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WRiTE CLUB 2013 - Bout 4

Our winner of Bout #2 was Philangelus!  Congratulations, and you will now move into the playoffs which will being in approximately seven weeks after all 16 preliminary rounds are complete.

New to WRiTE CLUB?'s how it works.  Below are two 500 word anonymous (aside from the pen name) writing samples, read them both and then in the comments below tell us which one you prefer.  Leave a simple critique as well, if you can.  But in order for your vote to count in the final talley you must register as a WRiTE CLUB member on the linky list HERE.  Simple as that!  If you want to read the full rules, which includes how you can win a $75 Amazon gift certificate, you can do that there as well.

In previous rounds a good litmus test for deciding victory is whether or not a writing sample leaves the reader wanting more.  If nothing else, this should illustrate how we must each strive to adhere to this guiding principle in every phase of our work.  We've seen some awesome 500 word snippets, but what about the next 500 words...and the 500 after that?  We as writers cannot afford to coast, or compose filler to simply serve as a bridge to the next major plot point, character interaction, or dramatic encounter.  Our standards must be set higher than that and the luxury of complacency a foreign concept.  A tough task indeed, but one we all embrace willingly.

Are you ready for an awesome mid-week battle?

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

Coming to the ring, weighing in at 500 words and representing the YA Fantasy genre, please welcome to the ring……..Dirch McGurkin.

“Your mother sent me letters, sometimes,” Marcello said. “Though none in recent years.”

I sat up in my chair. “My mother? Bianca Saldana?”

He snorted. “Unless you have another mother I don’t know of, then yes.”

This . . . this flipped my world upside down. Why would my mother send letters to Marcello Saldana, who we were told never to speak of? Who had brought shame to the Family. “Why would she do that?”

“We were friends. I was glad when she married Dante and joined our Family. I had great love for Bianca and my brother. It opened a wound I thought long healed to hear of their deaths at the hands of the Da Vias.”

“Then why do you refuse to help me?” I leaned forward. “If you give me the location of the Da Via safe home, I will make them pay for what they’ve done to our Family. They will never forget the Saldanas!”

“At the cost of your own life, you mean?”

I leaned back. “If need be. I’m not afraid to die.”

He laughed. “No, of course you’re not! You’re, what, seventeen? And a disciple of Safraella. I’m sure you can’t wait for Her cold embrace.”

“You step awfully close to blasphemy. I am Her disciple, and She will offer me a fast resurrection.”

“And then what?”


“And then what? You die and are reborn and what of the people you leave behind?”

“There are no people. Everyone’s dead.”

Marcello widened his eyes in a way that said he didn’t believe me. He pointedly looked to the room where Les slept.

Les, really? Perhaps he’d be sad, but surely he’d get over it. I couldn’t mean that much to him. Right?

“Dying is the easy part.” Marcello got to his feet. “But what you grant for those you leave behind is much more difficult.” He glanced over his shoulder again to Les. “I fear you will destroy him.”


“He is too kind to you. He is too kind because he thinks if he is kind, people will like him. And if they like him, they won’t leave. But that’s not the way of things. You are like a flame and he is a moth, drawn to you, unaware if he gets too close you will burn him up.”

He’d hit dangerously close to my own thoughts regarding Les. But I wasn’t the only one to blame. “And you? You’ve given him a sword and taught him just enough to be dangerous with it, but not enough to know when to back away.”

“Things were fine before you arrived,” he countered.

“Were they? You never fought about it until I found my way here? You never threatened to stop training him, never held that over his head?”

Marcello was silent. He couldn’t deny it.

I leaned back in the chair and sighed. “Truly, Uncle, we’re both at fault.” He nodded slowly. “We’re Saldanas. Sooner or later we destroy the ones we love.”

And entering the other corner, weighing in at 499 words and representing the YA Paranormal genre, here is ……..Word Huntress.

I hate California. Too many people. Too much heat. Too much sun.

I prefer night, if I have a choice.

Then again, I hate making choices. Always make the wrong one. If I’m taking a multiple choice test and narrow a question to two answers, I always pick the wrong one. Every freakin’ time. It’s a curse.

Not that I want to think about curses right now.

I swear the AC’s not working. My pits are getting wetter every second. At least the bell rings, signaling the end of torment until Monday, but it also means I’m stuck in a hallway crammed with more kids than a fire fighter would be happy with.

Don’t want to think about fire right now either.

