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WRiTE CLUB 2020 - Playoff Round #1

Reminder - Cage Bouts 3-6 are still taking your votes. Please make your next stop the WRiTE CLUB Scoreboard if you've not voted there yet.

We are now (or soon will be) down to just six contestants and it's time to see how they match up with ALL NEW MATERIAL.

There will be three bouts this week (Mon-Wed-Fri) and pay special attention to when voting ends because a staggered timeline will be used again. Speaking of voting, it has a special significance during the playoffs because in addition to three winners advancing to the semi-finals, a fourth Wildcard winner will also be selected. How is the WC chosen? It will be the loser that had garnered the most votes among all three losers. So every vote counts - win or lose.

We do ask that you leave a brief critique for all of our contestants because that is one of the real values of this contest – FEEDBACK. Please be respectful with your remarks!

The voting for today’s bout will close on Sunday, June 14th (noon central time).

The piece that garnishes the most votes will move on to the semi-final round where they’ll face a different opponent with yet another NEW WRITING SAMPLE

As always, in case of a tie, I’m the deciding vote.

Here are the voting guidelines –

1) One vote per visitor per bout.

2) Anyone can vote (even the contestants themselves), but 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.

Please welcome back into the ring, with all new material - 

A. Lynne Smithee

Navigating the Wilderness


The night Irene stood me up there was a documentary on Animal Planet. I waited two hours at Starbucks and sent half a dozen Snaps before I gave up and went home. That’s when I found it. Flipping channels, I came across footage of the forest, and all that green called to me. That’s where I belonged, somewhere exotic, somewhere remote, and as far away from technology as possible.

I checked Snapchat again: delivered, not seen. I wasn’t about to send another one.

So I shot her a text message instead. Must have gotten our signals crossed. Where are you?

I stared at my phone for ten minutes. Nothing.

When I looked up, the scene had shifted to a beach, not the SoCal smooth, sandy beach but the rocky crags you see farther north. There were these sea lions—no, elephant seals, because the males had these big proboscis-type noses that hung down their faces like that Muppet, what was his name?

I checked my phone. Gonzo.

No messages. 

The seals started fighting. Their massive bodies collided like sumo wrestlers, without doing any real damage. How could they? They only had a handful of teeth between them.

I checked to see if Irene posted anything new on Instagram. She hadn’t.

I was about to send another text when the winning male clambered over thirty of its fellow seals, its huge body tumbling the smaller ones like a crashing wave, rolling them across the rocks. It sidled up to a female. I could tell it was a female because she was smaller and didn’t have the nose thing. He spooned her and threw a flipper over her and they started cuddling.

It was so sweet I almost cried.

Still no response from Irene.

They weren’t cuddling. I recognized sex when I saw it. Their bodies writhing, seal mouths open in ecstasy—It felt like they were taunting me.

I shot Irene another text. Maybe reschedule for tomorrow?

I thought about getting rid of my phone. I told myself to grow a spine. She wasn’t into me, she met someone more interesting, and she was with him. Why couldn’t I accept that?

Because the male seal would never accept that. He’d find this guy and belly-bump him into submission. He’d waddle his way over who knows how many more seals to find the right one. I should be like him, learn to navigate the wilderness, to get in touch with my inner seal.

I tossed my phone down and got off the couch, determined to track down Irene and tell her it was either me or him, if there was a him. She would have to choose.

My phone dinged and I dove across the room.

Sorry. Family drama. You up?

On screen, the male, female, and a newborn seal lay on the rocky shore soaking in the sun. I thumped my chest and bellowed a triumphant bark as I headed for the door.


Our second contestant is Peace and Quiet



Please leave your votes and critiques in the comments below. Again, be respectful of your remarks and try to point out positives as well as detraction's.

We’ll be back on Wednesday with our second playoff 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. A. Lynne — Interesting story. It’s well-written, overall, but I wasn’t invested in the character.

    Peace — I wasn’t sure where you were going with this at the beginning, but you had me by the end. I could feel the mom’s pain and Matt’s desperation. Great job!

    My vote: Peace & Quiet

  2. My vote goes to Peace and Quiet today. What lovely writing. I feel the desperation and the grief.

    A Lynne, interesting story, but until right at the end I was certain your character was a girl, so it threw me to discover he wasn't.

