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WRiTE CLUB 2020 - Preliminary Bout #6

Yesterday we raised the hand of our 1st bout winner (check out the Scoreboard) and today we kick-off the second week of entertaining matches, but this isn't a time to relax. Bouts 2-5 are still open for voting, and I need help from you, the readers. Keep showing up to support our writers, but after you do, please help spread the word whenever you can. Every bout deserves the same amount of attention as the first one received. Thank you!

For anyone just discovering WRiTE CLUB, it is a tournament-style contest (sponsored by the DFW Conference) 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). Writers have submitted 500-word writing samples under pen names and they'll be appearing in head-to-head in “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. And as an added incentive to keep readers coming back for more, we're upping the ante. Readers who place a vote in EVERY bout will have their names placed in a second hat and the name selected from that pool will win a $40 Barnes and Noble gift card. Double the chances of winning!

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 Sunday, May 17th (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 more of a suggestion than a rule - cast your vote before you read other comments. Do not let yourself be swayed by the opinions of others.

I think I heard the bell ring. Let's do this!

For the 1st bout of our 2nd week, we have R.K. Wyatt on one side of the ring representing the Adult Horror genre.

Henry Lee Grimes gritted his teeth as he stumbled down the shoulder on Route 9. He lurched along, dragging his right leg. He found it difficult to move at the pace warranted by the situation, and couldn’t help but resign himself to the fact that the bad leg wasn’t going to allow him to go much further anyway. He grabbed at the leg with both hands, pulling it with him. Sparks flew in and out of his vision but he forced himself to keep going. He knew he had lost a lot of blood but, if he were to pass out on a lonely country highway at this time of night, something else he knew was that he would die there. He had to keep going until he could find help. His leg throbbed and his hands were sticky with his own blood. He teetered on the edge of consciousness. He dug his thumbs deep into the muscle of his right thigh, bringing on a wave of nausea. He was rewarded by a burst of adrenalized momentum he hoped would get him far enough to survive. He forced himself to believe this, even used the visualization technique his therapist had taught him. He would make it. Everything would be okay. He was unsure of how much damage his leg had taken but he could feel the life draining out of him as the wounds continued to bleed. Whatever had attacked him back there in the woods had teeth like razors and fire for eyes. And Jessie! Oh my God, Jessie! It was his only comfort knowing that she had died without ever seeing it come. Her c-spine was severed, torn out, before he could call out or shield her. Their romantic moonlight picnic had turned gruesome before the moon had risen to its apex.

Henry collapsed into the fast food chain door and felt it swing open against his weight. Relief was the last emotion he registered as his bloody hand slipped across the glass, finding no purchase, his good leg finally giving out and razing him to the cold tile, half in and half out of the restaurant.

Jessie was screaming. The moon was so bright; bright like the sun! Something grabbed at him and Henry tried to fend it off but somehow it was holding him down and pulling at him at the same time. He couldn’t move! He tried to scream but all that came out was a raspy sound that hurt his throat. He felt something close over his nose and mouth but he couldn’t see what it was! It was trying to smother him! He didn’t want to die! He pulled away from the thing and took a deep breath but the darkness was dragging him in and he no longer had the power to resist.

The EMTs, knowing they were racing time, skillfully secured Henry to the gurney and administered oxygen. The doors slammed shut, and, sirens blaring, they were off.

On the far side of the ring, we have Wanda Lust who is representing the Adult Romance genre.

The Spell

The spell had gone amiss. I needed to do something quickly, but the magic was beyond me. I was a fledgling witch who had planned everything down to the last detail to make sure that nothing happened. But somehow it had.

Making the potion was the hardest part. It had taken me two years to gather the ingredients; eye of newt, pineapple chamomile, madwort gathered on the seventh night of the seventh moon of the seventh year. My hands still carried the scars from the wolfsbane. I stirred the potion exactly one hundred turns, while I whispered my true love’s name: James, Harris, James, Harris, James, Harris. I added the salamander wings and counter stirred a hundred turns, while I repeated my name: Jane, Swanson, Jane, Swanson, Jane, Swanson. I pulled the potion off the stove and while it quieted, I chanted: Day and night, you and me. Husband and wife, for eternity. Good and bad, for all to see. Wife and husband, so mote it be!

