his while. Nothing on at home, in any case, since the divorce. He might as well eat his takeaway here as plonked on his sofa in front of the TV.

And the clients were marginally more interesting.

He stopped crinkling the plastic bag, still clutching a clump of chili sauce packets, and pretended to frown down at his phone as he studied the newcomer from under lowered lids. Tall – she was nearly half a foot taller than his wee receptionist Melisande – and about his age. Though as he neared 40, everyone had begun to look the same age, except for socialites – like his ex – stretched taut by facelifts. Anyone younger than 30 seemed like a kid. When had he gotten so middle-aged?

This woman didn’t look as dowdy as he felt. Her shoulders sagged as she leaned over to fill out the form Melisande handed over, and her hair had that end-of-day draggliness, but her mouth was soft, and turned up at the corners – life hadn’t given her a permanent frown. She was trim, too, though it was hard to tell under layers of winter clothing. But her legs were slim, long and tapering into lace-up calf boots with a slight heel. He had a sudden image of her striding up to him in those boots – and only those boots – and pushing him back into his chair.

“I’ve been a very bad boy, aye.”

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

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.

Finally, in order to keep this contest going AND GROWING, I'm asking folks to donate to the cause on my Ko-fi account. Let me assure you, 100% of the donations will go towards the contest prizes for this year and next!

We’ll be back tomorrow with bout #12. Please help all our writers out by telling everyone you know what is happening here and encouraging them to come vote.

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


19 comments

  1. The Sparky One, you created quite a fraught moment with some strong images. I was a bit surprised to find that this was a scene during a schoolday, in a school.

    Turin Turambar, you won with me today. I'm intrigued to find out more about what happens with the characters, who both seem to be facing crises worth exploring.

    Thanks to both!

    ReplyDelete
  2. My vote goes to The Sparky One. What intense emotion! My heart broke with that poor girl.

    Turin Turambar, I liked your piece too, but it didn’t provoke the same level of emotion.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Congratulations, writers!

    The Sparky One:
    You did a great job of showing me the heavy emotions that come with a breakup, but I had a hard time picturing the surroundings and Juliet's and Iris's ages. At first, I thought they were fighting in a basement, then I thought it was a church and they were both nuns. I was a little surprised that they're high schoolers in some sort of private religious school because I just didn't get that sense earlier.

    Turin Turambar:
    You pack a lot of detail into 500 words, but I didn't get the emotion I would expect from either a romance or a woman facing a medical crisis and a broken down vehicle. Rory definitely had more emotion, but mostly he seemed bitter, a bit sexist, and apathetic to me. I also question if Melisande needs to be in the piece at all. You spent more time describing Rory's dinner or the spindle-legged table than you did an actual human, so when she handed Christianne the form, I was surprised. Is Rory really gonna watch TV and shove his mouth full of takeaway Thai while his poor receptionist just sits there hoping for people to come in? You could have saved the words and given Rory and Christianne a chance to at least lock eyes if Rory worked alone on Wednesday nights.

    My vote goes to The Sparky One because the emotion was a gut punch I didn't know I needed.

    ReplyDelete
  4. The Sparky One has an excellent slow reveal of who the narrator is and why it matters. Very beautiful. "I sob caught" seems like a sentence rewrite that caused a wrong word choice.

    There's some info dump in Turin Turambar's in his age and her appearance to him. It feels like more words than it is, the collection of adjectives with not many action verbs.
    And then it just ends.
    That's romance? What, a middle aged divorced guy having a brief mental fantasy?
    Are the genres swapped???
    Because the first story was a romance. There was love, heartbreak, feelings! And the second was an ordinary day, what might be called contemporary. It certainly wasn't a romance. Sorry.

    Sparky One I would read more, I'm intrigued, and I enjoyed the 500-word journey despite the pain. 🏆 You're my vote today.

    ReplyDelete
  5. My vote goes to The Sparky One. It was a solid story and left me wanting to know more.

    ReplyDelete
  6. I'm voting a day late because I wasn't sure what to do with this one.

