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WRiTE CLUB 2012 – Round 8

How about we start things off by congratulating another winner? Our Round 5 victor is none other than Sissy Grimm.  Her opponent, Tipa, will have his/her piece returned to the pool for a chance at re-selection for a future bout, and as always writers who have battled once are welcome to submit a different piece if they so wish.

Before we move on I’d like to comment on the feedback offered in the previous rounds. In a word…exemplary! Reading these mini-critiques is an education in and of itself, and watching how a 500 word writing sample can be viewed so diversely with various elements impacting each reader differently can be truly enlightening. My goal for WRiTE CLUB (one of the may) is not to just provide an avenue for writers to display their work in a non-threatening environment, but ultimately help them improve upon it. For that to happen I put my faith in the fact that our reader/voters would speak up and offer their suggestions…and BOY…have you! Sometimes that opinion can be as simple as a vote, other times it can be almost as long as the submission itself.  Both are valuable, and valued. Thank you! I want to also thank you on behalf of the contestants (past, present, and future), for validating my trust in the nature of this blogosphere…and writers in general…and for helping mold their writing for the better.

It's time for that bell to ring again.

Here are this week's randomly selected WRiTER's.

Standing in the far corner, weighing in at 470 words, please welcome to the ring……..Silver

Introspective. That’s what one becomes when faced with overwhelming odds. Not scared. Not worried. Not even resigned.

I’m staring across the battlefield at the hordes milling about in the enemy camp opposite ours and I’m not even wondering if I’ll die. Hell. I know I will. But I can’t acknowledge this knowledge with more emotion than resignation.

The thought of dying doesn’t get me.

The thought that I’ll die alone does.

It has me shaking in my armor.

It has me looking at myself and thinking. Well. You definitely fucked up your life.

I’m eighteen, the greatest magician in this world. Leader of a country, facing another nation’s king. But I have no magic. I have no idea what I’m doing.

And I have no friends.

I’m leading a force of forty thousand men and I’m completely alone.

How could I let this happen? How could I push my closest friends away? Betray them? Let harm come to them? What sort of person am I?

One who deserves to die.

In torture.

Exactly like the agony I allowed my best friend to go through. No wonder he won’t come help now, even though he could. Even though I said sorry.

It came to late.

My officers stare at me, faces pale to green. What do they want me to do? We decided on the plan. Our allies agreed it would be the best way.

Do they want me to say anything?

Oh shit. They do.

I open my mouth to speak, but nothing comes out. I try again, and words flutter from my lips, dry and meaningless as autumn leaves.

“Thank you… for fighting with me.”

They nod.

“’Ts bin an honor, son,” my finest general says, voice shaking with emotion. It’s an odd sound, coming from such a huge man, but it’s gratifying to know he still counts me as a friend. 

I take his hand and slap his shoulder, then turn to the others. They expect me to say more. But Stor’s use of the past tense tells me now isn’t the time to soften my words.

I take a deep breath and strengthen my resolve. “Take as many of them with you as you can. Just make sure to leave them in hell before going upstairs.”

Stor and the others laugh. I smile a little and snap on my helmet, then slip outside.

My horse prances about, sensing my nerves, so I try to quell them, patting its cheek. It takes a bit longer, but at least the gelding is calmer when I do mount up. A horn blast sounds,  summoning the soldiers to arms. My officers ride up to me and a sense of camaraderie warms my heart a little. Not enough to give me hope.

But at least I now know I won’t die alone.


And in the other corner, weighing in at 500 words, let me introduce to you ……..Perdida

Harley Sebok had eyes like anthracite. Dark plaits lay over each shoulder and the hairline framing her face suggested the outline of the inverted base of a spade—the pronounced widow’s peak one she never bothered to obscure anymore.

Her unwavering focus often made it difficult for her subjects to concentrate, and Bates Banner was no different. She flashed a card with a red square before his face and dipped her chin. His eyes scurried from the card back to hers. He never should have signed onto the project. He’d thought his own concentration was up to the task but he’d been wrong. Instead of allowing a free association to link spontaneous emotion with color, all he could think about was the shape of her lips—smallish, thin but remarkably curved. One of her black eyebrows arced slightly.


He hesitated, but knew the longer he waited, the greater the awkwardness. And everyone knew truth spilled out of awkwardness like wine in a ravine.

“Hunger,” he blurted.

Harley’s eyebrow remained on its perch. “That’s not an emotion.”

“Sure it is.”

“Try again,” she told him.

He swallowed.

