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WRiTE CLUB 2021 - Cage Bout #5

Reminder - You can follow along with all of the bout results right HERE.

The cage bouts continue in WRiTE CLUB and here's a reminder of how that works. Instead of two writers competing against one another, now it's THREE AT ONCE. But there's a twist. All of the winners have been given the opportunity to absorb the feedback offered during their preliminary round and submit an edited version of their original submission. As a writer, utilizing feedback can be a tricky proposition - because frankly - not all feedback is equal. This is our chance to see how the contestants used that feedback (if at all).

The readers/voters are to choose one of the three to move on.  There will be six daily bouts (Mon-Sat), and no saves this time.

Remember, one of the real values of this contest is FEEDBACK. So, please be respectful with your remarks!

Even though there will be a different bout every day (M-S), because of time restrictions the voting period will be staggered somewhat, so please pay attention to the dates posted. The voting for today’s bout will close on Thurs, Jan 20th (noon central time).

The piece that garnishes the most votes will move on to the next round where they’ll face a different opponent with a BRAND NEW WRITING SAMPLE

As always, in case of a tie, I’m the deciding vote.

Here 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.

Here are the contestants for this first cage bout (in random order). First up is -


She kept her nose low to the ground as the sharp, acrid odor of blood grew stronger above the rancid stink of the alleyway garbage. Music pulsed and thumped from one of the nearby buildings; the driving beat echoed the mad pounding of her heart.

Carly let out a low huff. Closing her eyes, she shut out everything but the scent and let her nose guide her. She placed one hand-like forepaw in front of the other—only to pause when the scent of death pressed the faintest kiss upon her muzzle, like a whisper of a forgotten memory. She opened her eyes and immediately flattened her ears as her hackles raised. A low whine escaped from between her bared teeth.

A woman lay face-down in the alleyway, limbs splayed at awkward angles across a pile of seeping garbage. Half-congealed blood oozed into the foul-smelling puddles. Carly backed away, jerking her head up and scanning the alley. This was bad. If anyone saw a werewolf alone in a dark alley with a dead body…

But the woman could still be alive. She might need help. Or, worse, the killer might still be lurking nearby, waiting to pounce on someone else. Carly’s lips pulled to one side in an almost human grimace, and she rubbed at her half-morph’s muzzle.

“Oh, man,” she muttered as she reached out to delicately touch the body, minding her claws. “Miss?”

It was cold. Oh, God, it was cold! She shuddered all over, shaking herself like a common dog as she stifled a gag.

“Aw, shit.”

Carly blinked at the unfamiliar voice.

“They actually killed me. Un-freaking-believable.”

She turned, casting a glance over her shoulder—then stifled an undignified squeal. A pale, half-translucent figure stood over the corpse, hands on her hips and annoyance written across her face despite the blood that spattered her torso. Her hair, vague and colorless, cascaded in a frizzy wave matching the body that lay sprawled in the trash.

The woman lifted her head to look at Carly. She quirked an eyebrow, then let out a groan as her shoulders slumped.

“A werewolf? That’s just perfect. Absolutely not what I needed today,” the ghost grumbled, shaking her fist at Carly. “Go on, get, you rotten scavenger!”

Carly frowned, fur bristling at the insult. She forcibly un-tucked her tail, then cleared her throat and pushed up to stand on two legs.

“I’m not a scavenger. By the way, uh… you’re… You seem to be, er—”

“Dead? A ghost? Yeah, thanks, genius. Wait; you’re the first one that found me, right? And you touched me?”

“Um. Yes?”

The ghost let out a stream of curses, half of which Carly was sure she had invented on the spot. She then kicked at her own body, only to let out a half-strangled scream of frustration when her foot phased through the corpse.

“All right, wolfy, ears up,” the ghost said, pointing at her. “We’ve got a lot to do.”


Contestant number two, representing the YA Contemporary genre and not plain Contemporary as listed in the first bout, is The Sparky One

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.

A 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?


And finally, number three is ch3ru

“So we should probably talk,” Leah says, cutting into her stack of pancakes.

Sol blinks, shutter-fast. We should talk. A particularly charged human expression with only one possible outcome—conversation—and that is where Sol's knowledge ends.

A syrupy square approaches Leah's open mouth in slow motion.

Five seconds elapse, during which Sol's internal temperature sensors trigger a critical failure warning. Leah finishes chewing, swallows. Smiles at Sol. Sol's hands spasm around their empty can of electro-plasma, metal scraping metal. Mechanical error? Thirty seconds of audiovisual data are automatically dumped for analysis.

“Ummm,” Sol hums, overwhelmed. The results for every possible topic that could follow the phrase we should talk are too numerous and varied to be processed in five seconds of socially acceptable silence.

“Why don’t I start?” Leah offers. “Alright, well. I won’t lie, last night was pretty mind-blowing. That's probably an understatement, but. Whatever. You were there."

"I was," Sol confirms smoothly, just to get a reaction out of her. Leah bumps their feet under the table, grinning. Sol nudges her back.

"Anyway. I like someone who can beat me at cards, and doesn’t run out of things to say.”

“I’ve been told I have a tendency to ramble, actually."

Leah shrugs. "I like the sound of your voice." She sets aside her plate, leaning forward to mirror Sol’s posture. “I definitely wouldn’t mind seeing you again, getting to know you better. Find out if this thing has legs, y'know? But if last night is all you want, no hard feelings. We can still be friends. If you want, that is."

"Friends," Sol echoes. They have several acquaintances categorized as 'friends'. Leah does not fit into that limited category—or any other previously defined category—even provisionally.

The only logical solution is to create a new category, using Leah herself as the initial point of reference.