By the time the crowd herds me outside, I almost want to go back inside the hated stone building. The blast of heat pounds into me, and I feel like I’m about to burst into a flame.

Not now.

A freshman or sophomore nearby is opening a water bottle. I snatch it out of his hands, pour half the contents in my mouth, then dump the rest onto my head. His jaw drops, but he says nothing as I toss it back to him. He fumbles and drops it onto the ground.

Jerk move, I know. Don’t care what people think of me. Stopped caring long ago. Not since…

I start to walk away but a beefy hand clamps onto my shoulder. Rolling my eyes upward, I see Jake Gallagher, some kinda hotshot on the football team. Thinks he’s all that. I think he smells worse than a bird carcass that’s been in the desert for a month. And he’s has more zits than Swiss cheese has holes.

“How’s it going, Isolde?”

I ground my teeth. Ever since our English teacher assigned us to read Tristan and Isolde, Jake thinks it’s hilarious to call me Isolde. Hate my name enough as it is, don’t need this oversized greasy slob giving me more reason to.

Normally I ignore him and walk away. Once he cracks his joke and his friends laugh, he lets me go. But today, his friends aren’t around. And for some reason, maybe the heat or maybe I’m just sick of taking his crap, I decide enough’s enough.

“The name’s Tristan.”

“Oh, excuse me. Trisha.”

“Now that’s a laugher. Bet it took you all night to come up with that one.”

His beady eyes look even smaller as the puffiness around them grows larger and redder. “What. Did. You. Say. To. Me?”

By now, a few classmates who haven’t boarded buses yet or left the school grounds to their fancy cars their rich daddies bought them or—gasp—walked home like I do are forming a circle around us. A bead of sweat congeals with others as it trickles down my back and becomes a wad. I wipe it away and flick the wetness off my hand. Toward Jake.

He lets out a massive roar.


*shakes head* Another tough choice for you.  Before you leave your vote for the winner of round 4, make sure you’ve pre-registered to vote here. Any sort of critique you would like to offer are most appreciated as well.  Please tell everyone you know about WRiTE CLUB and get your friends to make a selection as well.  The voting will remain open until noon next Wednesday.

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


  1. Here we have two young first-person MCs in what appear to be fantasy or paranormal situations, each with evidently some degree of inner turmoil, and in both cases there are references to heat and fire.

    Dirch McGurkin gives us some nicely-flowing dialogue about a young person intent on revenge against the Da Vias for the death of (his? her?) mother and what they did to "The Family" (and an aside -- personally, I find the capitalization more off-putting than accentuating, especially in the context of dialogue). I like some of the exchanges, and the reference to the MC being like a flame that draws Les like a moth. I do think some of the modern voice is occasionally a little out of place in this setting ("You're what, seventeen?" "This flipped my world upside down"), but overall the dialogue works well at establishing character and backstory, and I love the last line.

    Word Huntress also gives a young MC who has hints of his own flame-like quality -- feeling like the AC is not working, not wanting to think about fire, and feeling like he's about to burst into a flame. There is the a little too familiar outsider teen angst and the bullying of the star jock, but it clearly establishes tension and conflict. Here the voice is also modern but so is the setting, so it fits much better.

    This is a tough vote for me -- I find the writing is pretty evenly matched, so for me I think it comes down to which character am I more drawn to? Which one seems more intriguing, and which one would I want to spend more time with in that intimate first-person experience, and so which story would I be more interested in reading more? Given these criteria, I'm going with Dirch McGurkin -- I think there's a little more depth, complexity, and subtlety in the character, and less self-centered jerkiness (the taking of the water bottle from the younger kid was to me almost as arrogant and distasteful as the bullying the MC faces from Jake).

  2. Can I just vote here? Tough choice. Both are strong. I'll go with the first one.

    DL, I hope I might interest you in joining my bloggers' book club. Here are the details:

  3. I'm going to go with Dirch McGurkin. Though Word Huntress was very strong too.

    For me it came down to not feeling very grounded in Word Huntress's piece in regards to the setting. Also the MC was pretty negative about almost everything so i had a hard time empathizing.
    But seriously, it was a really good excerpt.

  4. I'm also going with Dirch McGurkin. I enjoyed both entries, but the Word Huntress entry left me a little discomboulated. I had a hard time attaching any depth to the character, even though his voice was strong.

    Great job combatants!