His face hung inches from hers. Every feature was penciled in. She was not a classic beauty. Or hell, maybe she was. All he could think was that signing onto this had been the worst idea of his life.

“Just relax,” she said.

Or the best.

“Look at the card,” she went on, “and just allow your filter to relax.”


She nodded. At least he thought the faint movement was a nod.

“We each have a filter, Banner,” she told him. “The thing most of us don’t know, though, is that we can relax it at will.”

He licked his lips. “How?”

“Look at the card.” Her voice was low.

His eyes ran over the shape from one clean angle to the next.

Red, he thought. Heart.

“An emotion, Banner. What are you feeling, right now?”

He could smell her. She smelled like—maple. Or was it vanilla? She smelled like rice milk with sugar and cinnamon.

He swallowed once more and his lips parted.

“Frustration,” he told her.

She lowered the card and took a sharpened pencil to her pad, scribbling his response. Then she laid the red square aside and flashed a blue triangle.

“Elation,” he said. Though he didn’t know where that had come from.

“That was better, Bates,” she said. The tip of her pencil glided across the sheet of paper and she lifted a third card.

He stared at it, jaw clenching.

“Beauty,” he said, finally.
“That’s not an emotion, Banner,” she responded with signature euphony.

He pushed the hair hanging off his forehead back with both hands.

“I don’t know. Riled,” he pushed out. “Competition. Validation.”

She fixed him with a placid stare.


“Try one more time.” She held the black spade in front of him.

“Hunger,” he said, again.

“Avarice?” she prompted.

“Isn’t that against the guidelines?”

She tucked in her finely-drawn lips.



So, how about it?  By now you know the drill, leave your vote for the winner of round 8 in the comments below, along with any sort of critique you would like to offer.  Please remind your friends to make a selection as well (and remember you must be registered on the Linky List to vote).  The voting for this round will remain open until noon next Thursday. Remember, you can throw your pen name into the hat anytime during these last six weeks by submitting your own 500 word sample.  Check out the rules by clicking on the badge below…then come out swinging!

Remember, here in WRiTE CLUB, it’s not about the last man/woman standing, it’s about who knocks the audience out!


  1. I love a good battle. My vote is for Silver!

  2. My vote is for Perdida. I am intrigued! :-)

  3. My vote goes to silver. I'm intrigued to know what happens.

  4. My vote is for Silver. Sounds like this is an adventuresome read. As always, the following are just my opinions. I suggest you delete the first and third sentences. Both sap the stakes by telling us your mc doesn't particularly care what happens. And, in the first the mc is not resigned, then is. Personal preference here - I dislike the use of the impersonal pronoun "one." It is interchangeable with the second person "you" so again, distances the reader from your mc. Also, while your mc might get introspective in such a situation, you are telling me I would be too. Probably not. If you take those out, I totally go along with the emotional journey of the mc realizing he's about to die, and even worse, alone. Otherwise, I suggest you add a bit more scene setting and a few actions amongst all those thoughts. You don't need a huge amount, just a few details to ground us in your world. You zoom over the scene with the generals - I'd love to see that fleshed out more. They are generic now, and the not feeling alone bit would have more impact if the generals came across as less of a device. Minor nits: assuming the mc is wearing medieval-type armor, there wouldn't be any "snapping" on of helmets. The upstairs line confused me - I had to read it a few times and still I'm not sure if the generals are supposed to just kill the enemy or make sure they go to hell rather than heaven. I don't like it that the mc "slips" out of the tent. As a leader of a lot of men about to die, he should be making an effort to appear confident and strong. And more scene-setting needed with the gelding. A groom would be holding him.

    Perdida - I was confused by the first couple of paragraphs. I had to look up that compact coal with a high luster - nice image, but I don't want to run to a dictionary on the first line = its job is to pull me into the story, not chase me away. POV took a while to settle. First it was the woman, then the man. Generally, it took me too long to figure out what was going on and I would have liked some hint as to whether the characters have a history. Mostly what bothered me is the lack of clues as to where the plot is going. Psychology professors often require the students in their classes to make themselves subjects in experiments = this story sounds like that. If there are some higher stakes, tell us what they are!

  5. Oh, Jeez!!! For me, this is the toughest choice yet.

    Both authors do well in establishing an immediate scene and pulling me into it. Each provides just enough backstory to ground what's happening without bogging down the pace or overloading the reader with boring info-dumps. Both present interesting characters I could connect and empathize with. Both establish tension, conflict, and set up intriguing story questions -- each entry left me wanting to know more, and that's the whole goal, right?

