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WRiTE CLUB 2013 – Bout 6

Help me to congratulate Dirch McGurken as the 4th preliminary round winner.

Here’s an interesting question, how much does reading the other comments/votes influence your choice? Do you read what others have to say before you cast your own vote? When you go to the movies, do you read the reviews beforehand? How about when you buy a book? Do you ever wonder how much of our opinion is truly ours, and how much is simply the regurgitation of the popular view? Do you fear becoming a pariah by expressing an opinion contrary to the norm? Not a fan of the Hunger Games (I’m not – kids killing kids for sport – really?), or do you think that The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo needed some serious editing (Yes!), but afraid to say so? Although the anonymity of the writers helps protect against favoritism, it still takes internal fortitude to stand your ground and make a choice that may not appear as popular if you’re reading other comments. All we ask at WRiTE CLUB is that you vote with your heart and mind, not someone else’s. 

Without further ado....

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

Standing in the far corner, representing the Dystopia genre and weighing in at 498 words, please welcome to the ring……..Gordon Holmes.

I ran. Faster than I ever thought possible. The one season I ran track in eighth grade I took every first place medal there was, and in the State Competition I took home several trophies. My top speed was a mile in 4.35.

I thundered past dead aliens and humans. I didn’t look down to see how much blood, brains, and guts I splashed through, or what color it was. I’d count the victims by the splotches of red vs orange on my shoes when I cleaned them later. This was the last pair of running shoes my mom bought me before the invasion two years ago, and as luck would have it, I didn’t outgrow them before she got her eighty bucks worth of wear and tear as she feared.

I own the road between Titus High and Check Point 12. No scouts have ever caught me, motion sensors are useless against my speed – and a home built EMP - and if all that fails I have a fully charged disrupter stolen from one of the alien generals about a year ago.

Some call it luck I survived as relay this long. But I’m Gordon fucking Holmes. Flash Gordon to my long lost coaches; Homey to my new gang of resistance misfits; JohnSon to the only girl that mattered to me before, and now. Inside joke, never mind.

I dash past Indiana mile marker 42 and the thrown together edifice of check point 12 looms ahead. “Titus 12, Titus 12,” I scream as I break into the perimeter.

Fifty yards in an no shots are fired. Relays are expected, and each outpost has its unique signature. Not original you think? Trust me, the aliens haven’t figured out something so simple yet.

The metal door rolls up and I throw myself spread eagle against the sensor wall. I don’t even want to know how the military obtained that bit of technology. It identifies my disrupter and in seconds I’m prodded by a similar disrupter to give it up.

I turn to face my captors, and they shake their masked heads and motion with heavily gloved hands to an entrance on my left. They know me by sight, the wall has confirmed my identity.

General Guff always meets runners in the same storage room. I give my report as I load up my backpack with as much canned and boxed goods as I can carry. We’ve a bit of a garden in the quad, and a pig and lamb housed in the former gym, so I only take what we can’t grow. The rule is you only cart out what fits in the backpack, but my eyes consistently roam to the three natty army blankets next to the salt packets.

At last the General is satisfied, and he leaves with all the guards. I snatch the blankets, tuck them protectively against my chest, and start my run back to Titus High. I’m Gordon fucking Holmes, and I always deliver.

And in the other corner, weighing in with a 495 word sample in the Narrative Non-fiction genre, let me introduce to you ……..Liva Humoir.

When the patient transporter lead us to the elevator, two nurses jumped on and hit the button for the OB floor. We lurched up, then bounced to a stop. I placed a protective hand on my swollen belly and glanced at the other occupants to gauge their reactions.

My husband Rick appeared a little green. But he’d looked like that ever since hearing I was in labor, so I didn’t think his pallor had anything to do with the elevator situation.

One of the nurses sighed as she jabbed the button for our floor. “When are they going to figure out what the heck is wrong with this stupid elevator?”

Okay, good to know this was a regular occurrence. I figured we’d be going again in a minute and everything would be fine. Besides, I had been shocked when my doctor sent me to the hospital after a routine check-up. Since I wasn’t feeling any contractions, I had the illusion there was still plenty of time.

Tick tock.

A minute, then another, then several more went by.

I started to get a little nervous. Although the curriculum in our Lamaze class did cover alternate delivery options such as home births, they strongly promoted having your baby at the hospital. I assumed that would mean a traditional birth with me in a bed on the maternity unit and my doctor there to catch the kid. While I allowed for some flexibility in my birth plan, I hadn’t accounted for the possibility of delivering in a crowded elevator.