 I knew the potion was perfect when it turned a Valentine’s red.

The next part was easy. I’d been bringing donuts to the office every Friday for months, so no one would suspect. By now, I knew who ate what. Turner always picked the Boston Cream, Tom liked chocolate and Lana had the sprinkles. Mary Clark didn’t care and usually snuck a second donut after lunch. And James Harris, my boss, always ate the jelly.

I walked into the office, Friday morning, and found a stranger in the waiting room. “Can I help you?”

“Jim and I are old friends,” he said. “I called him at home last night and he agreed to squeeze me in.”

I glanced at the clock. “Mr. Harris should be here any moment. I’ll have coffee ready in a jiff.”

The man flashed me an enormous grin. “Why thank you, ma’am.”

A few minutes later, James brought the man into the lunchroom and introduced me to Harris James.

“Harris?  James?  What a coincidence,” I said, although witches didn’t believe in them. “Your names are reversed.”

“We were kidded a lot in school,” James said as he poured two cups of coffee and passed the donuts to Harris. “And we might’ve chased the same girl a time or two, but otherwise we’re exact opposites. You know, like night and day, or good and bad.” 

Harris grabbed the box. “I see your manners have improved, but not your mouth. Can I have first pick?”

“Sure,” James said. “Take anything but the jelly.”

“Have you forgotten that I like the jelly too? How about flipping for it? Or better yet, let’s do it like we used to do in school?”

James pulled a knife out of the drawer and smiled. “You got it. Just like the good old days.”

My look of horror didn’t stop the men. They were staring straight into my eyes when they bit into their halves of the jelly donut.


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.

Before we sign off 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, MAKE SURE YOU ARE SIGNED ON TO YOUR GOOGLE ACCOUNT! Secondly, if you are using the Safari or Chrome browsers they have 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.

We’ll be back on tomorrow for another exciting bout. 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. The first piece was a bit confusing for me to get into. Lots of stuff happening. Too much, really. And the change in POV at the end was a bit jarring. Might have worked better if it had just started with the attack and him seeing Jessie's death, instead of making it back story.

    I really enjoyed the second piece, although I really think that first paragraph should go. The hook at the end would really be unexpected (and I laughed, if that matters). Regardless, I'd keep reading this (and I'm not a fan of first person). Wanda Lust gets my vote.

  2. Congratulations to both writers.

    RK Wyatt, I had a few issues with your entry. A few instances of filtering "he knew....he hoped" made the first paragraph even more bulky. It would have been stronger without those. Also, there are 20 "he"s in that first paragraph. There are a lot of words/phrases that could easily be cut in that paragraph (the aforementioned filtering, couldn't help but, it was his only comfort knowing). I want to agree that the change in POV was jarring.

    Wanda Lust, I just really loved this story. I would definitely keep reading this. My vote is for Wanda Lust.

  3. Congrats to both entrants.

    I found it impossible not to love Wanda Lust. The details worked. The flow, the rhythm, the visualization all were there. I did get a small sense where the twist was going with the periods in between the man's name and the first/last name being simple; however, the split donut was the perfect chef's kiss that I didn't see coming. Well done!

    The first piece did a fantastic job of covering the aftermath of a werewolf attack. I did struggle with the repetitive sentence starts of "he" I think it was used for roughly 9 of the first 12 sentences. That took me out of the flow and make the start feel more like a list.
    The twist at the end fell flat for me. I expected folks at the dinner to ignore him, be werewolves, or become his next victims, but if may be this is part of a larger piece. The description of the injury to his leg was fantastic. With a little touch-up to the sentence starts, this entry could rise to another level.

