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WRiTE CLUB 2019 - Preliminaries - Round #3

Before we get started, I wanted to address the issue a few readers are having with not being able to post comments, or having those comments show up as UNKNOWN even though they have a Google Account.  There are several things at play here. First, if you are using the Safari Browser it has a known problem with Blogger and you have two choices. Switch to Firefox as a browser (I've never had a problem using it), or change the setting on Safari as illustrated below.

The other problem is Blogger not recognizing you when adding a comment and therefore designating you as UNKNOWN. This could happen if the reader is a Blogger user themselves and they have not changed their settings since Google + went away.  To do this follow these steps:

Go to Blogger dashboard.
Set User Profile = Blogger (instead of Google +)

Hopefully, that will resolve everyone's issues and let the votes/comments reach our contestants. If you missed the first two bouts because of one of these issues, remember the bouts remain LIVE for a week so you can still go back and let your choice be known.

Now that we have that taken care, it's back to business. WRiTE CLUB (sponsored by the DFW Conference) is tournament-style contest that runs during the eight weeks prior to the conference and it provides writers the opportunity to compete against one another for a chance to win free admission to next year’s conference (along with other prizes). Here’s the kicker—it’s all done anonymously. Writers have submitted 500-word writing samples under pen names. The chosen (pre-decided by a group of twenty slush pile readers) are paired off to go head-to-head in daily “bouts”, with the winner of each match determined by you the reader—by voting for your favorites. Bout winners keep advancing until there are only two remaining and that’s when a panel of celebrity judges, who include well know authors, agents, editors, and other publishing folks, choose the ultimate champion.

Even though the contest is sponsored by DFW, anyone can vote (as long as you have a Google sign-in or verifiable email address), and when you do, we encourage you to leave a mini-critique for both writers. Oh, I forgot to mention that the voters can win a $60 Barnes and Noble prize. Each time you vote in a bout your name will be placed into a hat and at the end of the contest, one name will be selected to receive the prize.

How this works—two anonymous (pen name only) writing samples are waiting in the ring below. Visitors to this blog (that’s you) should read both entries and then vote by leaving a comment for the one that resonates with you the most. We also ask that you leave a brief critique for both writers with your vote because that is one of the real values of this contest—FEEDBACK. Please be respectful with your remarks!

Even though there will be a different bout every day (M-F), the voting for each bout will remain open for seven days from the date I post it to give as many people as possible to have a say. Voting for today’s bout will close on Tuesday, May 7th (noon central time). To help keep up with which bouts are open, you can follow along on the WRiTE CLUB Scoreboard updated right HERE.

It’s that simple. The writing piece that garnishes the most votes will move on to the next round where they’ll face a different opponent. In case of a tie, I’m the deciding vote. I can do that because, like all of you, I do not know the real names of our contestants either (my wife processes all the submissions).

A few more 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 cause 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!
4) Although not really a rule, it is suggested that you cast your own vote BEFORE you read the comments by other voters. Don't let yourself be swayed by other opinions.

That’s enough of the fine printlike the man says –

On one side of the ring stands Griff N. Dorr representing the Sci-Fi genre.

In the confusion of last night's escape, Mida hadn't really gotten a good look at the house, but eventually she found the stairs and headed down them. Faint sounds drew her around the corner to a narrow, cluttered kitchen.

Inside was an old man with wispy hair dyed in half a dozen colors. He lifted a ladle with a hand made of metal and wires, and stirred what smelled like some kind of bean soup. Mida's stomach growled.

The noise must have given her away, because the old man addressed her without looking up. "If you're going to sleep through breakfast, don't complain that you're hungry before lunch."

Mida tried not to look at the myriad fruits and vegetables piled on the counter. She was a stranger here; she had no right to ask for anything.

"I'm fine," she lied. "Is that woman ... er, Cipher here somewhere?"

"She'll be back." The old man finally turned, appraising her. He must have seen someone worth taking pity on, because he grabbed a green and red fruit and tossed it to her. "So you're the new kid. Mida, right? They call me Bitz. Don't bother asking why."

Mida bit the unfamiliar fruit, only to spit it out in disgust a moment latter. It tasted like pepper.

Bitz chuckled and handed her a paring knife. "Never had a mango before?"

"How does everybody know who I am?" Mida wondered, slicing open the mango. The fruit inside was orange, sticky, and much tastier than the peel.

Bitz shook his head. "A name, a face; that's not knowing someone. You want to know who a person is, you've got to see them at their worst. They gonna run, or fight? They gonna stand for something, or they all about what's in it for them?"

She wanted to ask Bitz which kind of person he was, but she had several far more urgent questions. For example, "Why did you let us in?"

There was no reason for Bitz to know the answer; he hadn't been there when Mida pounded on the strangely marked door last night. But Cipher must have filled him in.

"You mean what does Aegis want with you? Beats the heck outta me. I keep telling Cipher, one day her imaginary friend is gonna get someone killed."

Mida suppressed a sigh. "So you haven't met him either."

"No one's met Aegis. He, she, it, they—all speculation. Save me the pit," he added. "I'm growing them on the roof."

It occurred to Mida that Bitz was a lot like the mango in her hand. Bitter on the outside, but much more pleasant when you got past the surface.

She leaned forward. "So, why do they call you Bitz?"

The old man loomed suddenly, clacking the fingers of his prosthetic hand beneath her nose. With that crazy hair, he reminded her of a mad scientist. 