At least I was lucky enough to have two OB nurses trapped in there with me. Sure, I would’ve preferred my doctor, who had attended medical school. But I took comfort in the fact that two full-time nurses probably assisted at three or four times the number of births an average OB delivered in a given year. I could be in worse shape. Right?

And that’s exactly what I told the nurses when one chuckled and said, “Well, at least you’re not in labor.”

When I got to the part about coming from my doctor’s office already five centimeters dilated, I realized I was in worse shape than I’d thought. By the look on the nurse’s face as she fixated on my protruding belly, you’d have thought she was confined in an elevator with a suicide bomber whose unborn baby threatened to explode from her body at any second, like a miniature weapon of mass destruction.

“We’re not OB-Gyn nurses. We work in Oncology,” the taller of the two said. “We’re just going up there to visit a friend who had a baby.”

Then the shorter one grabbed the transporter and shrieked, “Do something!”

My already faltering sense of calm took an irreversible nosedive. I think Rick’s did too because as I instinctively started my Lamaze breathing, I heard him doing the same. I wondered how long it would be before all five of us were panting in unison.

Nope, it doesn't get any easier!  Leave your vote for who you believe should win this bout, along with any sort of critique you would like to offer, in the comments below.  Please remind your friends to make a selection as well.  The voting will remain open until noon next Wednesday (July 31). 

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


  1. Gordon Holmes. Love the voice, love the setting. Not sure I or any other nurse I know would lose our nurse face so easily in that kind of situation, and though I see it's narrative non-fiction, that and the "just a nurse" attitude got me. :) Can't help the audience, I guess!

  2. Anyone who can make me laugh gets my vote...and Liva Humoir's had me chuckling.

  3. I enjoyed the voice in the Gordon Holmes piece but Liva Humoir definitely gets my vote today.

  4. I enjoyed both of these, but as a fan of nonfiction, I'm going to go with Liva's piece. It was humorous, it created tension and I wanted to find out what happened.

  5. Oh my, this one's really hard to decide, and I'm really trying not to look at anyone else's comments until I've made my choice!

    My vote goes to ........ Liva Humoir!

    I really enjoyed the first story, I really got into the feeling of a desolate place with the MC constantly on the run, avoiding aliens and getting by humans. I'd definitely read more of this.

    I could relate more to Liva's story though, having been through childbirth, and I can understand her panic and that of her husbands.

    Great job on both counts.

  6. My vote goes to Liva Humoir.

    Both pieces were well written, but I'm not a big dystopian reader, so I went with what I'd be more apt to read further.

  7. I really enjoyed both stories. Tough decision--
    I'm going to go with Gordon Holmes

  8. Tough again. In #1 the voice is great, but there are a lot of back story comments that seem to interfere. In #2 I felt there was more telling than necessary although I liked the tone. My vote goes to #1

  9. I rarely read the other comments before I vote, and even if I do, it isn't likely to sway my opinion. But I do always read all the comments eventually -- I find there's always opinions I hadn't considered or insights that I missed or even contrary thoughts that I find interesting.

    But on to the bout, and as usual, this is another hard-fought bout between two worthy contenders. If nothing else, I think the pre-judging this year has made the first-round bouts as tough as some of the later rounds last year.

    Gordon Holmes gives an entertaining view of a post-invasion world, and I couldn't help but smile at the "Flash Gordon" and "John Holmes" references. The writing is reasonably smooth, the character is compelling, and the story is interesting, although in a campy, cartoonish way. I mean, alien disrupters and EMP and technology where "the wall" confirms his identity and some kid in running shoes renders the alien motion sensors "useless?" But implausible or not, the snippet was an easy read and it promises a fun story ahead.

    Livia Humoir gives a much more mundane and familiar scene - the about-to-deliver mother stuck in an elevator. But here also, the reading is smooth, and the story unfolds with a confident, humorous voice. The first sentence has a "lead" instead of "led" to match the past-tense of "jumped on" but overall, the piece flows very well and does a nice job of pulling in the reader and getting them invested in what's going to happen to next.

    A tough choice, but today I'm giving the edge to the humorous telling of Livia Humoir.

  10. Gordon F**king Holmes. Loved it, the story had such a strong voice. And the side note about the girlfriend- hilarious. It's funny, I rarely read other people's comments on blogs before posting my own, but in life I'm afraid to admit I'm a bit more pause and assess before answering.

  11. oh crap. crap crap crap. I love both of these entries a lot.

    I'm going to go with Gordon Holmes.

    Liva Humor was great and funny and i definitely would have kept reading. But i could say the same for Gordon and that genre is more to my taste so that was the deciding factor for me.