    So I compliment both writers: Well done!

    And so now I have to get nit-picky as a way to try and cull the weaker piece.

    Silver's first line does well at establishing a tone, creating tension, and rousing interest, but then the MC goes on to completely contradict it. He IS scared ("shaking in my armor"); he IS worried ("what do they want me to do?"); and he IS resigned and even explicitly says so just a few lines later ("But I can't acknowledge this knowledge with more emotion than resignation" -- and 'acknoweldge this knowledge' I stumbled over as a bit awkward). And while the writer does a very good job of planting excellent hints of the backstory that led the MC to this time and place, I have a lot of trouble accepting that an eighteen-year old is 'the greatest magician in this world. Leader of a country" and someone generals would eagerly follow. Much too young. But this seems to be a YA fantasy piece, and so the author perhaps feels the MC has to be young, although it damages credibility for me.

    Perdida's piece was excellent one-on-one tension, but it felt like a PoV stumble at the beginning. We begin feeling like we're zooming into Harley character, and then with the "He never should have signed onto the project," we're thrust solidly into the PoV of Bates where we remain for the scene. It just felt a little awkward at the beginning when I don't yet know where the story is centered. And 'anthracite' and 'plaits' are rather uncommon words -- a little off-putting right at the beginning, I think. I also hesitated at the 'like wine in a ravine' simile -- does wine pour faster in a ravine? Doesn't it depend on the size of the vessel it's coming out of, not what it's being poured into? And while I could easily identify with the MC, what he was going through didn't really seem that bad -- state your emotions when shown a card. Doesn't seem stressful enough to make me connect with why he feels why "he should never have signed onto the project" or why "signing on had been the worst idea of his life."

    OK, enough nit-picking -- The bottom line is that both pieces are very good, and I could easily justify voting for either one in spite of the nits I've just picked.


    I'm guess I'm going with Perdida. The charming banter in the dialogue is what finally sways me.

  6. Wow, this is a tough one. I was slightly drawn out of Silver's because I think it's historical based on the armor and horses, but the language, particulary, the phrase "you definitely f*&ked up your life" didn't sound authentic to any historical period. I'm not offended by the "f" word, it just didn't seem true to the setting for me (but I don't know much about the world yet, so it might fit in just fine).

    Perdida's left me with a lot of questions (why is she calling him Banner, then Bates, then Banner???), but ultimately left me more intrigued.

    So I vote for Perdida this week :)

  7. I'm voting for Silver. As a constructive criticism point, I'm not a fan of doing single statement paragraphs for the first half of the piece. You tends to lose the impact a single statement can make when you do that too much. That's my only observation. Still, I'm voting for the first piece.

  8. I think I have a crush... Silver appealed to my love of the dramatic mortal danger, I loved the humanity of it, the hints of humour, the expectancy. I agree with one of Heather Hawkes points, fleshing out the scene and generals could draw the reader in more.

    Perdida was confusing for the first half, but once the dialogue started it up the banter was good.

    Ultimately I vote for Silver.

  9. My vote is going to #1 this week, because I wanted to keep reading to see how the battle would turn out. I wanted to know why this MC was so afraid of the war... did he think they were going to lose? And why is he the "greatest magician in the land" and yet he has no magic? Not sure if I missed something there, but the immediacy and the pressure came through really well in the writing. One suggestion... fix the first line. "Introspective. That’s what one becomes when faced with overwhelming odds. Not scared. Not worried. Not even resigned." Scared and worried and resigned are exactly what the excerpt goes on to tell us the MC is feeling, no?

    The second story had great dialogue, but I just could not get into it and I'm not sure why. Maybe it was the first paragraph of description that threw me (what do anthracite-like eyes look like? Do I have to google it?), because it's supposed to hook the reader into continuing, but it was just hard for me to get into it. The writing here was also excellent, though. It's getting harder to choose every week!

  10. Silver gets my vote. Although, written in 1st person, you KNOW he's not going to die. Frankly, I think it would be stronger (and more suspenseful) in 3rd, but that's just my opinion.

    The second piece was confusing, and I just couldn't tell where the story was going.

  11. Argh.... These get harder every time! I vote for Silver.

  12. My vote goes to Perdida. I loved the terse dialogue between the characters and how agitated Bates became, asked to name his emotions while he's obviously trying to hide them. And I am wondering if Harley knows how he feels, if she's laughing inside and teasing him a bit. My only beef with the passage is I'd like more ordinary names. I thought Harley was a boy's name at first. And Bates Banner -- halfway through the passage, I couldn't remember which was his first name and which was his last.