"Because," he said ominously, a twinkle in his eye, "that's all they ever found of my arm."

On the far side of the ring we have  Galadhon who is representing the Ghost Story genre.

The ghost appeared in the doorway.

I saw her from my cot, and thought it was Alice, in a Victorian dress of her grandmother’s, or some such fool thing. But Alice is no fool, and she has no business in Vimy field hospital anyway.

Five other cots in this tent, all occupied. But this was in the still, cold hour before dawn, and the other men slept, wounds buried beneath prickly wool. I’d also been asleep, and dreaming of Alice, on an icy winter morning at the skating rink in Westmount Park. I was showing off, recreating some of my best weaves and dodges from last season’s hockey matches, and in my cot I tried to turn, and the searing pain in my leg jolted me awake.

I was afraid I’d cried out, and kept motionless, as if evading a sniper, until I’d worked out the snores from the other beds and could be certain that, even if I had overreacted, no one had heard me.

There were no sounds from beyond the tent except the distant thud of gunfire. The guns are always there. You breathe, your blood flows; and you breathe in the stench of the dead and your blood throbs with the rattle of the machine guns. Until a shot stops your blood, and your body becomes the stink in another man’s nostrils.

The pain was no less. I grunted, shifted my hips, rolled my shoulders. Did everything I could, short of wrenching my leg out of traction and clawing the dressings off with my ragged nails.

I opened my eyes, and that’s when I saw the ghost.

She was whiter than the grimy tent walls. The door flap was ajar, and she was poised with the darkness behind her and the flicker of our single lantern sending gold threads along the front of her high-collared dress. Yet neither black nor gold disturbed her essential paleness, which made of dress and skin one form. Like a figure carved from meerschaum, she was. Her arms hung low and she clasped her hands under her belly. Her limbs might have been embroidery on the dress, and its long skirts might have as easily been part of the shape of her legs.

All this I grasped in one swift instant, as my artist’s mind sought ways to make real and plausible what must otherwise be an impossible, fiendish spectre.

She looked me in the eye, and though hers were black pits open onto nothing, still I thought I saw a gleam there, as of an inferno in a corner of Hell, and I swept up my glass and flung the last of my water at her.

But she was two cot-lengths away, and even if a drop had reached her, she would not melt like meerschaum. The thought that the water might pass through her, provide physical proof that she was indeed a spectre, made me cry out again. One squawk, before I clamped my teeth into my lower lip.

Leave your votes and critiques in the comments below. Again, be respectful of your remarks and try to point out positives as well as detractions.

We’ll be back tomorrow with bout #4. Please help all our writers out by telling everyone you know what is happening here and encourage them to come vote.

This is WRiTE CLUB—the contest where the audience gets clobbered!


  1. Oooooo—another fantastic round!

    Griff—a fantastic sense of place! I immediately loved Bitz, and I’m very intrigued what Mida has escaped from and why she’s been allowed entry into Cipher’s joint. I would read on, great sample.

    Galadhon— I love this line: ‘Until a shot stops your blood, and your body becomes the stink in another man’s nostrils.’ I thought you created some visceral imagery, but I found some sentences a little difficult to read. For example, I love a semicolon but think about how it reads and would a full stop (period) make it flow better and add to the pacing of the narrative. Also, I’m not sure why he would throw the water when he was afraid of waking the other men, I thought given his earlier decision he may have reacted in another way. (Might just be me.) But i’d keep reading nevertheless!

    Tough choice but my vote goes to Griff.

  2. Or, em dashes Galadhon, they're my personal for changing the flow of sentences. — —;-)

  3. I'm voting for Galadhon, I felt that Griff's was heavy on dialogue that didn't have enough unique narrative (like "suppressed a sigh, leaned forward, shook his head" all seem kind of bland) for me to really understand the characters - and it seemed like an intro to a further story. The dialogue wasn't interesting in itself, it was just setting up context and characterization. It's probably a story that I would read as a whole story but for a 500 word excerpt it was just kind of underwhelming. Galadhon's isn't the kind of story that I would probably want to read (not my fav genre) but the voice is very distinct and well done.

  4. Oh, man--these are both amazing. If I could, I'd vote for both :). Since I can't, I'm going for Griff N. Dorr because the situation is so well drawn and the imagery amazing. I'm also a huge fan of dialog in an opening, especially when it flows as naturally as it does in Griff's sample. Galadhon's is an incredibly close second--beautiful and harrowing imagery, and a very believable depiction of someone suffering in the aftermath of war. Wonderful job by both authors!!!

  5. As I read both stories, a phrase I learned many years ago floated in my head: emotional logic.

    In the first piece, the emotional logic was very strong. Everything worked. You understood the why as well as the what with a promise that the how would arrive soon. It was easy and compelling and made me wish there was more.

    The second piece, while having a degree of emotional logic, did not compel me to want more. There was a battle, blood, pain and a ghost. I did not find myself investing in the characters as I should. My suggestion would be to flesh out the character a bit more so that throwing water at the ghost makes sense. At this point it seems that he is a split personality: not wanting to wake everyone up but needing to throw the water anyway.

    Griff gets my vote.

  6. Griff: This seems like the start of a unique story! I don’t know anything about the narrator’s personality. It’s hard to get past the confusion that the narrator escaped last night, but stuck around for breakfast? Great closing line, but it would have more impact if I already had a reason to care about these characters. I’m intrigued by where this is going, but not yet hooked.