    The Sparky One: Sometimes less is more, and I think this piece could have used a little less internal dialogue and a little more grounding in the setting. I get that a breakup is an incredibly emotional experience, and you demonstrated that wonderfully, but readers should have a sense of where a story is taking place. The line, "I hadn't felt that way since middle school" yanked me out of the emotion--because middle school romances, while intense, are almost always superficial. Maybe "I hadn't felt that way since (insert name of middle school flame)" would serve you better. I'm more than a little irked by "I sob." Typos and cut-and-paste errors happen, but such a glaring error should have been caught in proofreading. If you make it through, please, please, PLEASE, proofread. And then, proofread again.

    Turin Turamber: The writing is technically sound, but I wasn't drawn into this piece. The way Rory checks out Christianne and slips into a sexual fantasy makes him come off as a bit creep, and there's nothing in these 500 words to make me like him enough to forgive him for it. Christianne, too, is a bit humdrum, just an ordinary woman with car trouble and a cancer scare. This piece is missing the emotional stakes I want a piece to have.

    So I guess The Sparky One gets my vote.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Sparky One gets my vote. I'm not a huge fan of either of these pieces, unfortunately.

    Sparky One: Your writing captures the intensity of a moment and has hints of creative imagery and various ways to use words to create emotions. I'm not a fan of the sentence fragments, although these could be viewed as appropriate to the content of the piece. The piece is rather dramatic and overdone in a way. I also would probably classify it as Young Adult rather than Contemporary Fiction, given the school setting and apparent age of the characters. I thought that more could be done in this short piece with some additional editing and work; perhaps more character development, history, setting could be established. I didn't connect to the characters, except that she's being dumped and is upset about it; there's nothing here that makes me like her yet. Today, the main reason you get my vote is because you've demonstrated your ability to draw out intense emotions through words and a creative way to use words. If you make it to the next round, I hope that you can use your writing skills with sharper focus and do a bit more with the words.

    Turin Tumbler: In fairness, the genre is not one I like, so I'm trying to evaluate this based on the writing. I found the writing style to be a bit plodding, like I was tripping over word clutter (the second sentence needs some work). I also didn't connect to the characters; they felt flat and sort of boring. You did a good job describing the setting of the mechanic's shop. I found the description of Christianne's appearance to be disturbing, but maybe that's the genre? It all felt predictable and flat, leaving me wishing there was a bit more sparkle to the story or the writing.

    ReplyDelete
  8. The first story was an avalanche of emotions and descriptions but told little of what had actually happened or why. I became interested for a moment when I thought the characters were nuns, and lost interest when they were revealed as teens at school.

    The second story: The descriptions of the tiny lobby, spindle-legged table, etc. etc. were not as compelling as a description of the main characters and her predicament would have been. In a 500 word story I want to care about the Christianne, not the surroundings. The guy came off as a weirdo, especially since we get to experience his mental evaluations of her. His words at the end did not help the story.

    Both stories had problems, and possibilities. Giving my vote to Sparky One.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Sparky One - There was some really powerful language in here, and I sense the pain that the protagonist is going through. But I was surprised that the focus of the piece wasn't on the fact that Iris had hit Juliet hard enough to knock her off her feet. What had elicited that kind of reaction from Iris, and why hadn't it changed the way Juliet felt about her in turn? I feel like the violence doesn't get the explanation it should have and ended up feeling normalized or even romanticized in this excerpt.

    Turin Tumbler - I thought the change in POV was well done here, and the technical writing was solid. My biggest critique was the Rory's little fantasy at the end. I know this is a romance, and heat is fine, but we don't know him enough at this point to know he's not a creep. My assumption is this is a larger dual-perspective work, so I want to root for him enough to stick around for a redemption arc.

    Turin takes my vote for this one.

    ReplyDelete
  10. Turin Turambar gets my vote. I can't say I'm a huge fan of the mindset of Rory but that in itself shows you created a character to like or dislike.

    The Sparky One, your story was good. I could see the scene up to the point you say it's two highschool girls. Physically I have issues seeing the scene through your words as being in the high school itself. If you changed the age of the girls to college age and set this on a campus, I would say you had this in the bag. As it stands, it's not as realistic as your counterpart. Good story though, please keep writing.