  12. Gordon Holmes has my vote today. Yes, tough choice, indeed.

    I don't read the comments before I cast my vote, which is how I've always done it, but I like going back through them to see what others have to say.

  13. This comment has been removed by the author.

  14. Both fantastic stories. The second was more well written in my opinion, I have a few quarrels on the style of the first that kinda took me out a bit--the choppy not complete sentences in the beginning mostly. Missing commas, and unclear tech. stuff were other minor distractions too, but over all I like the concept of this one better.

    The second was great, I love the humor and well written but the idea of a labor in an elevator w no one experienced in child birth seems a bit done. Which sucks, I know, because it's nonfiction and crazy that it really happened to you (and it's not at all your fault if it's been done to death in movies/shows/books)! But I'm hoping there is something that will set you apart from your competition because you're a really great writer and I bet this get's super good/intense! But it just didn't set itself apart enough to hook me, personally.

    Voting for Gordon Fucking Holmes! Love it. Also, referencing one of my all time fav movies growing up (and the series) made my day.

    I like reading other opinions after I've decided and commented. Which I'm going to nosily do now!

  15. There were some small technical errors in both -- comma splices in #1 (needed a semi-colon) -- and a verb tense slip in #2's first sentence. Just thought I'd mention those tidbits for clean up later if these selections move on in the process.

    My vote goes to Gordon Holmes for a tense, riveting voice that was consistent throughout, as well as an engaging opening scene. And oh ... I want to know the inside joke between him and the only girl he ever cared about.

    The voice in the second piece did not gel for me. It was interesting that many of the voters found it "humorous" when it really didn't strike a consistently humorous tone for me at all. It read to me like one of my own early drafts where I'm still trying to find the narrator's voice. It's promising but not quite there yet.

  16. I always visit, read the entries, go away and think about them and then read again when I return. I find the second read through later helps me come to a decision. I read others comments, sometimes before, sometimes after just depends, but I don't let them influence my ultimate vote.

    So onto today's bout. Two very different entries and both with merit but I'm going with Gordon Holmes. But hope the baby was delivered safely in your recount Liva! Best of luck to you both.

  17. I never read the comments until I've voted. I'm easily influenced, I guess, so I try to avoid that. :-)

    Today, because I loved the humor of #2 I'm giving that one my vote.

  18. My vote goes to #2 Livia Humoir. Although both pieces were engaging to read, the second one is the story I would want to continue reading.

    (And reading other comments/votes always sways me, so I've been avoiding that this time around. I read the entry and immediately vote, then look back. It never bothers me to find out I've voted for the underdog!)

  19. oh jeeze! these were both great pieces. The writing was cleaner in #2, but i want to know what happens in BOTH of them.
    I don't tend to read a lot of non-fiction, and while i want to know what happens in that immediate scene, i'm more invested in finding out what happens in #1's entire novel.

    So my vote today goes to GORDON HOLMES

  20. I struggle with this one because they're such different genres- aliens vs. a non-fiction story of a birth? Sheesh! I know the point is to judge on the quality of the writing alone, but with two pieces relatively evenly matched in language that makes the blaring differences in genre that much more stark.

    I felt like both of these were a little too concrete- I wanted more emotion in both circumstances. The only clear ones I got were cockiness from the first and anxiety from the second but both situations seemed ripe for much more complex states. I also wanted more imagery- a post apocalyptic landscape that I didn't get a clear image of and an elevator in a hospital with no detail both left me wanting more. I know 500 words isn't a lot to work with but I still needed something else.

    And I think this is just me, but in Gordon's I got stuck on the word "alien". In my mind, if aliens invaded and the world as I know it has ended and now everyday things like that are common place then the language will change. The aliens won't be called aliens- they'll be called whatever the survivors call them. Maybe something based on what they look like, sound like, smell like. Something more familiar than alien.

    So in the end I'm choosing based on which character I connected most with and in this case it's Livia. Gordon was just too cocky for me, too detached from his surroundings.

    1. Reading through the comments, I agree with you on the word "Alien". They'd have some other term for sure... Critter, walker, etc

  21. They are both very good. I liked the attitude of the first character. Related to him better, so my vote is for Gordon Holmes.

  22. Once again I was not crazy about either of these but Liva Humoir gets my vote. And for the record, The Lord of the Rings movies were yawners, Hunger Games was okay, and Twilight was great.

  23. I usually make up my mind for who I want to vote for, then I scroll down and read the comments just to see how they compare. I still vote for the person I was originally going to vote for. In this case, I remember liking #1 back when I first read it when I was on the panel. So my vote goes to Gordon Holmes!