    Galadhon: There’s a long segue between the great opening line and the return to the ghost, and I kept forgetting what was going on. Nice writing, but it’s a bit flowery. The brief change to present tense was confusing.

    I vote for Galadhon, because there’s a distinct voice and more hints of character here.

    Congrats to both!

  7. My vote is for Griff N. Dorr. I'm interested in the characters which are described so well in the story. I also enjoyed the touch of humor. I had a hard time following Galadhon. I couldn't place exactly where the ghost was and where the cup of water was. And I didn't understand the description of the ghost.

  8. Both great pieces-- Griff, intro to a very interesting piece, and I'm curious as to who she is fleeing from. But as mentioned in a previous comment, it seems a bit heavy on dialogue with not much to go with it.

    Galadhon- really nice flow and great imagery, but I think the tension could really be racked up even further to make the piece more intriguing.

    my vote goes to Galadhon.

  9. Another difficult choice, and I had to walk away from the stories to decide. While I was getting ready for the day, it was Galadhon’s story that kept coming to mind—I want to know more about that ghost.

    Griff’s story was also interesting, but I needed a tad more information to keep me invested—namely, who is she running from? Just a hint of that would help, I think. But still a strong piece with fantastic dialogue.

    My vote goes to Galadhon.

  10. I'm thinking Griff N. Dorr took this round. I liked both entries, but Griff's was easier to identify with. I felt a bit lost wandering around in Galadhon's story. For the record, neither one is a genre I generally read, but I would continue the Griff story to find out more about the two characters.

  11. IMHO, these two are the best yet! Each piece gripped me with a solid sense of place, character, and voice, and something about to happen. Neither contains much action, really. They read more like interludes, but again, so gripping! Difficult choice today.

    Griff N. Dorr: A strong sense of place and voice. The formatting and lost words threw me off a bit, but I didn't penalize you because I could easily fill in what's missing. Stuff happens. What did throw me off is just after the halfway mark, when Mida asks the question, "Why did you let us in?" But Bitz didn't let them in and she knows that. So who did? This is where I got confused. My confusion was further compounded with the talk about Cipher, Aegis, imaginary friend, etc. After this section, it straightened out and then... that voice! So many good lines. Natural, smooth. If it weren't for that Cipher/Aegis section, this would have had my vote for sure.

    Galadhon: Nothing much happens in this piece either, but that's perfectly fine with me. We never learn why the ghost is there. But it evokes so many *feelings*! What this person has been through, told with incredible language and descriptions... OhMiGosh. You snagged me and didn't let go. One word of caution, though: watch those run-on sentences. Way too many. They can make a piece tiring to read. Clean this up a bit by varying sentence length, and you've got a perfect slam-dunk.

    This decision was the hardest yet, but my vote goes to Galadhon.

  12. My vote goes to Griff n Door! I don't care for sci-fi and thought this passage would be no different, but it pulled me in. I really enjoyed your piece and was interested in what happened next.

    The second was a great entry as well. I especially liked the reference to meerschaum. I don't know that I've ever seen anyone do that, and it stood out to me.

    Thank you both for putting yourselves out there!

  13. Good morning, Contestants! Congratulations on making into the ring. I"m going to borrow the critique format I saw in yesterday's bout.

    Griff N. Dorr
    What worked for me:
    You've successfully plopped me right into fully-formed scene
    Excellent sensory descriptions, like the smell of the soup
    Natural sounding dialogue

    What didn't work for me:
    I'm not sure what happened with the formatting. It was distracting, but still readable.
    Since it seems like part of a longer story, it was a bit confusing
    Nothing really happens other than Mida wakes up and eats a mango.

    What works for me:
    Wonderfully atmospheric
    Some of the long sentences are just beautifully written
    It had a Poe-like feeling to it

    What doesn't work for me:
    Some of the long sentences are clunky and slow the pacing down. I had to re-read several sentences
    No need to take up such limited space describing a dream
    I pride myself on having a decent vocabulary, but I had to look up meerschaum.

    One point to Griff N. Dorr! Wonky formatting aside, it kept me reading instead of looking up a word or re-reading clunky sentences.

    Again, Congrats to both of you!

  14. Both pieces are well written. The only difference that made me choose Griff N. Dorr was I enjoyed the dialog so much.

  15. Today's vote for Griff N. Dorr. Felt smooth, could feel the story moving to a place I'd like to visit. The ending was startling, in a good way.
    Galadhon chose an interesting setting. I'd like to hear more about that. The description moved a bit slow for my taste. The individual sentences were quite beautiful--together, just a bit slow.
    Congrats to both for making it to bouts!

  16. Gonna have to go with Griff N. Door! I liked Bitz a lot, and enjoyed both the dialogue and the descriptions; a fun read, and one that looks like it could build up into something really interesting. Galadhon's piece was a bit confusing, meandering in places I felt the tension could have been higher--and we move from ghost to no ghost to ghost again? I had a hard time following.

  17. I must confess I was somewhat underwhelmed by these stories which is surprising since I am a fan of these genres. Griff N. Dorr’s tale is clearly the middle of some larger piece. This is almost the opposite of an info dump. While in media res can work, in this it doesn’t because I have no idea what’s going on, who these people are or why I should care. I’m not even sure if this takes place on Earth, some other world, etc.

    (I will also confess because I have been watching Amazon Prime’s ‘The Tick’ the references to the person/place/thing Aegis makes me think of that SHIELD-esque entity).

