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WRiTE CLUB 2018 - Playoff Bout #1

There will soon only be six writers left and you know what that means? It's playoff time in WRiTE CLUB!

Our six writers will again enter the ring, this time against a new opponent, each brandishing a new 500 word writing samples. The bouts will be posted on Mon - Wed - Fri, with the voting remaining open as long as possible.  The voting for Playoff Round #1 closes at noon Sunday,  May27th.

A reminder - voting is still open for Cage Matches 3-6. You can sfind those links HERE.

Here's how everything works. Writing samples from two different writers, identified only by the craftily selected pen names of the respective submitters, are competing against one another today. The writing can be from any genre, any age group, taken either from a larger piece of work or simply a stand-alone flash fiction. The focus is on the writing...not the writer...or its categorization.

The winner of each contest is chosen by you...the reader.  Simply read each entry and leave your vote in the comment section below.

It is customary to leave a brief critique for all the pieces. You see, the comments are where the true value of this contest makes itself known. Not only do the contestants gain valuable insight about their work from those remarks, but everybody can benefit from how each piece is received and what works...and what doesn't. Please remember to remain respectful with your comments. If you see an opportunity for improvement, make it known in the most positive way possible.

How do you choose a winner? What criteria should be used? The method by which you determine who to vote for is entirely up to you.  Which one resonates with you the most? Which one makes you want to read more? Which one demonstrates a total command of the English language and how it can be used to elicit emotion or paint a mental picture you can't stop staring at. There is no hard and fast way rules for determining a winner -- and that's exactly what the publishing world is like. But today you get to decide.

Oh yeah – for every bout that you vote in, your name (see rule #2 below) will be placed into a hat for a chance for a $40 Barnes and Noble Gift card that will be drawn after the contest concludes.

A few rules –

1) One vote per visitor per bout.

2) Although our contestants are anonymous, voters cannot be. Anonymous votes will not count, so if you do not have a Google account and are voting as a guest, be sure to include your name and email address.

3)Using any method (email, social media, text, etc) to solicit votes for a specific contestant will result in that contestant's immediate disqualification. It’s perfectly okay, in fact, it is encouraged to spread the word about the contest to get more people to vote, just not for a specific writer!

What's at stake here? Other than bragging rights, the winner also wins free admission to the 2019 DFW Writers Conference.

Your voting has an added significance because not only will the three winners move onto to the next round, the submission that does not win their bout but tally's the most votes among the losers will move forward as a wildcard selection.

Ready to help an aspiring writer make their mark?  It's time to introduce our contestants and get this party started.

Writer #1 is representing the Sci-Fi Romance genre. Please give a warm welcome to Peter Pen.

I smiled as Ronnie reared back to punch me.

“Stop!” Laurel cried, running across her front lawn and grabbing Ronnie’s twenty inch bicep. “Don’t hurt him.”

I laughed. Hurt me? Didn’t her new boyfriend know he’d shatter his knuckles on my impervious jaw? Had they seen the news reports? Dave Wilks. Twenty-five. Struck by lightning. Flies around the city, stopping crime with superhuman strength and laser vision.

“I wouldn’t do that, friend,” I said, noticing how smooth my voice had become since developing these abilities.

Ronnie dropped his fist a little at Laurel’s intervention, but fire remained in his eyes. I let the lasers burn in mine for a second, not enough to emit a blast, but just enough to let him know I could toast those dragon tattoos off his shoulders. He didn’t back down though, which I thought odd. All the thugs in the city turned tail when I made a show.

“What do you want?” he demanded.

“I just want to talk to Laurel.” I crossed my arms, unsure why I was taking a defensive posture.

“Dave, I told you it’s over between us.” The way she rolled her eyes caused anger to flare in my chest. The same kind of anger that flickered every time I saw someone commit a crime.

“That’s what this is about?” Ronnie shook Laurel’s hand off and stepped toward me. He glared down at me, but his height didn’t bother me. It was the resolve in his features. A confidence I’m not sure I’d ever felt, super strength or not. “I don’t care that you’re invincible,” he said, words solid as steel. “It doesn’t make you a man. She chose me. So you better fly off, jagweed.”

I clenched my unbreakable jaw against the hit that he somehow just landed.

Then I punched him.

Laurel screamed as he plowed through the dirt, coming to a stop just in front of the tree swing where Laurel and I used to sit on summer nights.

I’d hit with just a fraction of my power, but it didn’t matter. As soon as my fist had connected with his chest, I’d known it was wrong.

