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WRiTE CLUB 2014 – Bout #9

This morning we hand out another congratulations, this time to Miss Drake for winning Bout #7. The voting for Bout #8 remains open until noon on Wednesday, July 16th.

For those of you who may have miss it last time, a rundown of past and current matches, with their respective winners, can be found right HERE.

For anyone who's dropping by for the first time, here's a summary of what's going on. Back on May 3rd we began taking submissions from WRiTER’s far and wide, spanning the globe, representing all ages and multiple styles of WRiTING.  We received 167 entries in all! Those 500 word samples went under careful consideration by 11 judges and that panel narrowed the list down to 32…which are the ones that are pairing off in the ring over the course of eight weeks. 

Note: The submissions can be an excerpt from a larger work...or a standalone piece of flash fiction. The only rules are that they be 500 words or less, and never previously published or posted on a blog. Although I'll never instruct someone how they should choose a winner, I would recommend considering this when doing so. It shouldn't be about how much information is contained in those 500 words, but the way a contestant goes about communicating the information that is.

These illustrious WRiTER’s are not only from all walks of life, but they also occupy various levels of the publication world. But none of that matters here, because inside this ring everybody stands as equals. You know why?  Because no one uses their real name…the only identification you’ll ever see is their pen name. This is not a popularity contest.  The focus here is on the writing, where it should be.

Today is the ninth of sixteen bouts, two bouts per week, with a new one posted every Monday and Thursday. The winners are decided by votes left in the comment section and anyone can vote. The voting for each fight will last for one full week, so you can vote for a Monday battle all the way until midnight on Sunday, and you can vote for a Thursday brawl up until midnight the following Wednesday.  And when you do vote, please let the contestants know what you liked and disliked.

Have you got your popcorn and favorite drink? Time for the fun to begin!

Here are this bout's two randomly selected WRiTER's.

Standing in this corner, representing the Adult Dystopian genre and weighing in at 498 words, please welcome to the ring……..Salome.

It was Christa McPhearson’s time to die.

Miguel Rodriguez wished all the Lifecycle cases could be this easy. The Death Squad captain and his team of three spent five minutes reviewing the facts.

The fragile eighty-one year old first presented with a case of sepsis most likely brought on by the one-centimeter-wide stone taking up residence in her kidney. This was followed by a tear in her sphincter that resulted in the loss of a great deal of blood. Her bowels weren’t moving; she suffered from severe constipation that required prescription medicine to move them. Her oxygen levels had plummeted, and she required constant infusions. She showed no interest in eating, or moving her limbs as directed in her physical therapy sessions, even in the comfort of her hospital bed. But she sure was taking advantage of the painkillers. And all those drugs were contributing to her constipation, despite other medicine given to counteract that effect.

As they always did, the Death Squad applied their logarithms to the patient’s medical history. The logarithms were the Holy Grail of medical care in the 22nd Century. They provided the most impartial and empirical way of determining an ailing patient’s future. In the case of Christa McPhearson, there was a 95% chance she’d never get out of bed again. With the cost of acute long-term patient care looming at an average cost of $3000 per day, it didn’t make economic sense to expend the resources to prolong her life.

It didn’t help Christa’s case that she was a widow. Her three daughters and son hated to see her go, but they had their own families that required immediate attention, and frankly, Christa had become clingy and whiney lately. Her family had all signed the statement appended to the medical report and submitted to the Death Squad. In fact, they'd gone one step beyond what was required, providing sworn affidavits that promised they wouldn’t appeal the Death Squad’s ruling if it went badly for Christa, as it inevitably would with her unfortunate fact pattern.

Miguel knew that Christa's children didn’t have the heart to tell their mother what was happening two floors above, in the hospital’s conference room. Instead, he pictured them gathered around her bed, the smell of hospital soap and pureed broccoli to be endured for only a little while longer. Her great-grandchildren scrunching up their noses when they thought no one was looking, and pressing themselves into the soft bodies of their mothers. The adults talking over one another, recollecting perkier times such as when Christa rescued their beloved dog from a family who was abusing him, or when she insisted that her children learn the nearly extinct art of cursive writing.

Far removed from that farewell scene, Miguel double-checked his work. All of the appropriate boxes were marked. The number at the bottom of the form: fifteen, was the sum of the numbers entered for each of the preceding columns. Centered at the top was one word: TERMINATE.