    Galadhon’s entry appears to be from World War I (at least I think that because of the reference to the aftermath of the Battle of Vimy Ridge). The writing style is a little as off as sometimes it seems to be aping Edwardian speaking/writing styles and other times it comes through as being written today, discussing past events. It also seems to restart midway through. At the beginning we are told of the ghost, then there is some background info. Then we are reminded of the ghost. Probably could have been tightened up just a bit.

    In the 500 words allotted, I think Galadhon’s entry works better and that is where I place my vote.

  18. A vote for Griff! I feel like I learned so much about the characters of both Mida and Bitz from their exchange (both in what they say and how they act). I want to know everything about this story.

    I liked the concept of Galadhon's piece but felt the phrasing to be awkward and almost difficult to follow in places. I would have liked less of an explanation leading up to the ghost and more time spent on the reaction/interaction with the ghost instead.

  19. Danielle Resh-

    Wow— my vote goes to Galadhon. The writing in Galadhon’s piece felt so crisp, so fresh. I love how it began with a very short, straightforward sentence and then went on to describe just a few key details about the ghost. I love the sensory imagery— “your blood throbs with the rattle of the machine guns…util your body becomes the stink in another man’s nostrils.” Those lines have so much punch. Details like “ragged nails” and “prickly wool” added to the creepy feel of the piece. I’m also really intrigued by this Alice character. I would love to read more of this story.

    Griff N. Dorr also did an excellent job. I love the description of the old man “with wispy hair” bent over the soup, and the details about the mango. It gives the story a twist on a fairy tale feel. I also love the ending of the piece— how the man looks to her slowly and says, “That’s all they ever found of my arm.”

  20. Vote to Galadhon, though I liked both. Galadhon gets the edge because the narrator voice didn't feel as familiar. I suspect I would really like Griff's book as a whole, but I feel like I've read versions of this scene before in other fantasy stories. Galadhon gets a little tripped up on too many details every once in a while--description of the ghost, description of the other wounded. They seem very self-conscious about doing that "use all five senses!" thing, which is good, but when there's a ghost standing in the doorway, our focus needs to slide past a few sensory details to hone in on the horror. But that's a nitpick--the ghost story gets my vote.

  21. Griff n dor gets my vote today. The story drew me in a little more, would like to know more. With Galadhorn I loved the descriptions but not as drawn to the story.

  22. Galadhon’s story gets my vote. I’m immediately intrigued and interested in the narrator. There are hints that ghost is not all she appears to be. I want to read more.

    Griff N. Dorr: This is a case where the 500 word exert does no justice to the story. There is not enough here for me to want to read more. I immediately thought this was either a Harry Potter or XMen spin off. I could neither like nor dislike either character.

  23. Griff N Dor is the winner for me today. What can I say? I loved Bitz. His character kept me reading.

  24. Voting for Galadhon. The story evoked more feeling for me. Griff's setting drew me in, but I felt distant from the character.

  25. Two solid entries -- I find quite a bit to like in both,

    I think Griff did a good job of establishing a scene with setting and characters while also keeping the pace moving. Descriptions were kept to a minimum and inserted only as needed to keep the narrative flowing. Dialogue and interaction with the characters helped pull me in, Only 500 words in and I have a good sense of story, while still having developed plenty of questions to keep me wanting more.

    However, there were also some issues, too. The opening line works well to arouse interest ("escape" ?), but "good look at the house" moved me outside since that's where I look 'at' the house, so it briefly added some confusion -- something like "a good look 'around'' the house." or "a good feel for the layout of the house" might help. Multiple weak, vague word choices hinder the flow -- "really" adds nothing, "faint sounds" could be anything from speech to the house settling, "some kind of" is vague, "wondered" is something that is typically done to oneself, so unless Bitz can read minds, she spoke aloud. And Mida's actions are inconsistent -- she seems timid and non-confrontational, yet purposely asks the one thing Bitz specifically said not to ask.

    Galadhon's piece also does many things well. I get a good feel for the character and the setting, and the situation is intriguing. There's enough history of the character and the setting inserted to help the reader, get a picture of them without bogging down in world-building and backstory. Many of the descriptions are captivating -- "the stink in another man's nostrils," "a figure carved from meerschaum" (although now-days, that might be an image many might not know -- modern readers might be more apt to recognize the "glow of an e-cigarette" or "the sheen of a plastic bong" than a meerschaum pipe).

    But as with Griff, there are a few cracks in the foundation, too. I'm not sure if this is supposed to be a scene happening "now" as the reader reads it, or one in the narrator's past -- the MC's telling makes it seem like a past event. I am fond of long, comma-draped sentences, but I also recognize it can be hard for the reader to latch on to all those linked phrases, too. Mixing it up with some short-beat sentences helps keep the rhythm going.

    I also stumbled a few times. "The pain was no less." No less than what? No less than the stink of your dead body in another man's nostrils, since that was the antecedent?

    Still, overall, I think the lyrical phrasing of Galadhon won it for me over the immediacy and pacing of Griff.

    Both were very good, but my vote goes to Galadhon,

  26. I’m a sucker for voice which Griff excelled at. You get my vote 😊

  27. I'm voting for Griff N Dor. 1) I've never thought of trying to eat a mango that way. 2) I want to read more!

  28. These are two good entries but their writing styles are very different. Griff's scene was well laid-out, I got a sense of the characters and setting. But, like others said, I felt that there were some vague phrasing and it felt a bit simplistic, almost choppy in terms of flow. As for Galadhon, I got a great sense of setting but not so much of the character. That combined with the fact that the sentence structure led to kind of looped phrasing, there were sections I had to re-read in order to understand them. It think if it were tightened up it would be a huge improvement. All that being said, my vote goes to Griff.