Sol recalls Leah's patience as she taught them the rules to one card game after another. Trading anecdotes, Sol's stellar cartography for her musical studies. Her childhood in the colonies, surrounded by generations of family, for Sol's decades of solitary operation in uncharted space. The dance of her fingers across heavy piano keys, the frequency of her voice. Neon lights painting her bare skin bright colors in the dark. The texture of her lips…

"Did I break you?"

She's still smiling, but Sol registers the minute tension in her brow. Twenty seconds have elapsed.

"Undamaged," Sol assures her. "But 'friend' is…insufficient."


Sol reaches out for her hands. Warm flesh and blood in cool, malleable plasteel, slotting together as neatly as the newly-formed partition set aside in Sol's memory banks for all things 'Leah'.

"Meaning, I suppose I can endure beating you at cards again."

A laugh, and then a kiss that is barely a whisper of pressure against Sol's mouth. Leah falls back into her seat, picking up her fork with one hand. The other remains in Sol's grasp.

"Then I suppose I can endure more rambling about space dust." 


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 detractions.

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

Remember, we’ll be back Saturday with one final cage bout. Please help all our writers by telling everyone you know what is happening here and encourage them to come vote.

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


  1. My vote today is for ch3ru. I think you did a fantastic job of putting your feedback to use, and it really strengthened your piece imo.

    DoNotAwoo - you definitely improved upon your piece quite a bit as well, and it shows, it just didn't quite shine through as uniquely for me as ch3ru's.

    The Sparky One - I still felt like the setting of this scene and ages of the characters needed to be clarified more, I didn't get a sense that much had really changed in that sense.

  2. My vote goes to ch3ru.

    Ch3ru: I was indifferent to this piece before, but I like it a lot now. Subtly funny and I always like a bit of science fiction. More like this, please!

    The Sparky One: I'm just not interested in characters' emotional traumas, unless it's an interesting springboard to strengthening themselves, taking action.

    Donotawoo: it seems like a fun piece, but is taking a long time to get anywhere.

  3. ch3ru. Your revisions made a huge difference. The ability to take feedback and revise and improve is a skill and a gift that not every write possesses.

  4. I couldn't tell much of a difference between the original and revised entries of DoNotAWoo and The Sparky One.
    In contrast, ch3ru took readers' feedback under consideration and applied it in a way that took me deeper into the mechanics of Sol's programming, thereby creating a stronger connection with Sol, and though their perspectives, with Leah. If there were a Most Improved Award, I'd give it to ch3ru. Since there's not, I'm giving this writer heaps of respect and, more importantly, my vote.

  5. I probably voted for all of these in earlier bouts, but DoNotAwoo still has my heart -- and vote! I love well-done humor. Still, I congratulate ch3ru on the improvement. Your revisions cleared up a lot of my earlier confusion about the piece.

  6. This is a hard choice for me today.
    After a day of ponder, I have decided to vote for ch3ru.

  7. Congratulations to all three writers!

    Didn’t catch DoNotAwoo’s story first time around, I like the idea of a werewolf who has some kind of morals, and has to deal with what people will assume about them. I will say it was a bit confusing at first whether we were reading about a dog or a person before we found out it was a werewolf.

    The Sparkly One - I didn’t catch many changes here, the comparisons between physical pain and emotional pain are still great, maybe needed a bit more to ground it.

    Ch3ru shows great improvement with the revisions - definitely want to see so much more now!

    My vote for Ch3ru

  8. Vote goes to Ch3ru. Agree that the revisions helped.

  9. My vote in this round is for Ch3ru - revisions made the piece much stronger. Congrats all on making it to this round.

  10. Voting Ch3ru for this one. It was an original and sweetly funny story when we first read it, but these revisions made it so much stronger. Consider me #TeamSoleah.

    DoNotAwoo, I do love the dynamic evolving between Carly and the ghost and the world you've created with these creatures of the night. Would love to see where it goes. And the Sparky One, you have such strong emotional writing here; I'm rooting for Juliet to find her happiness (just not with Iris, unless she seeks some help for her violent tendencies).

  11. The Sparky One just, boom, 💘 right in the feels, you know? The other two are good, but the biggest emotional punch is there, ...and so is my votey vote vote.

  12. DoNotAwoo takes my vote today! I'm just wondering what will come next in this unexpected setup. Right when I'm thinking it's a werewolf story, it takes a fantastic turn. I would trim the smells in the beginning. Definitely effective for a werewolf to experience odors upon odors, but my human nose got a little overwhelmed and confused.
    The Sparky One--strong revisions. I'm still struggling with the setting (as in, inside a high school) and also wondering why there's a puddle indoors. Maybe the characters are in a basement?
    ch3ru--excellent use of feedback to strengthen the piece. Your changes were very effective, and I like the new ending. Very close second place.
    Way to go for all three!

  13. DoNotAwoo: the snarky dialogue of someone who had found themselves murdered was a turnoff for me.
    Sparky One: again I was disappointed to learn the character was in a school, and a teen. The reference to God made me anticipate nuns. Perhaps if that was changed, then the expectation of a more mature couple would not be a problem.
    ch3ru: good work on revision. You get my vote.

  14. DoNotAwoo -- What's the opposite of a buddy comedy? Enemies to lovers, maybe? This could go well, or it could be annoying to read (like if there's a point where I have to question why the werewolf doesn't just walk away or see an exorcist or something).

    The Sparky One -- Pretty sure you could sell this to Netflix right now, with just these 500-words. You have my vote.

    ch3ru -- This story does feel like it's currently rare, like the market isn't flooded by these characters. Yet I feel like it needs a little more of something to really get me invested. Feels like it's almost there, almost.

  15. Three great stories, but I've had a soft spot for ch3ru from the beginning. Creative and original.

    My vote goes to ch3ru.




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