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WRiTE CLUB 2012 – Round 34

Round 31's winner won't be announced until Wednesday, so we'll be getting straight to the contest today.  Remember,  the voting for all four bouts must end by Sunday at noon, so you will not have a full week to make up your minds as before.  A list of all 36 winners will be posted Sunday evening just ahead of the first set of play-off bouts on Monday.  If you want a complete breakdown of how the play-offs will work and the format used, you can revisit last Monday’s post here.

Here are this rounds randomly selected WRiTER's.

Standing in the far corner, weighing in at 463 words, please welcome to the ring……..Midnight Muse.

The hotel door has bars on it. Not a good sign. Inside, the night clerk sits at a counter behind bullet-proof glass. He’s slumped over, chin on his chest, eyes closed. He looks dead. Behind us, someone whistles from a passing car and follows it up with an obscene gesture. Cate’s fingers thread into mine and squeeze. We’re out of options. I yank open the door.

“Let me do the talking. Stay behind me.” I whisper. We can’t afford for her to be recognized, although in this part of town, I doubt anyone would notice anything but her diamond earrings. Cate nods faintly. Her eyes are glassy, her face blank. She shudders, but it isn’t from the cold.  She’s cracking.

The loser behind the counter jerks up as we enter, almost falling off his stool. Close up, he looks strung out or maybe hung over. His pallid skin is damp, he’s got sweat stains under his arms, and his pants are unzipped a little. I avert my eyes to avoid his junk and spy a wrinkled Victoria’s Secret catalog on the counter. Nice.

“We need a room.” I try to look confident and eager. Not really a stretch. Despite dodging bullets an hour ago, I’m twitchy just thinking about spending the night in the same room with Cate.

Night clerk slowly closes the Victoria’s Secret catalog on the counter like it’s a copy of Scientific American and he’s Einstein. “Twenty for an hour. Forty for all night.”

That’s most of what I have on me. I toss two twenties into the metal tray set in the counter, thankful I don’t have to bargain.

Night clerk stuffs the bills in his pocket. He flips a keycard off a pegboard behind him and catches my eye. His gaze flicks from me to Cate. I watch his eyes slide over her designer clothes, linger on her earrings, and freeze on her face. I hold my breath.

“You both legal?” he asks.

I exhale. He doesn’t recognize her. I ignore the age question. “Give me the key.”I keep my voice even, commanding, like Agent Dade taught me during one of his goofy “what if” scenarios he plagued me with since Tampa. Dade’s lifeless body lingers in my head. A sick realization washes over me. Dade knew they would find us again. How?

Cate slips another twenty in the tray. “Give us the key and get back to your reading.”She does air quotes around reading like a true smartass. Her face, though still pale, is hard. Just when I think I know who she is, she surprises me. I stifle a laugh.

Night clerk is not as amused as I am. His face turns red. He leans back and the room key disappears into his sweaty armpit. Crap.


And in the near corner, weighing in at 388 words, let me introduce to you ……..Scarlet Pimpernel.
The day I turned thirteen, the Sistine Chapel got erased.

The Pieta was sucked into space.

Remember Moses with the horns? Gone.

David vanished, from those perfectly chiseled curls to his sandaled toes, and—well...everything in between.

Caused quite a rumpus, as Nona would say...not that I noticed. See, I was gone, too.

And I have it on the highest authority (Nona again) that it was hours before anybody at all noticed that.

While the world's art experts (myself excluded, of course), various insurance claims investigators, the FBI's art theft team, and a lot of angry Italians were finding the quickest flights or trains to Florence to discuss possibilities, I was hurtling along beneath the streets of New York City, staring at a wad of purple bubble-gum stuck to the metro's dirty floor.

Until it was covered by a white, kid leather boot.

Another boot, not surprisingly, stood to the left of that one. Going up from there: a skirt, red, that kind of velvet that looks like it’s been crumpled into a ball and then sat on by an elephant; a thin waist encircled by a creamy silk sash; a scarf of black yarn, wound round and round and still hanging down. After that, all I could see was the pair of prettiest eyes that ever settled into the face of a girl, probably.

For credibility's sake (because who doesn't say that about their crush's eyes, seriously?), I'm not the romantic type. In school, I sort of just focus on, well, school. Not girls. And girls definitely don't focus on me. The last time I'd talked to one who wasn't related to me was... Hmm. I don't remember, actually. Weird.