    Silver's piece pushed me away with all the introspection, I'm afraid. The narrator is on the brink of battle, and he's looking backwards, filling in backstory and hinting at all kinds of interesting events that happened before this one. I did not feel engaged by this, especially since the memories were more vague hints than detailed events.

  13. My vote is for Silver.
    Disclaimer: I believe we are to judge what is written. 500 words or less. Therefore I try not to judge based on how interesting the rest of the story may possibly be but instead how strong is each individual paragraph, sentence and word.
    This comes off as YA Fantasy peppered with (somewhat anachronistically used) profanity for a sharper edge. For that it has probably done well. I wouldn’t know. YA is not my bag.
    I’m not a fan of this much introspection or a first-person narrative when it comes to fantasy. (yes, Kvothe pulls off first-person but he’s special)
    I’d rather know how bright the sun is, glinting off their swords. What shade of chartreuse are the banners, dancing their last dance in the morning breeze? What feeling does the protagonist get from the familiar sound of 40,000 suits of armor all clinking in anticipation?
    My biggest issue is that he is the leader of a country and the greatest magician in the world (“this world”… not Earth) leading 40,000 lives (presumably with families of their own) to die (from what it sounds) but he’s worried about the friends he pushed away? Why is he in charge? Why is his cliché ‘finest general’ shaking with emotion? Has he never faced death?
    I’m only going on about it this much because I would totally read on. I’m sure this is the ‘hook’, or the first 500 of a good book. But this contest is only for 500 words.
    And “acknowledge this knowledge” sounds like a line from a rap song.
    Where to begin… Anthracite? Would ‘coal’ have been too elementary a word?
    “Dark plaits… suggested outlines…. Inverted base of a spade…” What is going on? Is she a transformer?
    Bates Banner? Bruce’s brother? Would we like him if he was angry?
    “…truth spilled out of awkwardness like wine in a ravine”? What ravine is this? (No, really… Where is it, I’m going)
    I’ll shut up.
    Point is, I became too disoriented by obscure words and near-miss analogies / similes to follow what exactly was being told.

  14. I wasn't sure about the first story because the beginning was weak but as I read on, I felt the emotions of dying alone and just want to read on. I REALLY want to know what happens, and for that reason, I vote SILVER.

  15. Hmmm. Interesting selection this time.

    Silver. I felt the tension in your piece was a bit weakened because you are trying to build up to a huge battle and you're just giving the reader backstory, regret, info-dumping. Piling on Stuff that is interesting, yes, but all at once...and right before a battle? Probably not the best time for the reader.

    Perdida, I had a really hard time getting invested in the characters. I liked the dialogue, yes. But, I kept having to back up and re-figure out who was speaking.

    Ultimately I'm voting for Silver because the passage did keep my interest, and I do want to read on. This is such a hard thing to do, I commend you both!

  16. I vote for Silver. It feels like YA, and I generally don't read YA. The short paragraphs bothered me but it seemed to fit. I agree with the f word not fitting in the historical period. But it was compelling for me.

    Perdida's piece was great too, but it didn't take me anywhere. I got from it that the guy liked her and was nervous about it but I didn't get much more from it.

  17. I enjoyed reading both samples. However, this time, I'm going with Silver.

    There is a certain resignation from the beginning that may have been better handled as a lingering acceptance throughout the piece then allow it to be relinquished at the end. Perhaps, deleting everything that comes before this line would truly beef up the stakes

    I’m leading a force of forty thousand men and I’m completely alone.

    That line is very powerful. Beginning a tale with it has a striking impact on the reader. It's probably what truly enthralled me most of all. From there, the story goes on to show the lack of friends, what was done to lose and so forth. Then the ending of resignation in the leader's speech is more of a revelation and less of an echo of what was told at the beginning.

    For the second, I was slightly jarred from the beginning. My mind spent time trying to figure things out and my vernacular was pushed to the limit as I realized I needed a dictionary to understand some things (lol @ myself) But at least I now know that anthracite is a mineral :-) For some reason, it had me thinking of antrax but I didn't think that's what the author wanted to me to think of. Because of my initial jolt, I spent the rest of the read catching up. I must admit, the interaction between the characters was very interesting. Somebody certainly had a thing for the interviewer :-)

  18. CURSES! Another difficult choice!


    *this is killing me*

  19. Perdida all the way.

    Doesn't a picture of Harley just leaps off the page? I envision Marcia Gay Harden (with bangs), with a touch of Morticia Addams...