And in the other corner, representing the Science Fiction genre with 500 words, let me introduce to you……….Sapphire Eyes.

“Let me go.”

The words bounced mercilessly off the white tile floor and marble countertops.  Noah froze.  A scuffed multimeter was trapped within the confines of his white-knuckled hand. 

Those words meant one thing.  We have to start all over again.

Noah dropped the multimeter.  In his haste to reach his computer, he sent a cascade of microchips and wires crashing to the floor, but the resulting clatter didn’t faze him.  He had work to do.

When he first met Ariel, Noah knew she was unique.  Something worth exploring.  He never knew whether he believed in love before that.  No one else seemed to fit.  Unlike the components of a computer, people didn’t insert themselves into designated slots.  Unlike computer programs, they couldn’t be tweaked to suit his needs.  Companionship was messy.  Unpredictable.  How could he be expected to navigate the complexities of another person’s emotions when he barely understood his own?

With Ariel, something felt right.  She knew when not to push a subject that he didn’t feel comfortable with.  She listened to him talk about his work, and she asked intelligent questions.  She sat with him whilst he toiled away on a project, handing him a screwdriver or soldering gun when needed.  When he was in the midst of writing a complex program, she brought him plates of food so he didn’t go hungry.

For a short while, he had everything he needed.

Noah collapsed into his computer chair, his fingers grazing the keyboard purposefully.  He accessed the files he needed, searching out the lines of code to be erased.

Unbidden, his own problematic memories came to the surface.

“Stay with me.”  When Ariel spoke these words, they were laced with fear.  He’d been working on artificial intelligence software when the diagnosis came.  Terminal cancer.  She didn’t have much time.   

“Hold my hand.”  He’d been at a loss.  He couldn’t face it, nor could he comfort her.  Instead, he holed himself up in his lab, intent on saving her.  After Ariel’s body perished, she lived on in lines of code, maintained by a computer that he’d built with his own hands.

She chatted with him in the beginning, her beautiful voice projected through the best speakers he could build.  It truly did sound like her, and she seemed happy to be with him.

Then she began to feel trapped.  Even with the worlds Noah programmed for her to explore, she grew weary. 

“Let me go.”  The first time she pleaded with him to end it, tears leaked from his eyes.

He couldn’t do as she asked, so he did the only thing he could think to do.  He wiped away her memories of living inside the system, restoring her to the original elation she felt at having cheated death.

Now he had to do it again.

“I have to keep you happy,” Noah murmured as his nimble fingers worked.  Each keystroke eliminated another memory that reminded Ariel of her incorporeal nature.  “I have to keep you here!”


Enjoying the words of two talented writers is only part of the price of admission, now it’s up to you to decide who moves forward to the playoffs.  In the comments below leave your vote for the winner of Bout #9.  Which one tickled your fancy?  After you vote please tell all of your friends to stop by and make a selection as well.  The voting for this round will remain open until noon Sunday.  Yes, it’s subjective, but so is the entire publishing world.  It’s as much about the readers as it is about the writers. 

Here in WRiTE CLUB, it’s not about the last man/woman standing -- it’s the audience that gets clobbered!


  1. Tough call. I felt one was too much telling, and the other didn't tell me enough that was important.
    Awarding this bout to Salome.

  2. By the time I got through the first few paragraphs in Salome I felt I was wading through a pile of medical diagnosis and back story that I had no interest in because I didn't know the person they were talking about. The titbit about the Death Squad applying their logarithms wasn't enough to tempt me back into the story.

    My vote goes to Sapphire Eyes, who pulled me in and held me till the end. I am married to a computer geek, so I related to this story.

  3. This is a bout where I think both stories are interesting, and both are rife with opportunities for compelling situations, touching human emotion, and tension-filled drama. Unfortunately, I find both entries fail to make the best of those opportunities, and instead bog down in telling and backstory.

    Salome opens with a great first line, throws a couple of new concepts at the reader ("Lifecycle case, "Death Squad Captain"), and then drifts into the minutia of Christa's medical case and situation, with lots and lots of telling about what her family thought and felt and Miguel's thoughts and so forth. It does serve the purpose of explaining what is happening with Miguel and Christa, and I've learned the details of what "Death Squads" do and what a "LifeCycle" case is, but it just feels so removed and distant – kind of like having someone describe a movie rather than getting to watch the action unfold myself. This is a drama-filled and emotionally-rich situation, so I definitely appreciate what the writer has done to set it up – I just wish I could be more IN the scene. If Miguel is the POV character, bring me deeper into that POV. Let me connect with him and learn HIS thoughts. How does he feel about deciding to terminate another life? What conflicts does he have? Show him interacting with the other squad members, Christa's loved ones, or maybe even Christa herself.