He shot to his feet, wiping grass off his mouth, and stormed back to the pavement, putting himself between me and Laurel. He was a huge jerk, sure, but he was more a hero for her than I’d ever been.

“Ronnie, go inside,” she said. “I have something to say to Dave.”

She reassured him, and with a last venomous glance, Ronnie turned on his heel and disappeared inside the house.

Laurel leveled a hard gaze at me. “You have all of this strength.” She made a sweeping gesture at my body. “But none of it’s in here.” She jabbed a finger straight at my chest.

A thousand responses—apologies, accusations, defenses—all tangled in my brain, but when nothing came out she shook her head and went back into the house.

Then I knew.

I’d become the villain.


Writer #2 represents the Short Story genre. Please welcome back into the arena Jett Jaguar.

“They’re shutting down SunScreen, Digs. It’s time to pack your shovel and your rake and come home.”
Farren “Digger” Greenwich felt his body collapse lower and lower into the shape-shifting communications chair, as if the artificial gravity on Orbital Greenhouse Alpha One had been tweaked upward by one of his fellow Caretakers. He vaguely remembered office battles over air conditioning thermostats, back when there were such things. Before global warming could no longer be denied. Before super-max hurricanes wiped most of south Florida into the Caribbean and the killer sun baked most of southern Europe into hardpan.
IASA Program Director Tristan Danner spoke again from the holographic display, his voice softer now, as if for a brief instant he’d realized that, even over the lag of Earth-to-station radio transmission, he could still attempt a level of empathy. With his pasty face, white beard, white hair, and white mustache, he looked like an undead Hemingway. Most smart people had avoided tanning for the last fifty years.
“You’ve done your job, Digs. It worked, in no small part because of you and the other believers. Now it’s time to take a well-deserved rest down here where you can enjoy what your labors have wrought.”
“I’m only 80, Tristan, not even full retirement age. I have no skills that translate down there. I’m just supposed to totter into a government village and play pinochle and bocce for the next 40 years?”
The image paused, then reacted with a sharp sniff and a smirk.
“One problem down and a hundred to tackle. There’s plenty for you to take on here.”
“They’ll let it go to hell again, Tristan. You know that. These young ones don’t get it. They’ll repeat the mistakes of our parents. By then SunScreen will have gone fallow and won’t be recoverable. Or it will break its tethers and float away.”
“This will work out, Digger. Trust me on this.”
Trust. It was a four-letter word to him. People didn’t commit to anything until they had to.
After Danner broke the call, Farren left the cramped communication room in the spine tower, took the drop tube to the field level 2.5 miles below, and walked onto one of the spokes headed toward the rim.
SunScreen Station Alpha One was shaped like a roulette wheel, with the outer rim exactly 5 miles in diameter. The flat plain of the wheel level was divided into concentric rings of arc-shaped farm fields from the rim to the tower, the center of rotation. The fields were colored not in the red and black of the casino game, but in greens, beiges, yellows, oranges, and reds, the colors of grains and soy plants, super-algae tanks, and yeast pits. The ag-products had been genetically altered to minimize volatile gas emissions, but the smells were still potent, a wash of vegetable fragrance carried on the spin-driven breeze. All of this was contained and protected by a variable-opacity elliptical dome, rising from the outer edge of the rim.

Enjoying a pair of talented writers at work is only part of the price of admission, now it’s up to you to decide who moves forward.  Read both pieces, choose the one you feel is superior, then say so in the comments below and provide a mini-critique for each if you haven't already done so.

Please tell all of your friends to stop by and make a selection as well.  Tweet about it, and if you do please use the hashtag #WRiTECLUBDFW.

Remember, this is WRiTE CLUB, where it’s not about the last man/woman standing, but who knocks the audience out!


  1. New offerings to the blood gods of WRiTE CLUB. Woohoo!

    Greatly enjoyed Jett Jaguar's entry, but after 500 words the level of worldbuilding is a bit overpowering compared to the characters and plot.

    Peter Pen's new baby might not be perfect ("I clenched my unbreakable jaw against the hit that he somehow just landed." seemed to go by so fast I had to reread before realising Ronnie had actually taken a swing at Dave), but on the whole I loved reading more about Dave, and seeing a very clear character arc for him, plus much more natural-sounding introspective thoughts (even though I can't help but wonder whether first person present might not suit your style better if introspection is built so heavily into your writing -- just a thought).

    Like the proverb says, it's a case of the Pen being mightier than the Jaguar.

    What, that isn't what the proverb says.

    Well, it does now.