  4. R. K. Wyatt - Overall, I enjoyed the story from the beginning. Just enough detailed imagery put me in the setting. Unfortunately, filter words pushed me out to arm's length rather than keeping me immersed, but that's an easy fix. Eliminating much of the passive tense and use of "he" will tighten up the pace and amp up tension. I felt for Henry as he relived the attack while rescuers tried to save him. I hope he made it and want to read more.

    Wanda Lust: You pulled me in with the first paragraph. What follows is a smooth read with an interesting protagonist. From Jane's "voice," I get a picture of her in my head and wonder why she needs to put a spell on James. Oooh, I must read on! And those last two sentences? What happens next? Where's the sequel?

    My vote: Wanda Lust

  5. Such dramatically opposing pieces! My vote is for Wanda Lust.

    R.K.Wyatt: this is a story, I think, of how trauma can take over the mind. A horror experienced lives on, replays, refuses to loosen its grip. When he resists the EMTs, thinking they're still his attackers, I could imagine it in a film scene where close-up you see claws and teeth and yellow eyes, then the camera pans out to reveal oxygen tanks, flashing lights and caring medics. I'm assuming the goal of the story is that reveal. The problem for me is that the first 400 words is mostly a dense catalogue of his injuries; a lot of very graphic telling and no showing. For me, that's not so much frightening as repellent. Possibly the hitch here is that the twist is a powerfully psychological one, but the build-up is an entirely physical one - and those ships pass in the night. I appreciate the pay-off intellectually, but don't feel it emotionally.

    Wanda Lust: a very amusing light piece with a hint of Genie, where a simple wish gets perverted into something calamitous. Or is it from that rule where witches aren't allowed to work magic for themselves? I note that witches don't believe in coincidences, which makes me wonder if there is another force in play here. A few random thoughts: the first short paragraph seems irrelevant, and the story works as well without it. I like the potion turning Valentine red when it's ready - it suggests that her work was perfectly competent, and who could predict the whole Name thing? It would be interesting to know if your witch was attracted to Harris James at all - assuming that they both fall madly in love with her, would she enjoy the battle or be maddened by his attentions? Can she dump both of them, or will she be weirdly obsessed with them both? Will she end up a bigamist? I could imagine a chaotic Chapter 2 as she tries to sort it all out. For the amusement value and the easy-reading I vote for this one.

  6. Wyatt: like others have said, watch out for filter words - i.e. “he found,” “he knew” - these take us out of the character’s head and add unnecessary words. The first paragraph is extremely long and a whole lot of sentences start with “he.” Break up the paragraph and vary sentence structure to keep this from sounding monotonous. Heavy use of exclamation points in the last paragraph gives off a juvenile feeling. Use strong words, not excessive punctuation, to convey emotions.

    Wanda: opening says “the spell had gone amiss” but there’s zero indication of what went wrong or how Jane fixes it. It’s a nice lead-in, but it needs to be followed through, or else removed. It’s unnecessary to repeat the characters’ full names with commas after every word three times each - trust that the reader understands, and use some of those words elsewhere. Maybe to share more about Jane, who I am interested in but don’t get to know much about.

    I vote for Wanda this round.

  7. My vote goes to Wanda Lust! R.K Wyatt's sample should have been gripping -- all that blood! -- but illustrates how tricky a media res opening can be. With little information about the character's essence as a person, this feels like a car wreck I only want to get past. Plus, the term "c-spine" throws me out -- why not just say "neck"? And the deep POV that might hook me on the character doesn't show up until the next to last paragraph.

    For Wanda Lust -- OK, I do have a weakness for sprightliness. But everything joins together so well that the ending twist leaves me both laughing and longing to know how the character extricates herself -- if she can -- from the dilemma.

  8. R.K. Wyatt could use some tightening. Cut filter words and go deeper into the protagonist's point of view.

    Wanda Lust could cut the first paragraph, but the piece flows nicely. I could guess where it was going, but enjoyed the journey no less for expecting the wrong person to fall in love, and I would have kept reading.

    Wanda Lust has my vote.