  24. Liva Humoir for me. I'm not a big dystopia fan, and I felt like the passage was bogged down with backstory and world building rather than being as breathlessly exciting as it ought to have been.

  25. Yes, another tough bout. I had a lot of trouble deciding this one. The writing is great in both, and both had some flaws. Usually there's something that pushes me toward one or the other, but this time I was completely on the fence.

    I had to read Gordon's story twice to understand what was going on, but once I did, I really enjoyed the voice a lot. Though the sentences were kind of choppy, I was right there with Gordon all the way. I liked the balance of humor and suspense.

    I liked Livia's story a lot too. I enjoyed the humor and POV of the main character and I could certainly relate to giving birth. There were a few places where the writing could be tightened, but in general I thought it was pretty smooth.

    So I will throw a dart and choose Gordon Holmes, just because I usually prefer fiction over non-fiction.

    I, too, am easily influenced by other people's opinions, so I usually make up my mind and then read the comments. This time, I read the comments, hoping someone might have some insight that would help me make up me mind. Alas, it didn't.

    Just curious, D.L., have you read The Hunger Games?

  26. I love the cocky attitude of #1. A lot. But I'm voting #2

  27. Gordon's was hard to follow at first. it seemed a little all over the place. maybe a bit too much of background for where the story ended. i did like the idea of a "runner" to get supplies.

    livia's story didn't hold anything for me. it was just like reading something with no emotion, borderline monotone minus the dialogue. the ending was funny though! :)

    vote: gordon

  28. I usually cast my vote here prior to reading the comments. But if I'm so on the fence I can't truly decide, I'll read the prior comments. The votes don't sway me, but the reason's "why" will. Before becoming a serious writer, I never read reviews for movies or books; I learned early in life I sometimes liked things for the exact reasons others did not. Now I read them - at least here in the blogs - but it takes a lot still for a review/critique to sway me one way or another. I am still more interested in "why" a person did or did not like a book or movie, and of course if I know the blogger to be habitually honest in feedback, I'll trust it more than others.

    My vote today goes to Gordon Holmes cuz I like the voice, attitude, and I'm interested in knowing what happens next. There are a lot of story questions introduced that I would read on to discover.

    Livia's stuck-in-the-elevator situation is an interesting beginning to a story, or perhaps adds tension to an ongoing saga; but it speaks of a scene plot - due to the POV - and not an overall story/character premise. I love the MC sense of humor in a stressful situation, but I'm not getting a sense of story plot from the scene.


  29. Hi Don .. I'd have to go with the narrative non-fiction genre ... Livia's - I now want to know what happens ...

    However the Gordon Holmes one was fun, but I couldn't read much more - so my vote is Livia.

    Cheers Hilary

  30. My vote is for Liva Humoir. I think she nailed the scene, and it pulled me in just a bit more than the other. :-)

  31. Both of these are terrific. I'm going with Gordon Holmes...but it was a hard choice.

    I like reading reviews after I read the book or see a movie. It's far more interesting that way!

    Happy reading and writing! from Laura Marcella @ Wavy Lines

  32. Gordon Holmes - The action was great and I flew through the reading. There were a few things I didn't follow but it didn't matter in the end I understood his mission.

    Liva Humoir - You wrote an intense scene, but there was a bit more introspection and telling then action. In fact you even told us when you acted instead of just letting it happen.

    Great round WRiTERS!! My vote... Gordon Holmes!

  33. Hmm...I had a lengthy comment written out, but my computer ate it. Here's the abridged version:
    Gordon Holmes: You have an intriguing situation, great pacing, and smooth flow. But I never felt I had a sense of your character. Two things got in the way for me: the action (including the blood and guts), and the foul language. I think the first left little room for what I really wanted to know about Gordon--what was the report about, what are his conversations like in that world, what's his actual take on what's going on? And while I don't mind language in its place, I found it distracting here, because it contradicted what I thought I knew about Gordon, that he was responsible beyond his years--not one of those immature teenagers who inserts the f-word will-nilly because he thinks it makes him sound grown-up. Overall, I think if you could dig a little deeper into Gordon's character and let the situation speak for itself, I would have been really drawn in.
    Liva Humoir: I really liked the simplicity and humor of your piece and immediately sympathized with the mc. My one suggestion would be to "up" the humor so that there are great laugh-out-loud bits throughout the whole thing (like the part about them all potentially Lamaze breathing in unison at the end!) With this kind of a realistic story, it's easy for the voice to fall to the wayside. I think that what makes your narrator unique is her sense of humor, so I just wanted more of it to make this a truly stand-out piece.
    Good job, both of you. I'm voting for Liva.
    P.S. IN answer to DL's question...I always make my decision after reading the pieces, and no other comments have swayed me from that initial assessment. I do read them over, because I don't want to hit the writers over the head with something if it's already been brought up multiple times.