    Sapphire Eyes opens with one of my pet peeves. I absolutely hate unattributed dialog to open a scene. Disembodied voices do NOT induce mystery and interest. They're just confusing. The energy I waste scratching my head and wondering, "Who's talking?" is energy that could be used to pull me deeper into the scene. While Noah is knocking crap over in his lab, I'm left unmoved by his urgency because I'm still trying to figure out if Ariel might be the one who was speaking, and then we're off on a telling backstory tour about her. Yes – by the end, it does become apparent what is happening, and that Ariel is more than a disembodied voice – she's also a disembodied body, kept "alive" through Noah's coding skills. But why make the journey be one of confusion when it would be so much more engrossing to immediately anchor me in the scene, let me know who's there, and THEN let the drama unfold. I do find the overall situation very interesting and compelling, but unfortunately (and maybe it's just me), I find the delivery a mix of telling and backstory, with an introduction of confusing unattributed dialog.

    Again, I do like both premises, and think they both have tremendous potential. From a technical-standpoint, both have decent writing in terms of sentence structure, grammar, etc. But both fall a little short of their potential, although -- between the two -- I think Salome did a slightly better job.

    So I'll cast a vote for Salome.

  4. Agree both are full of telling with little showing. The first one was the most intriguing and with a rewrite, could be very powerful. I was a bit confused by the second one. Vote goes to Salome.

  5. This is a tough call. I'd wish either would have been a scene instead of backstory, which doesn't pull me in. Both stories have very interesting premises, and I'd like to have met one of the characters and seen a real moment in the story instead of the background information. Out of the two, I'll vote for Salome.

  6. The second entry felt a bit more active, but it's a theme I've seen before. The first felt less active and the telling felt flatter. I just didn't connect with it.

    I vote for Sapphire Eyes.

  7. I didn't connect with either piece. Nothing is happening with the first and confusing stuff is happening in the second. But of the two, I was less confused with the first, so Salome gets my vote.

  8. Both of these have excellent ideas behind them, but both are bogged down in backstory and are not at all active. But I think I'll vote for Sapphire Eyes because even though it's a story I've seen before, I connected more with it.

  9. Sapphire Eyes caught my attention immediately. I love the concept and I thought it was well-written. Salome's story felt filled with detail as a way to explain Christa's imminent demise and it felt forced to me. The term "Death Squad" felt obtuse and lacked a dystopian feel. This is just me, but I feel like we would never enter a phase of human history where the term "Death Squad" would be openly used. (Recent "Death Panel" hysteria aside.) It would have a more Orwellian sound to it. But that's just *my* expectation.

    My vote goes to Sapphire Eyes.

  10. The first entry had some good ideas in it, and the writing was nice. The problem is that the Death Squad story was all telling and no showing. Also, there was no action.

    I'm never pleased with abusive relationships--even ones featuring computer programs, but I have to say Sapphire Eyes has my vote. The writing, the concept, well done.

  11. I'll vote for Sapphire Eyes, though I felt the sentences were a bit choppy. He sounds kind of like a robot in parts, spitting out lines of text. I liked the concept. Kind of reminded me of the TV show "Caprica" before it went south.

    I couldn't stomach the "Death Squad" idea in Salome's piece because it reminded me too much of the political discussion about Obamacare. There's nothing that turns me off worse than when I feel like the author is trying to influence me to believe in an agenda of some sort. Also, I thought it was a little TMI about Christa's bowel problems.

  12. Salome has way too much telling in the first piece, and I found the piece by Sapphire Eyes confusing at first. However, once I figured out what was going on, I was more invested in it. So my vote goes to Sapphire Eyes.

  13. Both are great this week. It is a really tough call. Sapphire Eyes feels like a movie or tv show I've seen. (Eureka maybe.) So it obviously would do well. Salome feels like a true and likely future. I'm curious where it might go from here. Will Miguel have the numbers run on himself? Or perhaps someone he falls in love with? The story has a great hook, and makes me want to read more. So, by a VERY close margin, my vote is for Salome.