  9. RK Wyatt: I wanted to like your story. It seemed like all of the compound sentences was meant to convey a sense of desperation to Grimes’s situation and help build the tension. It just didn’t work. You could have also used Grimes’s name more instead of all of the pronouns. The ending was also very abrupt. There is a good story here, it just needed a few more editorial passes to polish it into something that would be worth reading.

    Wanda Lust: I am not a Romance Reader and I found the use of commas between the names very confusing… until I got towards the end. Then it clicked and it was very amusing. The first paragraph is probably surplus to need. And maybe those words could have been used to explain how Jane would prevent Mary Clark (who isn’t choosy) from picking the jelly donut.

    For this round, my vote is for Wanda Lust

  10. "Henry Lee Grimes gritted his teeth as he stumbled down the shoulder on Route 9." is a great opening sentence. Just the name hooks you immediately. Through the first half of the paragraph, I was still hooked, until (as noted by others) every sentence began with "He." At first, I thought it might be intentional, then realized it was just lazy, repetitive sentence structure. The end of the story/scene also unraveled. It lost focus. I became confused as the reader. Its resolution wasn't satisfying. That sounds like harsh criticism, but I think this story has strong potential .

    Wanda Lust's story didn't grab me initially. It felt like any expected love potion tale. The James Harris vs. Harris James coincidence felt contrived, but I understand anything can happen in fiction, so I can accept it. Splitting the donut was a fun twist and launches the reader into the protagonist's conundrum. (Note: we never got the protagonist's name. It could easily be worked into the dialogue at the office with a single mention.)

    So now, my conundrum. Wanda Lust's story was safe, and technically stronger. R.K Wyatt's story, I believe, has greater possibilities. I'm voting for story potential over writing proficiency.

    My vote goes to R.K. Wyatt.

    1. The protagonist's name is Jane Swanson. She chants it three times.

  11. R.K. - I really enjoyed your story and the imagery you invoked with your word choice. I will confess (not being a reader of werewolf novels) I totally did not pick up on it being a werewolf attack until some of the other comments, but it didn't ruin the story for me--I was having fun imagining what kind of monster attacked them and was it still after them. Were the townspeople in danger? As others have said, make sure to vary your sentence structure, it makes a difference.

    Wanda - I thought this was just a normal romance and thought maybe the novice witch had messed up her love potion. When the other guy came, I was thinking that the wrong guy was going to eat the doughnut, which felt obvious. But you won me over with them splitting the doughnut--I'm having a lot of fun imagining what happens next (and think this would make a great premise for a story).

    My vote: Wanda Lust

  12. The first story: the writing needed to be much tighter. The premise was promising, and the mood creepy, which I enjoyed. But the end fell flat. If the writing had been tighter, perhaps the ending could have been more dramatic, without a change in POV.

    The Spell: The fact that the first attempt went badly did not add to the story since it was mentioned, then dropped. The premise was entertaining, and the spells were well done, but the end was messy. I really didn't think the two men with similar names was a good way to go. Maybe a happy ending where the spell went perfectly. Sometimes a happy ending can be fun.

    My vote goes to Wanda Lust.

  13. My vote goes to Wanda Lust today. What a fun start to a story. I think the first paragraph could be cut, but that's a small detail.

    RK, while I enjoyed the detail in your piece, it never felt very immediate or urgent because of the amount of filtering through passive voice. It should be urgent and visceral and we should feel his pain and fear rather than be told about them.

  14. I’m giving this vote to Wanda Lust. I’m more interested in where this story is headed!

  15. R. K. Wyatt edges out Wanda Lust, for me, in this match up. The struggle is real, how the internal perceptions compare/contrast to reality is very interesting.

  16. My vote is for Wanda List
    The language of the first piece was gripping, but I think they spent a little too much time describing the character's pain and bodily sensations. I liked the clever premise of the second piece

  17. My vote: Wanda Lust

    I think the POV in R.K's story was too distant for me to settle into the character/flow. Additionally, things like "he knew, he felt, he saw" are very telling and create even more space between me, the reader, and the character's pov. I wanted to be in the character's head space, espcially for a horror, but this didn't come together for me in this piece.