  34. My vote is for Gordon Holmes. The writing is good but even if it wasn’t it would have been an easy choice. This may seem cold but I don’t read nonfiction / memoir unless for research purposes. For all I know, Liva’s is personal recollection. I’d be shooting blind to try and offer critique here.
    Gordon, there are a couple of grammatical hiccups and a tense discrepancy (most is written in present but the opening sentence says, “I ran”). Besides that you establish a pretty strong voice.
    Content-wise, I’m curious what’s the point of motion sensors that are “are useless against my speed” (of no more than 20 mph? They’d be really useless against a vehicle.) If they’re useless because of the EMP, just rephrase a bit.
    Once the “metal door rolls up,” it’s hazy exactly what’s going on. Maybe add just a couple more cues… footsteps of the approaching guards, the fact that he’s inside versus outside and the difference it makes on the air.
    The guards’ scant description has me thinking of the armored guards from Fallout 3… which is cool.
    You cover a lot of ground with few words. The writing is confident. This piece is a contender as far as I’m concerned.

    1. And as far as DL's question, I think it's definitely best and the most fair to the writers involved that we comment before reading other comments. I used to read the comments if I was on the fence about a particular bout. Now I just give it a day instead. Usually one piece ends up resonating more than the other.

  35. It's Gordon Holmes for me. Nice job with voice and action. I did notice a typo in the sentence 'Fifty yards and still no shots fired' - you have 'an' instead of 'and'.

    Liva is well written, it just came down to personal preference for me - I'm a big fantasy/sci-fi/dystopian fan.

  36. Oh, and to answer your question, Don, I do not read the comments of anyone else before I make mine. I don't want to be influenced (though I doubt I'd change my mind by reading the others). I think a lot of people do read them though, and are afraid to vote against the masses if the vote is swinging heavily one way. I felt like that happened some last year when I was in the contest - a lot of people were just saying, "yeah, I agree with so and so" and that's pretty annoying. Give me YOUR opinion, ya know?

  37. Liva wins for me this round.

    Gordon's piece had a great voice. Very well done. I struggled a bit more with the details, especially at the end. I had a hard time visualizing the checkpoint and what happened once he got there. In a longer snippet that could have been easily accomplished, but as written it felt a bit sparse. That said, I would have kept reading.

    Liva - I liked the humor and the voice. I'm not sure a nurse would have freaked out so quickly (even one from oncology), but it was a smooth enjoyable read. There's a couple spots that feel like telling, but that may be perfectly acceptable for this genre. I haven't read a lot of narrative non-fiction. You aptly described how everyone in the elevator was feeling, I might have liked a bit more sensory input from the narrator to give me a stronger connection to her.

    Nice job to both writers!

  38. Gordon Holmes for me because it drew me in immediately, but wow Liva, I really hope your story ends well!

    Tough choice..

    AJ at Naturally Sweet

  39. #2, Liva for me.

  40. Wow this one is so tough. I'm going with #1 tho.

  41. P.S. i always vote before reading the other comments too.

  42. I typically read the stories first and have a gut reaction to which I prefer. I still go through the comments before casting my vote, because I might find a thought I hadn't considered on my initial read. Sometimes it sways me, sometimes it doesn't.

    My vote this round is for #1. Gordon comes across as a little crazy, but I think anyone in his 2+ year old running shoes would be at that point, doing what he does. I was a little unclear what he was reporting on (alien activity/movements, is what I'm assuming), but I was hooked and would absolutely read more of this.

  43. Wow, this bout was really tough. Both pieces were strong and definitely entertaining.

    My nod goes to Gordon Holmes.

    Suzanne @ Times Squared

  44. My vote goes to GORDON HOLMES.

    I liked the pace and the smart inner dialogue. sure, everything isn't absolutely clear, but heck it's only 500 words. I'm captivated and my interest is piqued, so I would definitely keep reading.

    Liva Humoir's piece is well written and interesting, but I could see what was coming. I didn't feel that they made the most of the situation (in a humorous way). Again, I realize that with only 500 words it's difficult, every word has to count. I would rather be hooked and have a desire to read on than see the 'story' conclude in 500 words. I feel in a contest like this it's more about the writing than it is the story.

  45. I found the Gordon piece to be a bit crazy and disconnected; and burst out laughing at the end of Humor Livia.
    My vote goes to LIVA HUMOIR.
    Writer In Transit

  46. Hmm, the pacing felt a bit off in both... Going with Gordon on this one!




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