  5. Oh no! I like them both!

    I like the snark and attitude of Word Huntress and the casual ease of reading it, it didn't take me long at all to get into it. Felt familiar, like reading a friends email and I liked that. Very fond of that kind of style. Wanna know how he'll handle the bully situation with his hunted at powers? Maybe? Anyway, I felt the last line "Bet it took you all night to come up with that one." As a bit cliche, like an early 90s after school special come back. And never a fan of the broken sentences in books. with. the. periods. I think you can do better with "he growled" or something to give a better sense of hit demeanor and tone there instead of using that but that's just a personal opinion!

    The second one gave me more of a taste for the world, stakes, motivation, etc instead of just hints and the dialogue was pretty dang good! I really have nothing much to critique at all.

    Tough tough choice, and very close, but going to have to go with Dirch!

    Both were fabulous and you guys are great! I'd read both in a heartbeat!

  6. Another difficult choice.

    Dirch's entry shows quite a bit of subtlety and confidence as a writer. I'm not sure if it was the best part of the book to start from--it throws you into a scene without grounding you--but besides that it was a very good entry.

    The only line I really didn't care for was the "This...this flipped my world upsidedown." The line feels like the narrator is stumbling with emotion trying to find the right words and it feels a little awkward--even in the first person POV. The line could also be read another way-if the author was intending the line as a way of emphasizing that "This" was finally what turned the narrator's world upside down. But, in this case it might be clearer to simply drop the repeated word, and italicize "This".

    Word Huntress's entry is likewise well-written with plenty of intrigue and tension. Some of it may have been just a smidge predictable--I feel like I've read a lot of school bullies lately-- Ultimately, I was a little more attracted to the subtle writing in the first entry.

    My vote is for Dirch.

  7. Dirch has some great ethnic allusions that I found intriguing. The dialog was well handled and revealed just enough for me to want to know what had happened and to wonder what might happen.

    #2 was also well-written, but the characters didn't engage me as much as #1.

    My vote goes to Dirch.

  8. It's hard to judge two pieces with a similar skill level but very different voices. I thought both authors were faithful to their genre and succeeded in capturing the voices they wanted. But Dirch's style was a little more understated, which in my opinion is harder to get right, and left me more curious about what will happen next. So I'll go with Dirch today.

  9. I found both to be incomplete. The extra commas in Dirch's slowed my reading. In Huntress there was a little too much of hatred and those word counts could have been used to finish the story more. Overall, I was more drawn to Dirch.

  10. I echo Tammy, I felt like I was missing something important to the story with both of them.

    With Dirch's it seemed like we were dropped into the middle of something and without knowing who the Da Vias, Safraelle or the other names were or what they meant it seemed like I was eavedropping on a conversation where two people are working very hard to name drop people I've never heard of. And I agree that the "This... this turned my world upside down" took me out of it.

    And in Huntress' she was clearly referencing something supernatural- does he burst into flame when she's angry? Is that why he grabbed the water? But not having that come out at all was frustrating. I agree the overall word count could have been used more effectively in htat regard.

    In the end I think I have to pick Word Huntress. Yeah, he's angry and all but I lived through my teenage years and I can relate to that kind-of self destructive behavior.

  11. I vote Word Huntress here.

    I really had difficulty getting into the first piece because there was so much dialogue. I just couldn't get a feel for the characters. Probably if I'd read what came before, it would be fine. But just going on this excerpt, I had trouble staying with it.

    The second piece had me at "I hate California. Too many people." There were a few too many choppy sentences --it started to lose its effect-- but overall I had a sense of that character. I was able to be more a part of that scene than the first.

    Good job to both, though.

  12. Hmm, that is tough... The voice was a little shaky in each piece (along with the tenses in the second piece), but I'm intrigued by the ending of the second. Voting for Word Huntress.

  13. My vote goes to WORD HUNTRESS

    First, I want to say that this was the most difficult choice, so far. I really like both of these pieces. Dirch really uses the dialog is such as way as to move the story along and show strong emotion. There is some mystery there, but hey it's only 500 words. I am definitely tuned in and want to know more.

    Huntress captured me with the quirky smart-ass inner dialog. I felt a strong sense of character and voice. Although, I might not think much of this character, I had a perfectly drawn picture of who they were. I like that.

  14. I wasn't crazy about either one of these. I feel like I've read similar dialogue in the first one several times, and the second one? Didn't grab me, but if I were continuing, I'd go with Word Huntress.