    Her subtle, understated contest of wills with Bates is so much more engaging than a curse-filled scene of battlefield carnage straight out of "Your Highness." (I don't mean to be insulting to Silver. Maybe this is fine for YA fiction, but I'm not a YA...)

  20. Out of a choice between two unexceptional options, I will vote for Silver. Perdida tried too hard in the beginning of their piece, and then threw in what others have called witty dialogue. I call all of it gibberish.

    Silver doesn't get off much better. As others have noted, the main character doesn't make a lot of sense. I get that this is nerves on the eve of battle, but to question everything makes the reader believe a little too easily along with the narrator that they shouldn't be in this position. It weakens everything, rather than presents a compelling story.

    Still, as I said, Silver was more readable out of the two. So hi-yo, Silver!

  21. Perdida ultimately left me more intrigued so that is where my vote goes.

    I felt that Silver didn't give me enough setting to know where I was - I wanted more description of the battlefield, of the scene around him to fit in with this internalisation.

    Perdida threw me out with the first line, and I found the POV confusing. However I am ultimately intrigued by their battle of wills and want to know what will happen next, where this will go, so she has my vote!

  22. I'm voting Silver this time. Good luck to both.

  23. I've got to vote for Silver. The character captured my attention immediately and held it throughout.

  24. Touch choice.
    My vote ... Silver.
    Best of luck.

  25. I liked them both, but Silver has my vote. So does he die?

  26. Silver has my vote. There was a bit of a hiccup in the beginning, but overall it had a nice emotional journey.

    Perdida's piece was fine with the clipped dialog, but there was too much of that without a break. Even with the non-dialog breaks, they didn't change the rhythm. The whole things slowed down as I read it, like the pauses between the dialog got longer and longer as I read.

  27. Although I think paragraph 2 a stronger opening, I still vote for Silver.

    I had trouble getting into Perdida's, too. I think it's how it started. Needs a better hook.

  28. I'm voting for Perdida's this week, as I thought the dialogue was interesting and the situation intriguing.
    I was more than a little confused by Silver's piece. I'm guessing it must be a fantasy of some sort...?? At first I thought it was some sort of 20th century historical...then saw "armor" and wondered if it was medieval...then the internal voice got modern again and I was totally lost. Learning he was a magician grounded me a little, but I'm not a fan of the uber-modern voice.

  29. I liked both ... again. #1 built nicely and by the end I really want to know how and why he messed up & what's going to happen. #2 I liked the play of emotions and the contradictions in the answers and the feelings.


  30. It's got to be Silver this time. Both were interesting, but I got lost in the first sentence on Perdida. I'll give you one line--"Harley Sebok had eyes like anthracite. Dark plaits lay over each shoulder and the hairline framing her face suggested the outline of the inverted base of a spade—the pronounced widow’s peak one she never bothered to obscure anymore."

    Whose point of view is this? We're seeing her from outside, which suggests it's someone else (who hasn't been introduced yet) but "she never bothered to obscure" is either her POV or omnicient, which the rest of the paragraph isn't. Until "all he could think about," I assumed she was the POV character, then I started wondering if it was really her POV and she was reading his mind. Introduce the MC first if you can.

    I know what anthracite is, so that reference wasn't a problem for me, but most people don't have rock collections.

    Both did an excellent job of catching my attention and pulling me along, but Silver gets my vote.

  31. oh, wow! holy cow, I love BOTH of these!!! Hmm... At first I wasn't digging the first one b/c I don't usually like battle books. But by the end of it, I was reaching for the next page to turn. I love the old general and the feeling of pending doom is palpable. Excellent writing. Now I want to know what happens???

    The second one just pulled me right in. What are they doing? Who is this girl? I thought it was a tarot reading or something, but clearly it's not. Avarice. Hunger--LOL!

    Uhhh!!! OK, I'm closing my eyes and voting... PERDIDA gets my vote. But great job both writers! <3

  32. I liked both of them, but I'm going with Silver. I just got more emotion from it.

  33. I have to go with Silver on this one. The beginning could have been streamlined a little, but after that it pulled me in and left me wanting to know more about the battle and the regrets of the mc.

    Perdida's piece had some beautiful imagery. But, I wasn't sure where the card reading was going so I was a little confused. I suspect if I knew more of the story line, I might have felt more connected to this snippet.

    Thanks to both of you for sharing your pieces!