But this girl was—I guess she was really pretty, but like I said, all I could see was her eyes. They were...well, they were brown. And...sort of...almond-shaped, I guess. Yeah. They kind of sparkled, but not really, they just gave that impression. Except it was more than a sparkling impression, it was like...glowing. No. That's not right, either.

It's all kind of hard to describe, you know what I mean? Like, try to explain the eyes in any Vermeer painting to someone, and I guarantee you fail miserably. But the point is this: they were looking right at me. And that was kinda amazing in itself.


New voters must sign up on the Linky List found by clicking on the badge below.  Remember, the voting for all of this week’s bouts will only remain open until noon on Sunday, October 21st.

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



  1. Midnight Muse gets my vote this morning. Everything about the scene was vivid and engaging. (Even the gross clerk with his unzipped pants and VS catalog.)

    The Scarlet piece sounds like an interesting piece, but the narration rambled a bit and didn't hold my interest. I gather he was disoriented, but I kind of wanted him to get to the point faster.

  2. I'm voting for Midnight Muse.

    Scarlet started off really promising but then stalled with rambly description.

  3. Midnight Muse today.

    I couldn't connect well with the second piece. The description was a little drawn out and a bit confusing at some points.

  4. Midnight Muse. Scarlett's 'eyes' description lost my attention.

  5. Scarlett captured my attention but it got too confusing. Midnight Muse got more intriguing as it went and I really thought I knew who the three characters were after just a few words.

  6. I really liked the piece by Midnight Muse. This entry was very smoothly written, with a captivating voice. The scene immediately pulled me in, and the author did an excellent job of sprinkling in the backstory without disrupting the flow of the scene. There are compelling story questions (Who are these people? What are they on the run from? Why is Cate recognizable and in designer clothes? Who was Dade and how did he get killed?), and they're set up in just the right way to keep them intriguing without being confusing. There's very nice tension established in the scene, the characterization is strong, and the writing has little to prevent the story from coming through. All in all, I think this is one of the stronger pieces I've read in this contest.

    The piece by Scarlet Pimpernel also has some compelling story questions, but here they're much more confusing -- how is the Sistine Chapel "erased" or the Pieta "sucked into space?" Who is the mc? I have a very hard time picturing the mc (male? female? what position are they in where they can see the floor of the metro and all the details of the girl, including her eyes, but not the rest of her?), so it makes it very hard to connect with the mc. The time-flow is a bit jumbled -- the mc is in the midst of being "gone", but then knows from Nona's authority that it was hours before anybody noticed everything else was gone -- are we in the scene or relating the past? The tension should be high with all this erasing and making gone-ness, but then the scene bogs down in slow paragraphs of what the mc can or can't remember, deciding if the girl is or isn't pretty, and describing what she does or doesn't look like. I think there is definitely a unique story idea here, and establishing story questions is wonderful in an opening, but we just need a little more grounding.

    So today my vote goes to Midnight Muse.

  7. Midnight Muse. Could really feel the tension.

  8. My vote goes to Midnight Muse. Although, I'd like to know who the POV character is (male, I assume). Cate could say his name or something. Otherwise, it was very well done (even in present tense, which I don't like, either).

  9. I vote for Midnight Muse. Great job writers!!

  10. Midnight Muse's piece read with perfect flow.

  11. I like both of these, but today I'm going with Midnight Muse. The scenario grabbed me more - but the writing was great in both.

  12. These pieces are both good. And I don't say that lightly.
    The voices of both are confident. Confident enough to attempt comical and yet vivid narration. And pull off both in my opinion. Scarlet's voice is hilarious. I think the boy noticed exactly the right details. He's description of the eyes was perfect, ending on the point which displays his personality and progresses the story. ("...were looking right at me. And that was kinda amazing in itself.") I can deal with a spirally kind of intro to a whole story; one that circles some main theme vaguely and eventually focuses on one scene. (subway scene) I have faith that you'll clear the rest up. The problem in a <500 word excerpt is that you're only showing your skill with prose and voice (some character development), not action, plot, etc.
    I have to admit, certain details made me feel that the author of the piece was female. This in and of itself is not a problem at all, until it is evident in a would-be boy's POV.
    "...creamy silk sash; a scarf of black yarn " this seems a bit specific for a 13 year old boy's perspective. Also, in my whole life, I don't think I've heard a boy refer to a girl as his "crush." Maybe it's just me. Ignore at your leisure.
    Midnight muse had good tension and again, a strong voice. As some will surely point out, I wasn't informed of the MC's gender and that causes some amount of distracting puzzlement. "thread fingers into mine" and "averted gaze from junk" make me think MC's a girl. "twitchy about sharing a room" makes me think MC's a boy (or, God forbid, another vamp).
    Bottom line:
    Midnight was a smoother read. But Pimpernel hit closer to home for me.
    My vote goes to Pimples!