  14. Congratulations to both writers for doing so much world building in 500 words. Although it was close, My vote goes to Sapphire Eyes

  15. Neither of these quite did it for me. I'm voting for Sapphire Eyes. The first piece had too much telling and was a bit distanced, hard to connect to.

  16. I agree with a lot of the comments above regarding telling vs. showingand backstory. Salome would have been more powerful with some dialogue and action. I didn't mind the clinical approach to the subject, feeling it fit with the idea of a character who is actually a part of the Death Squad, but you might want to change the name of the squad, as someone suggested.

    I was really lost in Sapphire Eyes. Couldn't figure out what was going on. It's not a bad concept, once I figured out what the concept was, but I felt completely adrift in terms of character, setting, and plot.

    My vote goes to Salome.

  17. My Vote goes for Saphire Eyes... it's funny because I actually just watched Transcendence the other day which deal with similar issues but from a different angle.

    Salome just seemed like reading a medical journal and I personally started skipping paragraphs.

  18. First off, congrats to both entrants to making the top 32. I felt Salome was a bit too clinical in narrative, too much telling and very little showing. I liked the premise for each piece though I have to cast my vote for Sapphire Eyes by a nose this week.

  19. Congrats to both!

    Sapphire Eyes all the way for me. The conflict is AWESOME, the writing flows really well, and it's action-oriented, even with the backstory, which is so, so fluidly interwoven. I felt like we were getting a huge dump of backstory in Salome's and the dystopian elements weren't strong enough for me.

  20. I enjoyed both pieces, but do agree with several others that a bit of extra editing could really warm them up. Salome- I've heard the term "Death Squad" used before. While it does immediately tell the reader what the job function is, perhaps a more creative and original title could be used instead? That isn't to say you can't use it. Probably could call them Storm Troopers, too, and have gotten much the same comments. Sapphire Eyes- It's a good entry, but it does feel like a reused story. I'm not sure I fully understand Ariel's character.

    My vote this week is for Salome.

  21. Neither pushed my "I must read this" button. While both have way too much telling, the piece from Sapphire Eyes is easier to read because of the dialogue. My vote is for Sapphire Eyes.

  22. Sapphire Eyes gets my vote this week.

  23. Out of all the entries, these two made the list? Salome

  24. Both of these were intriguing concepts, although hamstrung as others have said by too much telling not showing. I drifted off during Salome because it felt like reading medical notes (great first line though). Both could be great with more editing, but Sapphire Eyes did more to hold my interest so I'll vote for that.

  25. Both are neat ideas. I liked the idea of a death squad until it was linked back to the family. I thought it was going to be a government sponsored entity and the battle lied therein. I didn't know it was Jack Kevorkian.

    The computer thing was way off when it came to the dying and then resurrecting through the lines of code. It was a little confusing. I did like the end where she gets "rebooted" back to her happy self and he gets to keep her. That part was pretty devious but I don't know where it was headed.

    My vote is for Sapphire Eyes

  26. Whilst I thought both were interesting concepts, as others have said, there was too much back story and showing not telling for me to engage with the pieces as I would hope. I will go with Sapphire Eyes as it was broken up with some dialogue and was overall an easier read. Congrats to you both for making it through to the bouts.

  27. Congrats to both contestants for making it into this round! Sapphire Eyes takes the prize!

    Salome has a genius premise and some delightful details, but these are overshadowed by too much telling. With revisions, this entry could be, ahem, killer. Even in third person, we need to get in Miguel's head and share his POV much more than simply hearing from an omniscient narrator (who spends too much time explaining the set-up to the reader). Put us right in the action and avoid passive constructions (e.g., "This was") and word repetition. Correct grammatical errors (e.g., need colon, not semi-colon after "bowels weren't moving"), Keep tense consistent. I am an MD and delighted that Salome gets most of the medical stuff right (e.g., opiate painkillers cause constipation), but a few bits are, at best, ambiguous. "Her oxygen levels had plummeted, and she required constant infusions." implies that the two are connected, but oxygen isn't given by infusion (I guess it could be in the 22nd century, but it seems a stretch. Why make it complicated?) Simply breaking the sentence into two adds the necessary clarity. An "algorithm" rather than a "logarithm" is typically used for medical decision-making.