  34. damnit! This is getting decidedly harder. No sooner had I decided I loved the first one than I read the second which captured me completely. If I had to choose which one to keep reading, it would be Perdida. But it was a tough choice. They were both very, very good.

  35. I'm voting for Perdida. What held my interest was not so much the dialogue but the description of the girl, and how the words make me feel the struggling attraction between her and the man.

  36. I'm going with Silver, though both were well done. The emotions were well captured in each, but I personally felt more while waiting to go to battle. The quiet strength that was reflected in it.

  37. Really enjoyed the voice from Silver. My vote goes there.

  38. Negative feelings about both. Silver

  39. I had trouble getting into both of them, but Perdida held my interest more.

  40. I wasn't enthralled with either really, but if I had to choose I'd say Silver, as it held my attention better.

  41. I enjoyed both, but the first one held more interest for me. The voice was stronger and definitely more action, but maybe too much introspection. But I'd still choose Silver.

  42. My vote goes to Silver... though the phrase "acknowledge this knowledge" did make me cringe, I was still more captivated by that story.

    Allison (Geek Banter)

  43. Perdida gets my vote for originality in descriptions - particularly the inverted base of a spade, which also ties in nicely w/ looking at cards - and the clever one-word-at-a-time communication. I didn't feel totally pulled into the MCs emotion, but I bet with earlier build-up between these two characters this snippet would be even more riveting.

    I do like Silver's piece too (though I personally wouldn't have used so many one-line paragraphs), and this was an exceptionally close one for me, but in the end, the pre-battle introspection didn't grab me as much as the other entry.

    1. Oops, forgot my two nitty pickies. In the first piece there's a "to" typo - should be "It came too late."

      In the second piece, I was confused by a name change - its seems the doctor switched between calling him Banner and Bates. Is his name Banner Bates? Or Bates Banner?

  44. Silver's sense of place and immediacy grabs my vote.

  45. Both great but I was more drawn in by Silver. My vote goes to them. :D

  46. My vote goes for Silver. The stakes are higher here, making me want to know what happens and what's gone before. The dialogue in the second piece is excellent, but I'm confused as to what's going on and what significance it has.

  47. My vote goes to Silver. I was still thinking about it long after reading the entry.

  48. I'm going to vote for Perdida. I was more intrigued by that entry, and felt the writing was tighter. Great job by both writers, though!

  49. Really good writing by both contestants. Each had excellent characterization and the people came across as real. I was intrigued by what was going on in the story by Perdida, but finished it a little bit dissatisfied that I never knew what was going on with the cards. I'm voting for Silver because there was a real beginning, middle and end to the story.

  50. Although Perdida's writing was more descriptive, I didn't quite see where it was going. Silver's writing, though simpler and with a couple of errors, suggests a story with a past and a future, one that I'm intrigued to read.

    So I'll vote for Silver.

  51. This was, as usual, hard. Silver, if your piece is taking place in the past you really needs to make sure the details of the world are well chosen to give a firm feeling of time and place. I know this is only an excerpt but it felt a little most of nouns were a little too generic and generalized, as if the whole story was lacking color, sound, smell...I simply wasn't given enough to actually see. The voice also felt more contemporary then I expected and at odds with the world.
    I felt your piece had a higher level of tension running through it and while it was a little confusing in the beginning, it ultimately gave me much more of a visual scene which I wanted to find out more about. I would have liked to know a little more about the reason there is great tension, but as this is an excerpt I'm not too worried--you got the tension across in a way that was felt, not just told to us. But the descriptive beginning really needs to be worked on.

    "Harley Sebok had eyes like anthracite. Dark plaits lay over each shoulder and the hairline framing her face suggested the outline of the inverted base of a spade—the pronounced widow’s peak one she never bothered to obscure anymore."

    "Anthracite" doesn't give me a quick enough image so it is actually worse than no analogy at all.
    "inverted base of a spade"--again takes too long for readers to rotate a complex shape like a spade in their heads and once we do we wonder why you didn't just say heart and so we question whether we visualized it it's working against you again.
    "The pronounced widow's peak one she never bothered to obscure anymore." needs punctuation work and the word "obscure" doesn't feel right.

    That said, I still got more into this story than Silver's so....
    My vote goes with Perdida

  52. My vote is for Silver. I think the writing could be cleaned up a bit. First he's not resigned then he is. "Acknowledge the knowledge" is a little awkward. But it was exciting and the tension drew me in.

    Perdida's piece has great potential but I don't know what it's about or where it's going. I felt like by the end I should have had some idea.




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