  3. Congratulations, you two!

    A. Lynn: I had a hard time connecting with the character, who made me cringe in all the wrong places. I think most of us have had those feelings of abandonment and hurt when someone ditched us or whatever, but this character's decision that he was going to stalk Irene to prove that he's the top seal was a bridge too far for me. As someone who was stalked and held a gunpoint by a guy who couldn't take my no for an answer, this made me incredibly uncomfortable. I suppose good writing is supposed to make the readers feel things that may not always be pleasant, but this story just didn't do it for me. Technically, it's a solid piece of writing, so this is purely subjective feedback.

    Peace and Quiet: I'm so happy that you did something so vastly different from your first piece, which I adored. You've really flexed your muscles and shown us a lot of writerly diversity, and I appreciate that. I stumbled a bit over a couple of sentences, but I could feel Ella's pain. I could understand how she felt this was her only option. I also have a slippery voice in my brain that urges me to take drastic measures sometimes, and I feel you did a wonderful job of portraying that.

    My vote today goes to Peace and Quiet.

    Congrats to both of you again!

  4. Congrats on making it this far.

    A Lynne Smithee- It was hard to invest in the MC. S/he comes across as a wanna-be stalker to lazy to get off the couch. There was nothing in the piece that made me care whether or not Irene ever responded.

    Peace & Quiet- This is a heck of a gut punch story. I thought the beginning of it was a little to wordy with the metaphors.

    My vote goes to Peace & Quiet

  5. A lynne - Maybe it's because I'm a guy, and I've been in the MCs shoes, but I felt for the character. I didn't get a stalker vibe at all, but the feeling that he was insecure and trying to pump himself up. I also laughed, which won you my vote.
    Peace and Quiet - I liked this better than the dog story, but the stacked similes in the beginning didn't work for me, and, once again, probably because I'm a guy, I didn't like the phone conversation. The husband would have lost a child, too, and I felt like he was a throwaway character.
    A. Lynne Smithee all the way

  6. Peace and Quiet: I found a few lines awkward. The "snot and tears" reference knocked me out of your story. I actually had to start again. And at first I had trouble with the phone call. I had to read it a couple of times to be sure it was real, and not in her head. I also felt for the husband, who lost a child too. The overall theme of your first story was to pull at the heart strings, as is this one. It would have been nice to see something different.

    A Lynne Smithee- There were some humorous lines in this story, and it make me laugh. "It was so sweet I almost cried." Great line. I could not get a stalker vibe when he wants to get in touch with his "inner seal." The story is well written and a funny commentary on relationships. Your first story had a completely different vibe. Good job showing versatility.

    My vote goes to A. Lynne Smithee

  7. My vote goes to A. Lynne Smithee. Wasn't crazy about all the attempts to contact Irene. Maybe because I've had same-sex friends who both pulled the ghosting act and obnoxiously repeated calls, etc., I didn't even think about the MC being male until the identification with the seals! Still, the ending saved it for me.

    Peace and Quiet -- I realize a person considering suicide may be too deep in her own pain to consider the pain of others but, still, leaving her husband that way was a major turnoff. Sometimes it's not the writing, the the character.

  8. A. Lynne - For me, the first paragraph sets the tone of the story and gives us a hint of what's to come. The guy talks about belonging far out in the wilderness, somewhere remote, exotic, away from technology. Cool, I thought. Yet that initial statement doesn't connect at all to his actions as he spends his time imagining Irene shacked up with some other guy and uses technology incessantly to try to get in touch with her. I was further confused when her reason was anti-climactic, but he acts like he's just fought off an army to win her.

    Peace and Quiet - This story hits home on so many personal levels. You've brought us in compassionately and made her heartache ours. This type of grief is a blinding tunnel in which others are blocked out. Your words authentically convey her emotions. Watch the overuse of similes and metaphors so we're not bogged down.

    My Vote: Peace and Quiet

  9. My Vote: A.Lynne Smithee.

    While, I enjoyed P&Q's piece better than the round 1 dog story, I just wasnt invested. I understand the pain, and grief and the longing to be with the child, but throwing away the husband felt off to me. In places, I caught myself skimming as my attention waivered.

    A. Lynne made me laugh, not internally, but an out loud chuckle. I felt like i was in the room with him (though, at first, it was unclear if the main character was male or female) and I could totally relate to the insecurity of a potential ghosting. I do hope it really was just family drama and not some lame excuse for missing thier date. Becuase I found myself wanting to extend the story, and made me laugh, you get my vote.