    One point for Peter Pen!

  2. Vote is for Peter Pen. It grabbed me.

    The other seemed to give too many details without pulling me in the story.

  3. I’m voting for Peter Pen!

  4. Peter Pen gets my vote. I really liked that last line, too.

  5. Both stories are very interesting. Jett seemed to lose me half way through, unfortunately. Not enough meat to the actual story.
    Peter kept me intrigued the whole 500 words and made me connect with the characters.
    My vote goes to Peter Pen! Keep it up!

  6. Jett Jaguar does contain a lot of world building, maybe too much for a 500 word sample. It can be hard for what appears to be a sliver of a longer piece to compete with a complete scene, as we have with Peter Pen, because the reader doesn't necessarily get that satisfied feeling of resolution that would come with reading beyond the 500 words. Jett Jaguar doesn't deliver the same level of plot and tension as Peter Pen, but the writing is stronger, and I'm a fan of Red Rising, so...

    Jett Jaguar wins my vote!

  7. It's great to see the longer works from these two talented writers! It's always a challenge to compare a snip from a longer work with a self-contained short story - apples and orangutans. I'm casting my vote for PeterPen. For me, it offered a stronger sense of resolution, more character development, and more immediate, personal stakes. Jett Jaguar had to spend too much on world building and back story, and while the survival of Planet Earth is certainly a big deal, it never felt personal for the central character.

  8. I love the story Peter Pen offers, but in the end, Jett Jaguar's writing seems stronger to me. Peter Pen's dialogue tags were a bit too long for me and pulled me out of the conversation. Loved the humor and twist!

    I'm not typically a SF fan, but Jett's writing is precise and I can feel the character development alongside very natural world building.

    Both super strong. Ugh, I definitely feel clobbered in this round.

  9. My vote goes to Jett Jaguar for precise writing and consistency to the genre; I can imagine reading this as part of a full book. Yes, this 500-word snippet could have pulled more punch if condensed into a simple story rather than the focus on broad, over-arching world building. It's a beautiful piece of writing.

    Peter Pan is fun and snappy, but rough in terms of the writing and seemed cliched to me; while it's cute, it doesn't make me want to read more.

  10. These are both great new entries from talented authors! I like that Peter Pen's writing sample was a follow up to the first submission. The writing was good and I enjoyed the conflict. You can have all the strength in the world, but that doesn't automatically make you the hero.

    Jett Jaguar's new entry contains a lot of great writing and solid world building. I could see myself reading a novel like this and really getting into it.

    This is a tough one since both are deserving in their own ways. Alas, for having a juicy conflict that I could sink my teeth into, my vote goes to Peter Pen.

  11. My vote is for Jett Jaguar. Both entries promise interesting stories, but the Jett's writing feels tighter and I'm not expecting a full story or even a scene in 500 words.

  12. Jett Jaguar's worldbuilding is thorough and detailed, beautifully written, but for the length of this sample, too detailed for me. Jett sets up the stakes nicely, but then it doesn't go anywhere. All the description at the end leaves me with a feeling of, "And so?" I would have liked to know what the character was going to do, even a hint of it, that compels me to want to read more.

    Peter Pen's entry is snappy although seemingly cliched. Yet in this snippet, Peter takes us from cliche to, "Oh, really? What happens next?" That last line delivers the perfect punch (pun intended). I'm pulled in. I want to know about his journey.

    My vote: Peter Pen.

  13. One vote for Peter Pen! His story draws me in. I found Jett’s story a bit hard to keep up with and too wordy.

    Congrats to both for making it this far!

  14. Both writers are clearly talented. I liked the voice in number one, the vulnerability in the character, however, the humor in number two pulled me in more. I LMAO at the undead Hemingway comment. Therefore, I vote for number two. Thanks to both authors for sharing their work. This was a fun experience.

  15. Both pieces were extremely well written - the toughest choice so far in the contest.

    I'm a big Sci-Fi fan, but Jett Jaguar's tale just didn't hit the mark for me. The story contained too much info dump, and never really explained why the facility the MC ran was being shut down.

    My vote goes to Peter Pen. I found the MC's thoughts perfectly expressed, and enjoyed his emotional cringe at his final realization. Can't wait to read more...

  16. So close, which I'm getting used to here, lol. Great job to both of you!

    I love the world-building of Jett Jaguar, and I would not call that passage an info dump at all -- it's called narrative, lol, and too many stories this day don't have enough of it, IMHO. If this is the start of the story, might be better to move it elsewhere though, just to get the story off to a quicker start.