    In Wanda's short, it was a little silly and could have been tighter, but was engaging and I was smiling along, nodding, while I read.

  18. Congrats, writers!

    Wanda Lust gets my vote today!

    R.K. everyone's already said what I was thinking, so I don't feel the need to rehash. I second the person above who said "c-spine" pulled them out of the moment.

    Wanda Lust: Cute story. Maybe it's because we've had so much horror this year, or maybe it's just because I'm in a particularly dark place these days, but when the friend showed up and over explained about calling his old buddy the night before, I thought something sketchy was up. And then they pull out a knife and cut the donut in half while looking her in the eye? Major creep vibes. I wanted to scream at Jane to just run! I felt like they were planning to kill her. That's not really a critique, exactly, just my initial impression. Evidently my husband and son are right when they say "Damn, you're dark."

  19. My vote goes to Wanda Lust. I liked the unexpected hiccup in her plans.

  20. I think I'll vote for Wanda Lust this round, though they're very well-matched entries so it was a tough call.

  21. In R.K. Wyatt, the description of the man’s leg etc was fantastic. The flashback was too abrupt. I think it would be better worked into the piece more at the beginning somehow.
    Wanda Lust was so creative and fun and the jelly donut ending was super clever. It was hard for me to decide because R.K. was really scary, but Wanda Lust was a lot of fun, so Wanda Lust gets my vote.

  22. I'm voting for Wanda lust because the story was so much fun. I want to see what happens next.

  23. Congratulations to both entrants for making it to the preliminaries!

    R.K. Wyatt: The description of the injury and the horror was compelling. Probably more than was needed, and some of it could have been replaced with a more internal look at his mental state. It was there, but it was held at arm's length with phrases like he knew, he forced himself, he was unsure. I was confused by what seemed to be a backtrack in the timeline, as he relived the attack at the end; only reading the comments here did I figure out he was misinterpreting the attentions of the EMTs. And one tiny bit tripped me up. The doors to a fast-food establishment, unless it's in an old original building on an old Main Street, always open outward. Trivial, I know, but it threw me out of imagining this story could happen.

    Wanda Lust: That first paragraph tripped me up. If the magic was beyond her, how had she planned everything down to the last detail? I read it over a few times before giving up and moving on. Once past that point, though, things moved along smoothly. I have to confess that when she was initially reciting the names I thought that it would be easy to get her target's first and last names reversed, so the final reveal wasn't such a surprise to me. I still enjoyed the story and the character's voice. I'd love to find out how she gets out of this dilemma!

    My vote goes to Wanda Lust.

  24. R.K. Wyatt - Liked the premise, and it started off fine, but that first paragraph is a monster and all of the sentences start with HE. There's a sentence at the end -- Jessie was screaming -- that's either a flashback or a POV shift or something else, but it's so jarring that it doesn't matter which. Could have used a lot of retooling to get just right.

    Wanda Lust - A fun idea, and the story gets better as it goes along. Not a huge fan of the spell itself, and the -- I was a fledgling witch -- needed to not be there. Gained momentum and got much better after that.

    Vote goes to Wanda Lust

  25. R.K. Wyatt -nice story just clunky, needs tightening.

    Wanda Lust - a good story, needs a little editing. but has good points.

    my vote goes to Wanda Lust

  26. R.K.Wyatt - this was an interesting story, but I got lost in the last paragraph.

    Wanda Lust - I loved this one. I would like to know what happens next.

  27. My vote: Wanda Lust

    Wyatt: I enjoyed the story, but the first paragraph felt too heavy. Was it a werewolf that attacked them? I'd love to have known more about the attack.

    Wanda Lust: I loved the premise. It was fun, quirky, and engaging. That poor witch. Though, Rumpelstiltskin in Once Upon a Time said it best.. "All magic comes with a price, dearie."