  10. A Lynne made me laugh, and I needed that today. My vote goes to you!

  11. In corner 1, Smithee: Toxic Masculinity Poster Child! Literally child behavior. The MC read as desperate and someone that honestly probably was stood up for a better reason than 'family drama'. It's a reversal of the over clingy girlfriend trope. "Hey! I'm going to track down, stalk, and force this woman who apparently stood me up ONCE to make a decision based on MY preferences because I saw two seals fucking on Animal Planet". Hard. Pass.

    I loved your first story, so this one was a huge let down and disappointment. :(

    In corner 2, Peace and Quiet: You get my vote. A million times over. I felt your story at my core. I wanted to give both the MC and the husband a hug. Some grief makes you not care about the hurt of others, suicide is an inherently selfish act. The writing was powerful and I loved every word.

  12. A. Lynne Smithee: The character is a little too whiny for my taste, and even Irene seems like a flake, but at least it ended hopeful.
    Peace and Quiet: Much too depressing. It's hard for me to feel empathy for someone who is clearly selfish.
    A. Lynne Smithee gets my vote.

  13. Wow! I guess things really do heat up in the playoffs.
    The first story wasn't my favorite, but I didn't pick up any of the aggro that set Kiwi off, and I liked the seals. Good way to highlight the poor guy's anxiety.
    Second story had a couple neat lines, like the Swoosh/smile, but I'm on team A. Lynne. Losing a child would be the worst thing ever, and if it ever happened to me and my husband, I wouldn't be so cavalier about leaving him to handle it alone.

  14. I had to sit on this a day and re-read both of these to see if my reactions were the same with a little time to percolate. It's funny, both times I felt like I should be voting for Peace and Quiet, but just couldn't. I believe that's because, in the end, I feel emotionally manipulated, even though I don't believe that was the objective.

    These are both very different angles from the writers' first entries, so that was great to see. Being able to diversify your genre is a gift, so thank you.

    A. Lynne Smithee -- one thing I took away from this piece on both readings was the guy's utter reliance on technology to connect with other people in real life, but his (aspirational) musing that his life might be better without it. The play by play with the seals was very funny, I chuckled at the "so sweet I could cry" line.

    P&Q -- the death, dying, depression theme was heavy-handed, and some of the similes made me flinch. While I'm not a "show, don't tell" Nazi, this piece was a lot of telling. Well-crafted telling. Don't get me wrong, this entry was well-written, and I definitely felt Ella's despair. But, having lost a loved one to suicide, I'm not sure I bought into her not giving her grieving husband a thought until the very end. I mean, maybe she felt she'd dealt with that in the note referenced fleetingly in the phone call ...

    My vote goes to A. Lynne Smithee.

  15. A.Lynne Smithee gets my vote. Such a humorous portrayal of a neurotic, insecure guy who doesn't want to be so dependent on Irene and technology as he obviously is. He's such a likable character despite his manic behavior. And the description of the seals was so amusing though the ending fell a little flat since he really hadn't actually done anything to triumph like the male seal did.

  16. My vote goes to A.Lynne Smithee

    A.Lynne Smithee - Great humor in this piece. The short sentences when the guy is checking his phone bring up a feeling of impatience and increase the tension in the piece. This drew me in, I felt that emotion when he was torn between checking up on his date and ditching the technology. Great title, too - very sly reference to dating as wilderness. I laughed out loud at the last line and the image of him beating his chest. I laughed at Irene's line too - the "You up?" message. This piece was a great example of giving the reader information on a character without physical description, his responses to the seal documentary made me feel I knew this poor, stood-up guy.

    Peace and Quiet - Good scene setting in the piece, except for the word "snot" - I don't know why, but it just seemed jarring and drew me out of the story for a minute. The pace of the story was very fast and this echoes the tension and drama of the character's actions. Overall though, I felt the piece was just too much on the negative side of things. The reader doesn't get to wonder if the character will carry through with her act, there are too many things pointing to her death. The death of the baby is just too obvious a tactic to gather sympathy - we don't get to know this character, and it just seems a bit underhanded to rely on something so emotional. There could be a good story here, though - if it were subtle instead. Maybe don't bring up the baby's death and just show the mother's actions on the day, leading up to the time of death. That way you could bring in the husband's character and let the reader get to know them both. Good similes, maybe cut a couple so the ones you keep have more impact. I like the sign appearing like a jack-in-the-box, great visual of that.

  17. Peace gets my vote.

    Really powerful writing.