  29. A difficult choice, but my vote goes to Galadhon, on pure writing skill alone, especially since they've done a great job making the voice period-accurate. Also, hopefully I've got the name problem sorted, thanks for the guidelines!

  30. WOW! What a choice! Best entries thus far. Both are compelling and very well written. My vote goes to Galadhon because of the fantastic imagery that really grounded me in the place, the time and the emotions.

  31. Loved both entries. Gorgeous ghost details in Galadhon, visceral sense of place. But on the basis of characterization and wanting to read more, my vote goes to Griff.

  32. I really loved both pieces. Griff held my attention with the characters, and Galadhon had my hearing and smelling the scene. Excellent skill from both authors. I can't really find concrete critiques, so I'm going to have to go with personal preference for what I enjoy reading.

    For that, I have to go with Griff. I want more about Bitz!

  33. Another excellent round, this is why I love Writeclub so much. Both pieces did a great job immediately pulling me into the settling and giving me a sense of the MC and their voice. But a bit like the second entry from yesterday I didn’t feel like anything happened?
    Griff, entry one, is very dialogue heavy and it seems a little generic from this sample. You might have had to cut out some of the actions that make it feel less stilted to fit the 500 words but from this alone the world doesn’t feel very alive. Also the part where she is like “Why did you let us in?” threw me off a little. I thought from the context at the front of the story he was a brand new person to her.
    Galadhon, entry two, you did a great job of building tension. I did have to read the dream part twice to understand it because I think it had a tense change in it but now I don’t want to scroll back up. The descriptions in this passage were what really hooked me. The pain and the fear. I was more scared of the gunfire than the ghost but that might be intentional. Some of the sentences were a little flowery and could be pruned. All that being said….
    Galadhon gets my vote this round!

  34. My vote goes to GriffN Dor the pacing, the characters, and the situation makes me want to read more, and I like the dark humor with the arm.

    Feed back for Galadhon I'd say you do great imagery, but the pacing was jarring. Throw in the uncertain time period and I was honestly getting a little lost. Victorian dress, snipers, machine guns, hockey. All of it mixed together creates a bit of whiplash for me. I guess the recurring word for me was context. I wanted to know who the character was, why could they see ghosts, what war was it.

    1. The above vote will not be counted as it remains anonymous.


      Nikolai Wisekal

  35. i vote for Galadhon, very good, great descriptions. the first story was also good but Galadhon's was very atmospheric.

  36. Two excellent stories in which the writers put it all on the line. What's better than that? I enjoyed them both and it was hard to pick my favorite.

    Griff N. Dorr was well constructed for a 500 word limit story. I felt like I got a peek at a much larger story, but it still stood on its own as entertaining. Excellent imagery and dialogue.

    Galadon also presented an entertaining story, especially for readers like myself who enjoy ghost stories. The prose were good, the imagery excellent. But too many commas. It was distracting. The reference to meerschaum melting confused me. I had never heard of that, but perhaps it happens.

    As I am writing this, I am still making up my mind between these two excellent stories. My vote goes to Griff N. Dorr.

  37. Neither gave any conclusion or why, but I liked the exchange between the two in the first. Griff N. Dorr gets my vote.

  38. Another difficult choice! Both stories were interesting and I was sad when they ended. It was really hard to decide, but Griff N. Dorr gets my vote. Bitz pulled me in and had me wanting to know more about his character, even more than Mida. The dialogue flowed smoothly and was realistic. I would definitely keep reading.

    Galadhon – your story was great and I wanted to keep reading more of it as well. Couldn’t really tell the “when” of the story so some of the wording was confusing – sniper, field hospital. But that’s probably just me. Congrats on making it into the Top 30! Your bout put you up against stiff competition.

  39. Both pieces have their strengths. Griff's set up an interesting premise and interesting characters that made me want to know more about what was going on. Galadhon's set up a vivid scene that juxtaposed gritty realism with the supernatural. Today's vote comes more from personal preference than anything else. Griff N. Dorr gets my vote.

  40. Griff N Door
    What worked:
    You accomplished a surprising amount in this short passage. There are enough clues about the characters and the setting built into this scene that I feel comfortable in your world, but enough oddness that I am curious to find out more.
    What didn't:
    I see several passive sentences that I'd love to see reworked. While this piece is more polished than the other one, it doesn't have as much emotional depth.
    I don't for one second believe that she figured out how to cut a mango on the first try. ;)

    What worked:
    There is something deeply moving about the emotion and intent behind this story. I can FEEL the agony and fear writhing underneath the surface. That depth is the key difference between writing and storytelling.
    What didn't:
    Unfortunately, all that emotion is buried in convoluted sentence structure and too many grammatical errors. It needs another polish so all that goodness can really shine through.

    My vote goes for Griff N Door's piece because it feels closer to a final draft. I truly hope that Galadhon keeps going on their story, though.

  41. Five points and my vote to Griff N. Dorr! I was actively curious about the rest of the story. I asked the right questions about off-screen characters and how Mida got to this place.

  42. Galahdon gets my vote. I was drawn in immediately by the first line and I enjoyed the narrator's voice.

  43. Griff gets my vote because of Bitz. That and I wanted to know more. What can I say, I was hooked.

  44. I think Griff's story has promise but there wasn't enough in this piece to draw me in.
    And I have a weakness for war stories, so Galadhon's worked for me. That one gets my vote.