  28. I vote for Wanda Lust,, what happens next? I need to know!

  29. R.K. Wyatt -- Interesting. Sounds like the MC isn't quite human.

    Wanda Lust - I had to Google salamander wings. Splitting the donut... I do wonder how that will turn out! I enjoyed both stories, but your twist at the end earned you my vote.

  30. Wanda Lust for my vote. I was more captivated by the story.

    (I won't pretend that the current world isn't playing a big part in that. I'm sorry. There's a chance I'd swap votes if this were 2019.)

  31. Wanda Lust gets my vote. I struggled with the time sequence, but I did want to read on. The tone and pacing of R.K.'s piece kept me from fully engaging. Wants a bit more polishing.

  32. Two very different stories with their own strengths! R.K., your initial scene is super vivid, as are your gruesome descriptions. When you drift into the flashbacks, that's where I pulled back a bit as a reader. Trying to drift between present and memory, or between lucidity and unconsciousness, is not an easy feat, though I think you might have done it successfully in a longer piece.

    Wanda, this concept is so fun, with just the right amount of tension. I agree with some of the other voters that you gave too much away up front--I wanted to see the chaos unfold myself. But this left me wanting to read more, so you get my vote!

  33. Congratulations two you both for making it into the ring! Also, kudos for having the guts to try, you should both be proud of your accomplishment!

    R.K.- great descriptions, but I had a little bit of trouble connecting with it. The shift between present and memory was just difficult to overcome.

    Wanda-great concept, I think the writing itself appeared a little "rushed", and I think it could have been tightened up to make this a much stronger piece.

    My vote, because I love the surprise endings, goes to Wanda!

  34. Congratulations writers on making it this far - makes you both winners in my book.
    Two very different stories pitched against one another, both with strengths that makes choosing a winner to progress difficult.

    R.K Wyatt, your opening sentence is fantastic, love it, love it. I think perhaps a little less description to follow would be advisable, as it makes the reader a little weary to read such a large amount of info all at once. I am not a reader of horror, but the scenes definitely conveyed horror, and feel authentic. Well done.

    Wanda Lust, I struggled a bit with your opening, and think it could probably be reworked to be much stronger and captivate a reader right away. Your premise is a fun one, and I thought it clever the way you used an interchangeable name, though i think you perhaps could have saved a couple of words by only repeating them once. The ending was cute, but in reality the odds seemed highly unlikely of two men with the same name etc etc, but hey this is fiction so anything is allowed :) I liked reading a feel good story that was on the lighthearted side.

    Again well done both, and good luck.

    Vote this round goes to Wanda Lust for making me smile.

  35. My vote goes to Wanda Lust.

    R.K. Wyatt you start off strong with your character fleeing danger, but so much time is spent describing the injury and Henry's awareness of his impending death. It almost feels analytical. Like others I got a strong werewolf vibe from the moon mention, and even if it isn't this sequence sets him up as prey/victim. So while he is being hunted between his gasps of pain and breath, he'd be searching for movement, listening for sounds, maybe keeping in mind a pit stop they'd passed on their way to the romantic picnic. These types of details would have helped pull me into the story faster.

    Wanda Lust this was fun. I mean we start with something going wrong, we get the setup and witch's logic, and then pow the reveal. Loved the structure, love the premise, and definitely wanted to find out more.

  36. Fun story. Kept my interest all through, but now I need to know how it ends.

    My vote goes to Wanda Lust

  37. Two radically different stories this go about.

    R.K. Wyatt
    First bit of critique would be to just literally look at the shape of your paragraphs. Having one giant block is a rather risky endeavor in the present age and only works for a very intentional style. If you're not committed to evoking an older, classical style, and it adds nothing to chase that shape/denseness, then it's a good sign you need to break it up. Just looking at it will already exhaust some modern readers. So just as it's a good idea to vary sentence length, make sure you don't have monster paragraphs unless you really, really mean to.

    "Henry Lee Grimes gritted his teeth as he stumbled down the shoulder on Route 9." Love the simplicity of the opening line! Quickly sets some tone, gives us action, and hints at setting/previous events. However, and I know this is unfair, but I can't look at the name Grimes for a protagonist in a horror story and not immediately think zombies. Maybe in a few more years when The Walking Dead has faded more from pop culture contagiousness this won't be the case. But for now, I'd probably give Henry a different last name.