  15. I love WRiTE Club because I get to enjoy these excellent pieces. I hate WRiTE Club because it hurts to choose one when I genuinely enjoyed both. :( Alas, it must be done. I vote for Dirch McGurkin with originality being the tipping factor.

    While reading, I'm not looking for nitty picky things (because I want to read as a reader not an editor) and will only note when something jumps out at me in case it helps the WRiTEr in editing for a future round. I noticed a couple typos in Word Huntress' piece: "At least" should be "At last." Also, fire fighter is one word. In Dirch's piece it sort of bothered me that Family was capitalized, but I can see why it was done.

  16. I think this was the hardest bout yet! Both pieces had so much to like about them I hate to have to choose.

    The first piece was well-developed, introduces characters I can already see and hints to a strong plot.

    The most intriguing part of the second piece is my suspicion that Tristan has some power (or curse?) where he really might burst into flame at any moment. I felt that in his rush to leave and his probably uncharacteristic grabbing of a younger kid's water bottle.

    Overall, I was more drawn to Dirch's piece. Great job, both of you!

  17. I enjoyed the voice in the Word Huntress' piece, but I felt more depth of emotion in Dirch's. Also, very interesting and intriguing hints at the world-building, and I'm a sucker for fantasy! Dirch. :)

  18. My vote goes to Word Huntress. At least with that story, I understood what was going on. I have no idea what the story is about in the first. It's probably me, though - I'm not a fan of fantasy.

  19. While Word Huntress' MC had quite the personality (though extremely negative at this point in the story), I feel Dirch's piece was a bit more intriguing of a selection to highlight. My vote is for Dirch.

  20. I'm going with Word Huntress this time. I didn't feel like the dialogue in the first piece read naturally, and I was confused at what was going on with so many character names being dropped around.

  21. I want to comment before reading others' comments to give my most honest response.

    I read the pieces, let them resonate for a day then read them again. I knew from the start Dirch McGirk had my vote but there were issues.
    Dirch, I don’t know what’s going on in this scene but I can overlook that because of the confidence in your writing.
    Protagonist knows he’s talking to his uncle. He/she had no reason to state mother’s full name to him. Snarky response didn’t justify dumb question. Also, I don’t see how Protagonist’s age has anything to do with the comment about death, Safraella and Her embrace. But maybe with more than 500 words we’d learn how age is relevant in that religion.
    You’ve done pretty well at getting in the protagonist’s head, telling us his/her thoughts. Just make sure you aren’t repeating yourself – [Why would my mother send letters to Marcello Saldana… “Why would she do that?”] I think questions that are a response to an urgent emotion, confusion in this case, happen automatically, they aren’t thought then spoken… that makes it seem more contemplative than alarmed.
    My biggest issue with the piece is that I don’t know what’s going on. (I expect other people’s issue to be that you haven’t properly introduced the protagonist) It feels like we have middle only, not beginning or end. But because we’re blatantly told mom’s name and protagonist’s age, it also seems like it could be the beginning.

    Word Huntress, your piece confused me more than Dirch’s despite telling us exactly what’s going on.
    “I hate California … … I prefer night...” Those aren’t mutually exclusive. Nights happen in California, too.
    I have to assume the expression about kids and a fire fighter is referring to a fire hazard. It seems to be there to inform us the protagonist doesn’t want to think about fires. But I think it could have been stated more effectively.
    “…I'm about to burst into flames. Not now.” Sometimes the protagonist bursts into flames??
    I suggest specifying the subject instead of leaving it out. Even in tight first person. Even if it’s safe to assume it’s “I”. In dialogue it’s easier to leave it out and get away with it.
    I believe there are better word choices than “congeal” and “wad”. Unless his sweat really does solidify.

  22. Definitely a hard round and I felt the writers were pretty evenly matched. I read both, went away to think, came back and read again still unsure as to which way to go. Both of these had merit and I would read further on so congratulations to you both. But I have to make a decision so I'm going with Word Huntress.

  23. Wow this is a tough one. First of all, not my genre at all. But I guess if you go for which would I want to keep reading, I'd say Word Huntress. IF I were to read one of these, I guess I prefer the possibility of bursting into flame over an old family feud. Both had excellent writing skills, and used conversation well to develop character.
    Tina @ Life is Good

  24. My vote is for Dirch.

    This was a tough choice! Both pieces were evenly matched, which means my final decision is probably more about personal preference.