  13. Midnight Muse had the stronger writing, but Scarlet Pimpernell was more interesting. It caught my attention immediately. The other didn't. There were a few pices that were interesting and made be wonder, but not enough to continue reading.

    Scarlet Pimpernell--make sure we know the gender and the approximate age of your MC somewhere near the beginning.

    Scarlet Pimpernell this time.

  14. Midnight's scene was engaging--it gets my vote.

  15. Both of these are excellent, but I'm voting for Midnight Muse. It flowed better. Knowing the MC's name would be nice, but it's not essential. I'm still going with this one.

    I got a little hung up right from the beginning of Scarlet's story because the statue of David is in Florence, and I believe the rest are in Rome. It's intriguing that the statues and the entire Sistine Chapel could disappear in an instant, though, and I'm curious about what the MC did, so if the writing were a little smoother, I'd be voting for that one.

  16. Odd's fish, my vote is for Scarlet Pimpernel! While I agree with some commenters above that the writing is not as smooth, I feel that with polish, this is a story I'd like to read. As always, I've got *personal opinions* about places to improve. I grooved with your premise but didn't like the way it was introduced. It made the mc seem omniscient to be talking about things s/he has no way of knowing in the moment - it didn't work as a prologue. Perhaps you could start somewhere else in the story - perhaps when the mc finds out about the disappearances. I have to wonder why everyone is rushing to Florence. I would think the meetings would be in the Vatican since with the exception of the David, it all belongs to the church and resides in Rome (although I'd rather the setting be Firenze - I love the city). For both writers, please don't be coy about the gender of your mc - it's distracting.

    Midnight Muse - I didn't vote for your piece because I felt like I'd watched this scene before in movies, books, innumerable TV shows. For this not to come off as a cliche, there needs to be a unique element in there somewhere. You have writing chops so I don't think this would be difficult to achieve. A nit: I was bothered by the "despite dodging bullets an hour ago, I'm twitchy..." line. It suggests that dodging bullets should have prevented the mc from being twitchy. Also, seems like the clerk is embarrassed and so would close the catalogue in a way I wouldn't expect of Einstein and Scientific American.

  17. While the characters described by Midnight Muse demonstrate the kind of stupidity that always makes me stop reading, it was the better piece of writing.

  18. I liked both pieces, but the writing in the first caught me more, so I'll be voting Midnight Muse today.

  19. Midnight Muse gets my vote. I liked Scarlet Pimpernel's, and would like to read more, but it was a bit too scattered at the end.

  20. Midnight Muse had me from the first sentence.

  21. loved both writing styles, but have to go with midnight muse

  22. Both pieces were amazing, but I liked the voice in Scarlet Pimpernel's a little more. And I found a typo in the first one: '“Let me do the talking. Stay behind me.” I whisper.' The period before the dialogue tag should be a comma.

    My vote is for Scarlet Pimpernel.

  23. Both were great and I'd want to read on in both of them. However, I only have one vote and I'm going with Midnight Muse. Great job to both authors.

  24. I really was getting into both pieces. I really want to see where Scarlet P. is going with the art tie-ins - that's my vote this round.

  25. Midnight Muse...
    The other was a bit confusing. I thought after reading it through that perhaps it was figurative...things didn't vanish, but stuff wasn't important after seeing the girl with the white boots. But then the FBI, etc...? I wanted to understand it more, because I liked it. Just not enough information to get it.

  26. I enjoyed both pieces, but Midnight Muse was just a bit more clear and direct, so that's where my vote goes today. But, I am interested to see where Scarlet's story goes next.

  27. Argh! They're both fascinating! I have to go with Midnight Muse, because I want to know what happens next. But the other one was just as intriguing.

  28. Dammit. I want to vote for both of these. But I can't so...Midnight Muse gets my vote. Intriguing, nicely paced. What tilted me to vote that way was that the Pimpernel's piece lingered just a hair too long on the girl. But I did love that piece.

  29. My vote goes to Midnight. Some great lines and the characters were well-developed.

    I think Scarlett's piece might have gotten my vote if this were a 1,000 word contest. No! I'm NOT suggesting that for next year. I just think there was perhaps a depth to her story that didn't have enough time to be developed in 500 words. Instead of intriguing me, the short piece as it stands didn't grab me because the end felt disconnected from the beginning.

    Well done writers!




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