    You are already well aware from the other critiques that there is an overkill on injury detail. The whole point is belabored, which, rather than heightening the horror and pain he's experiencing, disconnects the reader and makes it sound super matter-of-fact. Avoid repetition on the whole in horror. Repetition makes things familiar. What's familiar isn't scary.

    This is the first line that really kills tension: "He found it difficult to move at the pace warranted by the situation, and couldn’t help but resign himself to the fact that the bad leg wasn’t going to allow him to go much further anyway." He's fleeing for his life after seeing his date get torn apart. "At the pace warranted by the situation" is too humdrum and generic for that. And how that sentence ends makes the leg sound like an inconvenience, rather than what might lead to his death. Kill this sentence entirely.

    Restrict yourself to max three sentences about the leg. Throw out extraneous details that pull us out of the immediate terror (i.e. therapist and visualization techniques). All details connected to the leg should drive him towards the goal of the fast food chain/help. If it's not doing that, remove it. And agree with another voter that more visceral details outside of the leg along with a greater presence of his environment would be more engaging. Is this an established asphalt road? A beaten up country road? Is he struggling through weeds? Does he hear anything? Etc...

    Jessie's death and the attack should be its own paragraph. That's what's driving the horror, so place less emphasis on leg and more on actual attack.

    "Her c-spine was severed, torn out," confused me. Was it severed? Or was it torn out? How is it both? Pick one description and drop the other.

    I think it'd be more compelling if Henry interacts in some way with people inside this fast food joint rather than just immediately collapsing. He doesn't have to talk or anything, but does he see anyone? Does someone try to greet him or almost run into him on their way out? I want to see their response to him. Another definitive character would help keep the energy and dynamism high.

    "...his good leg finally giving out and razing him to the cold tile." I don't think "razing him to the cold tile" works. Weird usage of that word. He's not being destroyed by his leg, just falling down.

    Dig the weaving in of delirium, but if that's something you want to play with, incorporate it sooner and have Henry already established as unreliable and hallucinating while he's stumbling outside. The three exclamation points back-to-back also read like an old-school advertisement: "Act now! Supplies are going fast! Get your MUST HAVE horror fix today!" Ease up on those.

  38. Wanda Lust
    This is a tough story for me to get behind. Romance is not my cup o' tea. And personally, I really dislike love potions/spells. They are too much of a parallel to roofies for my tastes. They tend to encourage really unhealthy notions about relationships since consent just flies out the window. I'd actually totally get behind a more realistic look at the impacts of using something like that. Imagine if you discovered someone had used that on you. The amount of betrayal and violation you'd feel at someone circumventing your will would be huge. It could be pretty compelling, too, if you still loved the person in some way after the spell was broken, but couldn't tell now if that was really you, or the spell.

    Also a hard sell for me to see the oft trodden employee/boss "taboo" relationship that appears in so many romantic comedies. That's another one that's hard for me because those relationships are fundamentally imbalanced power-wise. Would have been much more engaging (and original, I think) if Jane were interested in someone in a different department at her same level (maybe she's all about that HR guy, or database admin).

    To be honest, given Jane has also spent 2 years on this, she is kind of an obsessive stalker. Initially treating this as an upbeat fluff romance, but then showing how actually her behavior is really warped, that I would be stoked to read!

    But all right. I get this is meant to be light-hearted fun. And I do applaud you for the donut setup. Bringing donuts to work is such a familiar thing to do, it makes the situation relatable. And who doesn't like donuts? They are inherently feel-good. So good decision there for achieving the tone you're aiming for.

    Also, kudos for the split donut at the end. I think most of us figured the double first name pay-off in advance, but didn't see that they'd actually both get a dosage, rather than just swapping. I do think the way the sharing is handled is weird, though.

    "Or better yet, let’s do it like we used to do in school?”