    I thought Dirch's piece was tight and well written. It flowed nicely, except for a few lines that have been mentioned by other commenters. I liked the voice. I had no trouble understanding what was happening even though I was dropped into the middle of the conversation. The story felt familiar, but I'd keep reading.

    Word Huntress was also great. I liked the voice, but it felt a little choppy to me at times. That might just be a personal preference issue. I had a harder time getting into the story. I don't know if this is the beginning or somewhere in the midst of the story, but too many questions about the MC were left unanswered for me.

  25. These are both good pieces. But I was more intrigued by the first one. I loved the ethnicity. Though there was no set up and we were plopped into the middle of of it, I felt more of a connection to the narrator in the first sample. I knew what she wanted and what obstacles she would face to getting it. I didn't know what the narrator wanted in the second sample, other than to keep himself under control and get out of the heat.

    My vote goes to Dirch.

  26. My vote goes to DIRCH MCGURKIN.

    The first piece seemed more interesting to me- it was clear from the dialogue that things (and apparently terrible things) HAVE happened, and that more things are GOING to happen. And the MC was taking an active role moving the plot forward- nice to have an active participant in the story. Seems like excitement and drama is on the way- and i approve :-)

    Word Huntress' piece wasn't bad, but i had problems engaging with the MC- he doesn’t seem as well developed as Dirch's(possibly because it’s the very beginning of the story) andthe piece seems more clichéd with the jock bully and all that stuff. I mean- nothing really happens except that he feels hot (also- took me forever to figure out the MC’s gender). Granted- the next paragraph appears to be action, but i wasn't really looking forward to it due to what i've said above. I also had some issue with the writing style (short choppy sentences) and word choices (big cats roar, not people) but those might be personal preference.

    Good job everyone!

  27. (just verified that i'm signed up on the linky- but under this name instead. oops)

  28. Not much I can add to what has been said. I vote for Dirch

  29. It's such a tough choice every week! These entries were very close for me. However, my vote goes to Word Huntress because I found it easier to read and follow. Although the first entry was well-written, all of the names and concepts made it a little harder for me to get into it.

  30. I'm going with word huntress.

    The dialogue in dirch felt unnatural. There was a lot of telling, not enough character development or plot development. We were told how to feel and told the story line, not shown. Characters don't often tell us the plot. Also, the characters did not move. I wanted to see what they were doing while talking. Maybe make a reference to scenery in the dialogue.

    I choose word huntress because I was really pulled in by the writing voice. I think the "not since.." was a little over dramatic but the inner monologue of the character pulled me in real fast. I liked this character quite a bit.

  31. I'm going with Dirch McGurkin. For some reason I started out thinking the MC in Word Huntress was a girl so I had to go back and re-read when I realized it was a boy. But even with the second read, it felt very flat.

  32. Definitely a tough bout; I had to re-read both stories a few times and I still had trouble deciding.

    I liked Word Huntress for her punchy intro; her story was clearer although the main character seemed scattered. Dirch McGurkin was more fluid and although the number of characters confused me a little, it did have an interesting backstory that I wanted to know more about. Dirch McGurkin for me.

  33. Word Hutress has my vote. I can see where this is leading and have a sense of the character and her world. Not impressed by the cliche's but I understand the writing flow and concept.

    Dirch; sorry, I have no idea where this excerpt is leading. It feels like an info dump with no connection to any of the concepts. There is strong sentiments and characterizations, so some editing could make the scene stronger. Be aware that any editing HERE may require editing before and after this scene. If you're not afraid to write out of sequence, I think you can develope a strong character plot from this excerpt.


  34. I vote for Dirch McGurkin. Both were well-written, but the plot of the first hooked me more. In the second excerpt, the character wasn't very likable. I'm sure that's just because we only get 500 words, but by the end, I had no desire to keep reading. Also, we didn't see anything paranormal in this excerpt, which i think would have helped as well. Great writing on both parts, though.

  35. I vote for Word Huntress. I really like the writing voice and the character's spunky inner dialogue.

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  37. Both were good, but one pulled me in faster and harder. I'm going with Dirch's piece. For me it flowed really well and felt very YA.

  38. Word Huntress is my first choice. I love the title and it's always nice to see someone stand up to a bully. Though you're right about it being a tough choice!

    I've missed Write Club!




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