    Sapphire Eyes had me thinking one thing and surprised me with where it headed, and I say that as a good thing. On the other hand, it was confusing to follow. Flashbacks are tough in such a short piece, so it might be best to lay things out a bit more chronologically. Start in the present, flash back to the earliest event in the chronology and then bring us forward to present day. The premise seems old-hat, although it does have a bit of a twist (the perpetual memory-erasing that Noah does). More might be made of this: perhaps he suffers from Recurrent Traumatic Stress Disorder.

    I think each of the authors in this round could learn a lot from their opponent!

  28. here seems to be a general theme in the comments. More telling than showing and more background than action. Purely on the basis of which could, for me, be the better base on which to build a larger whole, I vote for Salome.

  29. I vote for Sapphire Eyes. I appreciate the incredible tightness of the writing to squeeze a whole story into 500 words.

  30. Ooh, both of these are creepy! I'm voting for Sapphire Eyes because the premise of the piece really made me squirm.

  31. My vote goes to Sapphire Eyes.

    I'm sorry to say I was a bit disappointed in both of these entries for the same reason. I found myself reminded of how I thought I didn't like science fiction when I was very young -- because I though it was cold and impersonal. Later I discovered that there were some kinds of SF that I really enjoyed, and that even stories qualifying as hard SF could be written as literature focusing on the human element. But in many ways these excerpts represent the kind of stories that exist primarily as a vehicle for a particular SF premise, while the rest is secondary. That is -- they put concept over character.

    Sapphire Eyes' entry worked better for me just because I did get a glimpse of the characters' relationship and the grief, and I could feel that for a moment, although it was brief. The only thing I connected with in Salome's entry was Miguel's imagined view of the family together, especially visualizing the great-grandchildren pressing against their mothers. The rest was too distant to pull me in.

    Also, neither premise struck me as original or unique in any way -- I'm pretty sure these ideas have been thoroughly explored in other stories. On the plus side, the writing is pretty clean in both entries. Salome's style is more polished and mature, but I still have to go with Sapphire Eyes for that little bit of emotional connection.

  32. I dislike Salome. He suffers with the bane all writers have to deal with, which is the info dump. Sometimes a necessary evil, though for this kind of contest, it is the wrong thing to submit. I don't feel any connection to the characters or immersion into the story.

    Sapphire Eyes, is my kind of writing. Quick thoughts, short sentences, quick pacing. You got a lot in within a short time.

    I vote Sapphire Eyes.

  33. These are two pieces with a very different story line, I find that refreshing and strongly encourage each of these participants to continue on refining their work, no matter the outcome of 'Fight Club'. Both fall short of being enjoyable to me, because there is just way too much telling as opposed to showing. Backstory is important, I know, but it needs to be doled out carefully and not overwhelm the reader. All the back story is where these interesting stories lose me quickly.

    I'm going to give my vote to Sapphire Eyes, only because I like the premise a little bit more.

  34. Sapphire Eyes is my vote.

    I didn't connect with Salome's piece as much as I tried. I think the addition of some dialogue and showing would turn that around.

    Sapphire Eyes kept me interested, I am a fan of short sentences and the writing flowed well.

    Congratulations to both on making the round!

  35. To be honest, neither of these pieces really struck a cord with me. Salome's was almost too bogged down in medical diagnosis and backstory to pull me in, and I had a hard time figuring out what was going on in Saphire Eyes' piece. But I do think both have interesting concepts behind them, and could turn into something really good with some work.

    Based on the concepts and which seems to have a more intriguing story question, I'm going to give my vote to Saphire Eyes.

  36. Sapphire Eyes gets my vote. I liked the idea behind Salome, but I agree with Miranda that the beginning had too much medical diagnosis. I think both of these authors need to refine their work a little more but I think they are both off to a good start.

  37. I vote Salome. The medical was a little heavy for the beginning but it caught my interest the most.

  38. Wow - good stuff.

    Salome's writing is smoother, tighter, but Sapphire Eye's story is more intriguing to me...I'll go will Sapphire Eyes.

  39. Tough choice. I liked the premise of Salome's story. I was turned off by the full on visual of her medical problem though.

    I liked the emotional energy coming from sapphire's.

    I have to choose sapphire.

  40. Hard one this week.
    Although I agree, that Salome's needed more observations by a character and less fact-feeding (And yes, personally I too found the depth of visual imagery a little off putting) I found myself still feeling as though the stage had been set for an intriguing story.

    Sapphire's piece was quite confusing at first. It did clear up after a bit but it always felt a little too much like a summary rather than a book.

    So my vote this week is for Salome.




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