  45. This was definitely a read-ruminate-return round for me. Both of the pieces had strong world-building. Griff's dialogue was well-paced, albeit a little vague, and Galadhon's description was beautiful, albeit a little distracting from the plot line. Ultimately, I found myself thinking more about Griff's piece. I want to find out who Aegis is, whether Cipher is really imagining it, why it's manifesting to others. I want to hear Bitz say crappy old man crazy scientist things. I'm trusting that these details will all work themselves out in a brilliant storyline! For that reason, I'm going with Griff on this one. Congrats to both writers on beautiful work!

  46. I read a lot of sci-fi but not really ghost stories because I'm a scaredy cat. I enjoyed both pieces tremendously and had a difficult time making up my mind.

    Griff N. Dorr - The story presents itself as sci-fi, but it doesn't shove the sci-fi aspect in your face. The references to sci-fi are subtle, and not so apparent which makes me curious about the characters and how indeed it IS sci-fi, which is a good thing. I found the dialogue between Mida and Bitz engaging too.

    Galadhon - The first line catches the reader, but there were some sentences that felt a little rambling. I liked the description of the ghost, 'her limbs might have been embroidery on the dress' :) I wish the piece could've gone a little further though because there was a build-up but then the end felt flat for me.

    My vote goes to Griff N. Dorr.

  47. Griff N. Dorr representing the Sci-Fi genre.
    This pulled me in quickly with its setting and characters. It flowed well and set up some possibilities that would make me read on. So, it worked and I grinned at the last line. Nothing radically different though.

    Galadhon who is representing the Ghost Story genre.
    Loved the opening with reveal after clever reveal - ghost, characters, setting. But in fact the first sentence might be redundant as the ghost is repeated in a better place. Sense of the horror of WWI works. However, I'm not sure the ending is perfect as I'm not scared but confused. Is she a ghost, a demonic spirit, and who is she there for? Tighter editing might have allowed for that revelation or is that picky me?

    I vote for Galadhon as the language is richer and more crafted.

  48. Both great entries, my vote is for Griff N. Dorr for making me smile with dynamic characters. Also, your pen name is A+

    Thank you both for sharing!

  49. Two more entries that I just really loved! Griff N. Dorr has a lovely way of immersing the reader into a YA fantasy and given that it's one of my favorite genres, it's hard not to love this one. The way the characters are described gives us a great indication of their personalities right off the bat and it's really well done. The writing itself is a little stiff, but that could be because this was a longer piece shaved down to 500 words for the contest, so I don't hold it against them!

    Galadhon, this entry. Just blew me away. The writing is skilled and flows so well. The character is intelligent without being presumptuous and difficult to follow. He's intriguing. And I want to know more about what he's seeing and why and what he's going to do. This entire scenario is so different than anything I've really seen and the writer did a really phenomenal job describing a ghost, something that's surprisingly hard to do (though you wouldn't know it unless you've ever tried to describe one!)

    In the end, my vote goes to Galadhon. I really feel like there was a deeper layer to the story, like I was more fully immersed in the character's head and really truly seeing what he was seeing and feeling what he was feeling. Both writers have incredible talent & should be very proud. Wonderfully done!

  50. Congratulations to you both!

    Griff N. Dorr’s piece jolted you into the action, in the good kind of way that leaves your head spinning. It does mean the reader is slightly confused about what’s going on, but since it fits with the position of the narrator, it works. She always appears to be very insightful, so I’d love to see more of her thoughts as she meets other people.

    Galadhon’s piece is very descriptive - while uncomfortable, the description of how one individual fits into the sounds and smells of battle is quite poetic. Unfortunately, the short sample didn’t do the ghost enough justice, and I was left only mildly interested in his ability to see her.

    My vote goes to Griff N. Dorr.

  51. I enjoyed both of these pieces, and I liked them both more than yesterday's round. That being said, I have some issues. Both of the stories -- What's up with the semicolons? It feels terribly showy to use on such a short story, even when employed properly. When misused, it's just bad.
    On a story level, I felt that Griff's was pared down from something already written. Not that I have a problem with that, but I feel like it can be very restricting to get your point across in 500 words. Galadhon, you've got a good idea to work with, but I felt every sentence was of similar length, and all used a similar format, lots of clauses, lots of commas. Some were varied as to where the main clause was, as in -- Like a figure carved from meerschaum, she was.
    The Yoda sentence structure feels like it's only there to create variation in sentence structure and length. Remember, simpler is better. She was like a figure carved from meerschaum. Direct, to the point, and it offsets all the other sentences with lots of dependent clauses hanging off the main clause. Just an idea. Hope it's helpful.
    My vote will go to Griff N. Dorr.

  52. It's so, so difficult to decide. I've been loving all the entries this week. Really want to know more about the characters in Griff N. Dorr's piece, and Galadhon's has some great atmosphere.
    Voting for Galadhon!

  53. My vote is for Galadhon. While both pieces painted a vivid picture, I felt Galadhon's writing style and strength of prose outweighed their opponent. Griff N. Dorr didn't give me enough time to settle into their story beats before moving on and it makes the piece feel too "on-the-surface."