    But for originality and humor and a great twist that makes me need to keep reading, I have to go with Peter Pen for this round.

  17. Congrats to both for making it this far!

    Peter Pen, I had a lot of trouble with your writing style, as it seemed very clunky to me. While I liked the world building, I had some major issues with the story arc. Even though your main character was becoming a villain, I have major problems with the implication that the girl's wishes should be ignored just because the man is stronger.

    With Jett's writing, even though the break to world build at the end through be off a bit, I liked it better. I am intrigued by the idea of a fix for global warming that humanity can still screw up. Your writing style was also cleaner and more polished.

    Vote to Jett Jaguar

    JoAnne Turner

  18. Congrats on surviving this far, contestants. Great work.

    Peter Pen ends the snippet with a wonderful little twist that makes me wish I could turn the page and keep reading. Where's the rest?! This was a fun read and an interesting twist on the superhero genre. I thought a couple early attributions might have been over the top, but that's a minor complaint and only because I'm looking for something to critique here.

    I thought much of the description from Jett could be sprinkled into the story that's still to come, and maybe that would have helped bring out more from the character, who didn't resonate with me. Couple minor quibbles that can be fixed ("felt his body" is telling and "brief instant" is redundant), but otherwise a solid piece.

    In the end, Peter Pen gets my vote as it pulled me into the story.

  19. My vote goes to Jett Jaguar.

    Peter Pen's story had a lot interesting elements, but the characters didn't feel as fully developed as they could have been. I would've liked to see more going into the transformation of the MC from good guy to bad guy, more depth. I did really like the twist ending though, that was a great element.

    What I'd like to see more of in Jett Jaguar's piece is consequences. Why doesn't Digger want to go home? What will happen when he goes home? Why is it being shut down? Is there a deeper conspiracy happening? Toward the end, with the descriptions of the farms, I felt like the story lost some momentum. The descriptions were really nice, but I would have preferred an ending that was more solidly tied into what might happen next in the story.

  20. I vote for Jett Jaguar simply because I prefer the subject matter.

  21. My vote goes to Peter Pen! Very nicely written.

  22. I felt lost in the over description of the space story. Vote goes to Peter Pen.

  23. My vote goes to Peter Pen. I love stories that are character driven and yours really did a good job. Also, very good use of dialogue to move the story along. Nice last line to end the story.

    Jett Jaguar, your story had an interesting premise, but I felt it was incomplete. The ending wasn't as satisfactory as I would've liked and I feel you could have cut some of the description to save on words.

  24. Although I enjoyed seeing what Jaguar could do in a longer story, it's less personal than Peter Pen's wonderfully flawed character. My vote goes to Peter Pen.

  25. Both good stories, strong writing, but I felt more drawn into Peter Pan's story line and characters. Jet's description at the end of the story seemed to go on and on. I vote for Peter Pan

  26. I got too much world and not enough character in Jett Jaguar. :( Sorry. I loved the fish story though.

    My vote goes to Peter Pen. I do feel like the story is progressing almost too quickly for me but I do feel like I can connect with the character.

  27. My attention wandered too much in Jett's. Vote is for Peter Pen.

  28. Such a hard choice. Both pieces are great in their own way. My vote goes to Peter Pen because of the twist at the end.

  29. Global warming? Really? Yawn!
    I’m glad to see Dave’s character developing and that even with his new powers he’s still hung up on the old girlfriend. He’s discovering that all the superhuman strength in the world won’t change a heart. I’m interested to see where this goes.
    One vote for Peter Pen.

  30. My vote is for Peter Pen. The stories continue to get better with each bout. This writer makes me come back for more!

  31. I could have sworn I voted on this the first day, but I don't see my comment, vote goes for Jett Jaguar because, although not much happens in this little excerpt, I think the writing is more polished than Peter's.

  32. Peter Pen ... I'm curious as to why it's written in past tense rather than present. Great ending though, and it gets my vote because of it.

    Jett Jaguar ... I'm guessing the short story has more parts to it. Seems like a good sci-fi, or realistic future story (as the case may be). It is pretty good, I just wish a little bit more happened in this part.

  33. Peter Pan gets my vote! I like how the character transforms in that piece. Also, writing is very sharp and attention-grabbing. Great job, Peter Pan!

  34. Peter Pan! Please delete Skygirl (that was me before I read the rules closely)

  35. Vote to Jett Jaguar because it pulls me in more.

  36. Voting for Jett Jaguar because I'd like to learn more about this world and time!




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