    ReplyDelete
  11. The Sparky One -- Do we have an unreliable narrator here? Perhaps a villian main character who doesn't know how to take no for an answer? The love interest has resorted to physical violence in the opening.
    "I sob caught in my throat" Pretty sure you meant "A sob" or something. What happened to the middle school soulmate? Perhaps this shows us what it is to walk in the shoes of a stalker?

    Turin Turambar -- Clever way to tell us she has or had cancer. The mechanic character didn't interest or hook me. It doesn't feel like a complete story, nor am I inclined to hope for more. Just not my taste. But I read very few romance books.

    The Sparky One left me with more questions and a desire for more, so that's my vote.

    ReplyDelete
  12. Catching up on some votes from this week! I think my vote goes to The Sparky One this week.

    Turin Turambar - This needed another proofread, and I felt like it was too short a piece for multiple perspectives to work well in it. I think it would have worked better for me if we'd gotten either a full set from Christianne or a full set from Rory, but having both left me with too little development from either. That said, I do think the description was really well done, and to be quite honest, if you were going to shift this to one perspective, I definitely found Rory to be an interesting character that I wanted more from.

    The Sparky One - this definitely needed another proofread. I think it might also be helpful to give a few more hints towards the high school setting earlier in the piece. I sort of felt like the reactions might have been overblown (without knowing the whole story) but finding out these were two teenage girls fixed a lot of that for me. But I felt like the emotions came across really strongly, and I'd be interested to go back in time a little bit to see this relationship of theirs and how it has developed.

    ReplyDelete
  13. Congratulations to both writers! This was a tough round - Turin gets my vote.

    Sparkly One - I was initially drawn in by the intense emotion and a great way of describing how physical emotional pain is. Unfortunately, there wasn’t enough other information in the story to make me feel those emotions, too.

    Turin - I liked being inside each characters head, and you included a lot in so few words. I would have liked to see her reaction to him when she first saw him, and I did get some creep vibes from him - but that could certainly leave room for character development in a longer piece.

    ReplyDelete
  14. The Sparky One -- Lots of emotion, but no setting or character info to latch onto. Leaving the reader asking questions can be great, but this leaves nothing but questions until there's only a hundred words left.

    Turin Turambar -- The opposite of Sparky. Lots of description. It's all setting at first, which might work in a novel but was too much here. The POV switch was a risk, and the last line from the mechanic might have served better as internal monologue. To actually say that out loud is not romantic.

    Vote goes to Turin Turambar.

    ReplyDelete
  15. Congrats, writers!

    The Sparky One
    An emotional scene that’s mostly ell written with some good imagery. But I had no idea the characters were supposed to be teens until almost the end. They’re not acting like teen girls and the narrative made them seem like middle-aged women. More description of both characters and setting would help me care about the characters. My other comment is that I wish I knew exactly what Iris said. Julia says the words were solid and hurt more than the hit, but you never tell us exactly what Iris said.

    Turin Turambar
    I like romance I think this “meet cute” is off to a good start. Dual POVs are pretty common in Romance so I didn’t find the switch at all unexpected. I connected with the characters and thought the impending romance was nicely teased. Smooth writing and description. Enough internal dialogue to get to know each character's live a little bit. I thought Rory’s internal fantasy was pretty standard practice for a man attracted to a woman. Though, the last line was a little weird. Did he say that out loud?

    Because I had an easier time connecting with the characters and following the story, my vote goes to Turin.

    ReplyDelete
  16. Congrats to both of you! My vote is going to go to Turin, just because I could see myself reading more of it.

    ReplyDelete
  17. The Sparky One: I liked the piece overall, but wanted more concrete detail about the nature of the conflict. What pushed Iris over the edge into overt violence? What had Juliet done or said to provoke the violence. I didn't connect well with the paragraph about the alcove. I didn't see it as a place of sanctuary, so I think that could be trimmed to give more context of the current conflict. IMHO.

    Turin Turambar: Good pacing, good detail for the most part. The comparison of the mechanics and the oncologists was good, but then the line about them both being unpleasant "at this hour" took me out of the story, since I wondered when they would be happy places to be. Also, Rory seems to be alone, but Melisande gives her the paperwork to fill out, which was a little confusing.

    My vote goes for Turin Turambar.

    ReplyDelete
  18. Replies
    1. Testing - replying as this is my comment to validate it as comment showed as "unknown"

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