  54. My vote's for Galadhon. Beautiful imagery put me right there in the tent!

  55. I voted Galadhon's entry through the slush on the strength of that fifth paragraph... Those guns, and the stench of war fully immersed me in the scene. Way to hone in on the telling details. However, the rest of the piece could use some tightening up, and based on the first white and ethereal description of the ghost, I struggled to follow the narrator's leap to "fiendish." It seems like those pit-of-Hell eyes would be worth his(?) noticing first.

    GriffNDor likewise pulled me right in to this scene. I appreciate how the characters reveal themselves through dialogue (complete with names, thank you!) and a deft, light touch of description, and don't weigh us down with backstory. This short segment reads a bit more like fantasy than SF, but I'm definitely interested enough to want to know what's happened in this story up to now, and what will happen next.

    My vote to GriffNDor.

  56. My vote is for Griff N. Dorr! I'm so intrigued!

  57. My vote goes to Griff N. Dorr. Mainly for making me hear Morgan Freeman's voice when Bitz spoke. I loved the dialogue and the many questions luring me to want more. Both stories were really good. I think Galadhon's imagery was great, but I had to reread the description about the hands and the dress.

  58. Ooh, these both have some very strong points. I struggled with Griff's first line to orient myself, but as soon as I grasped the situation the rest read very smooth and clear and was easy to follow. The questions it raised were intriguing rather than confusing. I simply adore the character of Bitz, and the piece ends with a bang. Galadon had some gorgeous descriptions. I especially loved "sending gold threads along the front of her high-collared dress." But some parts almost border on being overwritten. Overall, I connected better with the style and content of Griff. N. Dorr's piece, so they get my vote as it feels like a story I'd love the read in its entirety.

  59. These are both interesting and pull me into the story immediately. I'm going to vote for Galadon because the writing was so strong and tight - really good use of the 500 words. Congrats to both writers!

  60. This comment has been removed by the author.

  61. I vote for Griff. I liked the setting of the scene and the depth of the characters.

  62. My vote goes to Griff N. Dorr, because Bitz reminds me of a character from one of my favorite shows. Galadhon's entry lost me with all the commas, but I do love the imagery.

  63. Congratulations to you both on making it into the Top 30 - that in itself is a huge win!

    I feel both these pieces are pretty evenly matched.

    Griff's piece felt very much as though it has been pulled from the middle of something bigger, and the start itself feels a bit like I've been dropped into something mid-way. With this obviously being set in another world, I feel the reader needs a little knowledge of where they are etc. Of course with only 500 words, I appreciate that this is extremely difficult.

    I felt too, having known Bitz for such a short period, her assumptions about him being like the mango were a bit sudden. Also, was surprised after the old man specifically stated not to ask about his name, after only a few sentences she does, and he appears to willingly provide the answer.

    On the whole a good piece of writing, which I think might have been hindered a little by the word limit. I think if the reader could have slightly more knowledge of where they had been transported to it would really help build the scene. Well done on a good piece of writing though.

    Galadhon's piece is unusual and has a couple of really stand out sentences, my personal favorite being: "Her limbs might have been embroidery on the dress, and its long skirts might have as easily been part of the shape of her legs."
    That is a great sentence!

    However, there are a couple of extremely long sentences that interrupt the flow of reading. In places the writing felt a bit skippy, but on the whole the story unfolded in my mind thanks to the way the writer showed things rather than telling them. With a bit more polishing and tightening, I feel this would be a really great piece of writing.

    As I felt both of these pieces were very evenly matched, I am voting in this round for Galadhon... I chose this writer's submission as I felt more happened within their 500 words than in Griff's submission.

    Again, well done writers! Such an accomplishment to make it into the Top 30 - feel proud!

  64. Well done to both writers! I cast my vote for Galadhon. The ghost story drew me in more.

  65. My vote is for Griff N. Dorr. I was drawn into the story. The first sentence needs work as it confuses the reader but that's because this seems to come from a larger piece. Overall still good.

  66. Griff N. Dorr (100 house points for your pen name, which has no sway on my vote but made me laugh) I liked the slow reveal in the post. Though one character said not to bother asking about the name, and the other character does anyway. And I'm not sure how anyone manages to properly cut a mango the first time, especially if they don't even know what it is. But these are minor points. I enjoyed the story overall, and would like to read more of it. You have my vote.

    Galadhon - The ending worked for me. I wasn't grabbed enough by the rest. Just not a style I'm accustomed to reading.

  67. Griff is the kind of story I usually read and enjoy, so it gets my vote.

    The second one was fine, just not up my alley.

  68. I had a difficult time deciding here. Again!
    Griff N. Dorr: had a lot of points that intrigued me. It opened in the middle of the action, and the dialogue flowed smoothly. My only issue was that, while I love an opening that raises fascinating story questions, this one left me with too much confusion. Right from the first when Mida mentions escaping and then the house, I thought she had escaped from THIS house. I figured it out pretty quickly, but then there was someone with a hand made of metal and wires, so, given the SF genre, I thought he was an android for a while. There's no sense of what Mida escaped from. She mentions Cipher, so I thought Cipher helped Mida escape, but apparently not. And how does Mida know about Cipher's imaginary friend? I had too many confusions. That said, if this was the first couple of pages of a novel, I would definitely keep reading, impelled by my questions.

    Galadhon: A wonderful evocation of the horrors of the battlefield. There was a bit of a lag after the first sentence or two, before we got back to the current situation with the ghost, and I'm not sure what impelled the narrator to throw the water (and why that wasn't instantly painful), but overall it worked better for me.