    James pulled a knife out of the drawer and smiled. “You got it. Just like the good old days.”

    I get that you wanted to hold off on the reveal of what they were doing until the last so that the final image is on the "Oh snap! They're splitting it!" But this dialog doesn't seem genuine. Who would say this rather than just,

    "Split it?"
    "Split it."

    If you want to keep the same structure but not come off so awkwardly, have Harris say, "...flipping for it?"

    And James can say, "I'll do you one better." Then he gets the knife out. And then you go into the last sentences.

    Another bit of awkward dialog: "“Jim and I are old friends,” he said. “I called him at home last night and he agreed to squeeze me in.”

    That's just odd to say in response to "Can I help you?"

    His response is weird because he's not actually directly answering her question, and he's added extra detail without being prompted for it. Something that flows off her question better and sounds more seamless to say to a stranger is: "I'm here to see Jim. We're old friends. He said he could squeeze me in today."

    Then her response should acknowledge that: "I'll let Mr. Harris know you're here. He should be in shortly. Let me get you some coffee."

    This, by contrast, is a really great bit of dialog and wonderful world/character builder: "What a coincidence,” I said, although witches didn’t believe in them. “Your names are reversed.”

    Reservations about content and some clunky dialog aside, I'll have to give this one to Wanda Lust. You have some clever ideas here and good details in your setup that enforce the mood you're striving for. R.K. Wyatt, there's potential here. Just figure out what exactly you want to say and trim all the fat.

  39. Close call, but my vote goes to Wanda Lust

    R.K. Wyatt - Good description and details of the scene. The graphic details of the injuries emphasize the terror and the main character's dire situation. However, the story would benefit from more details on the characters. Readers would feel empathy if they understood the Jessie character and how they relate to the narrator. Nice ending, leaves the reader a bit relieved knowing the guy survived, but still there's curiosity as to what will happen next.

    Wanda Lust - I love the subtle humor in this piece. Using the names in the spell set up the twist without giving too much away. It's difficult to include too many side plots in a 500 word piece, but perhaps a little more about the co-workers would heighten the tension. Give the reader a reason to wonder what might happen. Some physical description of the love interests could add to the humor - are they both attractive to the main character? I loved the ending, it left me wanting to read more and expecting some funny and romantic scenes. It also set up a mystery - which one would she chose or would she go for both?

  40. My vote goes to Wanda Lust. I got sucked right in.

  41. Two good ones here. Congratulations to both entrants.

    R.K. Wyatt’s story was creepy, with lots of good tension. The descriptions of the wound (ouch) and the way you revealed the details of the attack kept me reading, wondering what would happen to Henry.

    Perhaps because you were stymied by the word restriction, I had trouble keeping up. A few transitions would have helped. Like: “I saw a convenience store in the distance...” The switch to the hallucination was jarring, and I was thrown by the change of POV at the end.

    Wanda Lust’s story was well-told and fun. Good tension building as she recounts the details of casting the spell and we keep reading to find out what went wrong. I think I’d keep the first paragraph, but maybe cut it back a bit. You could lose: “to make sure that nothing happened,” and the last sentence, “But somehow it had.”

    I like the twist at the end and I'm dying to know how this magic-induced love triangle will turn out.

    My vote goes to Wanda Lust.

  42. Congratulations to both writers for being picked for today’s bout!

    R. K. Wyatt: You’ve got a lot going on in your story. I found the repetitive sentence style worked, as it demonstrated how one often thinks as delirium sets in. Unfortunately, the focus on the delirium doesn’t work in the 500 word segment because it’s difficult for the reader to get an idea of what is going on.

    Wanda Lust: Fun and creative twist - and one I didn’t see coming. Will the love potion be effective enough with each only getting half? So many questions. (Good ones that make me want to keep reading). I think your first sentence put the reader on alert that something would go wrong, but the twist was worked in so cleverly that even thinking something was coming wasn’t enough to give it away.

    My vote goes to Wanda Lust.

  43. Voting for Wanda Lust. Can't wait to see what happens next!




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