    Kudos to both, but my vote goes to Galadhon.

  69. Griff N Dorr does such a great job at establishing character through dialogue. I came to care about the characters in less than 500 words, which is quite an accomplishment.

    Galadhon has some incredible imagery. There were a few lines that could have been tightened up to help the flow of the prose, though. However, overall, it was a beautiful story.

    Both are amazing, but my vote is for Griff!

  70. I like both of these. Voting Galadhon.

  71. Griff N Dorr gets my vote
    I loved the end! Great character development in 500 words.

  72. I think I'm going to go with Griff on this one. Interesting characters. Galadhon's was good too. Griff just held me a bit tighter.

  73. Griff gets my vote. I am intrigued.

  74. I vote for Galadhon.

    These are both really good and solidly written. It's a very close bout for me, I think both are much better than many of the previous entries I've read, so it's a shame they're going head to head instead of both moving on!

  75. This is a really hard one. Both of these entries are great.

    Reading slush, Galadhon immediately caught my attention with the lush writing and eerie atmosphere. Griff N. Dorr also caught my attention for its clean, straightforward style and Bitz. Bitz is such a vibrant character.

    Reading each entry again, I agree that Galadhon could use some tightening and maybe reordering. (Sees the ghost, tells what he was doing before, sees the ghost, more narrative, throws water). Also, the rest of the piece didn't build to the black pit-of-hell eyes at the end, so I wasn't quite sure what to do there. As for Griff, I feel like this might be a novel excerpt that wasn't tweaked for the contest, which leaves gaps in the plot and information that might be necessary to the entire novel, but doesn't add much to these particular 500 words.

    Again, I enjoyed both pieces immensely. I'm not kidding when I say this is a hard vote and I'm not sure I'd vote the same tomorrow. Because I have to pick one, today's vote goes to Griff N. Dorr for improving on a second read. I'll be rooting for Galadhon in the save round! Good job to both writers!

  76. I vote for Galadhon! Very poetic, and handles the inverted syntax with ease. Wanted to hear more!

  77. I wonder why stories of the same genre aren’t put in the same bout, like IshYouNotishMe’s vs. Galadhon’s ghost stories and No Plan Stan’s vs. Griff N. Dorr’s sci fi stories...?

    Anyway, although Galadhon’s piece was beautifully written, Griff’s piece had a good pace and natural dialouge that held my attention.


  78. I vote for Galadhon's story. It seems relatively self-contained, focusing on the appearance of the ghost, with a good description of the setting. I liked the imagery and figures of speech, although I'm not a fan of the incomplete sentences.
    Griff N. Dorr's piece is taken out of context of a larger story, and as such is difficult to absorb. It raised so many questions - (who is the 'us' referred to? - what were they escaping from? - why did Mida lie about being hungry?) that they engendered more frustration rather than curiosity. it wasn't clear at first that the 'Why did you let us in?' line was spoken out loud, and that took me out of the moment as I figured that out. Galadhon for the win.

  79. For both of these stories I want to know what the crux is. What Mida running from and what has she run into? Why is it important/what does it mean that the soldier is seeing a ghost?
    I'm left with questions gnawing at my mind.
    Both stories had lovely phrases and images. The battlefield with gunfire was nicely built in my mind. Mida's new friend was very well characterized.
    I enjoyed both of them.
    I think I have to vote for Griff N Dor, but this was a very close round for me.

  80. I really enjoyed GriffNDor. We were in the story and away.

    Galadhon is great, but there's a distance between me--as the reader--and then story.

  81. Griff has my vote. I liked both stories, but with Galadhon's I had to stop on more than one occasion to reread a sentence.

    1. This vote will not be counted as it is anonymous.

  82. My vote is for Galadhon. Nice imagery, particularly the line about a shot stopping the blood. It also felt self-contained, despite the several questions I have about the MC, the ghost, and the surrounding war.

    Griff did a great job, but it felt too much like an excerpt. There are lots of questions, but I can't even begin to imagine where they might be answered as the setting isn't grounded.

  83. These stories are evenly matched. Tough choice but my vote goes to Galadhorn simply because I felt like I had more context of what was happening in the story.

  84. Every story starts somewhat in medias res, but these two a little more than most. Overall, though, two solid pieces.

    Griff's is the morning after an escape and the MC finding refuge. I liked Bitz, who was well done in a small space. I wanted there to be more tension or movement, though. I was left a bit flat at Aegis being so unknown to everyone. That seemed like artificial tension building.

    Galadhon's piece is set in a field hospital, and we're led right away into a ghost story. A lot of the description was helpful and orienting to the setting and the time. A lot of weight, though, is put on Alice, and I couldn't figure if or how she was related to the ghost, so that bit distracted me.

    I vote for Griff.

  85. My vote is for Galadhon's story. I felt the fear, from the experiences of the war, from the unknown future, from the love for Alice and for the supernatural, the ghost. One or two things that need a bit more explanation, he was a hockey player but saw the ghost through his artist's eye - do the two go together?

    GriffNDorr's story I found slightly more confusing, maybe the unusual names, I had no sense of where or when this takes place. That might just be because SciFi is not my usual reading choice.

    Both entries are intriguing pieces. Well done to both writers.

  86. I vote for Galadhon - the narrative pulled me in and I enjoyed the prose more.

  87. Galadhon takes it here.

    Galadhon, I don't know what other folks are going on about here regarding the "flowery" or "purple" language---it's well-written and you should be proud. Please keep it up.




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