  18. A. Lynne Smithee: I loved the way the narrative wove around the seal documentary and enjoyed the self-deprecating voice in this piece. I didn't get the stalker vibe, but I can see how others did, so maybe watch that if you make it into the next round.

    Peace and Quiet: I enjoyed this more than the dog piece, but I didn't connect with Ella as much as I wanted to. I think this piece would work a lot better in first-person or DEEP third person point-of-view. As it's written, it was like watching someone I barely know commit suicide from a distance. I don't want her to drive off the cliff, but I'm not invested enough to be all that shaken up about what might happen next.

    A. Lynne Smithee has my vote.

  19. A. Lynne Smithee -- You certainly made me laugh. I like the way you wove this tale.

    Peace and Quiet -- That's a powerful punch. You are a master of emotion. You have my vote.

  20. Starbucks? Animal loving on tv? And a missed connection. It's my life!

    1. Vote for first one. Sorry if not clear.

      Second made me too sad.

  21. Lynne: interesting seal analogy. The MC is obsessive and entitled, clearly believing he deserves sex. Irene owes it to him, dammit. He “can’t accept” that she might not be interested, so he’s going to track her down? Major stalker vibe! This behavior is not charming insecurity. It isn’t amusing. As Kiwi said, it reeks of toxic masculinity.

    Peace: melodramatic, but poignant. The pregnancy test is jarring, since you then jump ahead nine months. Minor technical issues, like missing commas and the wrong “waivers” - you would’ve benefited from one more proofread before sending. Suicidal grief is horrifying, and I don’t expect MC to be rational or selfless. If we haven’t been there, we don’t know how we’d react. As with your last piece, you’ve crammed lots of emotion into this short space.

    I vote for Peace.

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  22. A Lynne Smithee: very funny. you captured the dysfunction of a generation in so few funny words

    Peace and Quiet: way to lay on the schmaltz. well written but very depressing.

    I vote for A. Lynne Smithee

  23. Peace and Quiet, I dont think suicide is an answer, but it was a well written story. I liked the part about the darkness being like a coffin.

    Peace and Quiet has my vote. :D

  24. good stories. Smithee, the story was funny. You told us so much about your characters without having to describe everything.
    P&Q nice writing, but you didn't earn my emotional trust to identify with your character, by the end I was appalled by her cowardly decision.
    my vote goes to A. Lynne Smithee

  25. A. Lynne Smithee, Great job. intriguing story. Seeing the angst from a different POV was really a nice twist!

    Peace and Quiet... I'm in tears. The emotional turmoil this poor woman is in, the husband's grief and desire for his wife to still be with him, grabbed me from the get-go!

    VOte: Peace and Quiet

  26. A. Lynne Smythee. Great use of words. You capture such vivid mind pictures with the minimum of words. love the humor.

    Peace and Quiet. Very heavy handed with the obvious emotional devices. i personally don't like it when someone tries to make me fell a certin way, write it well and let me decide how i want to fell about it.

    I vote for A. Lynne Smithee

  27. My vote goes to A. Lynne Smithee

    A. Lynne Smithee: This made me laugh, and I can really imagine the young man's pain and being inspired by a bit of wildlife. We humans think we're so special, but we're just tamed animals ourselves. I don't have any criticisms, I think, just a favourite sentence: "He’d find this guy and belly-bump him into submission."

    Peace and Quiet: Again, this seems to be a contrived tear-jerker, which is an instant turn-off for me. It's well-written, if rather dense, but the goal of the narrative seems only to be to press the reader's emotional buttons, rather than to carry any message.

    1. Just a follow-up for A.Lynne Smithee - I absolutely got no stalker-vibe or entitled-vibe from your MC. I realise there may be some people rather tuned in that direction for excellent reasons, but I read him as being insecure in a perfectly regular way.

  28. Congratulations on making it this far! This one's tough. Some funnies and not so funnies. My vote goes to Peace and Quiet. Ella, DON'T PUSH THAT BUTTON!!

  29. I have rooted for Peace and Quiet regarding the Dog story the whole time. I just loved it. This story was well written too and pulled at my heart strings as well, whoever you are you’re really good at that.
    A. Lynne Smithee was so creative. I had several powerful emotions throughout the entry. I felt sorry for the guy, but maybe that’s because I raised boys. I didn’t get a creepy stalker feel at all. I also felt like giggling a time or two. I enjoyed the previous story as well and wanted to see more. This second story is so creative to me that A. Lynne Smithee gets my vote. But kudos to you both for making it to this point!

  30. A. Lynne - Tough one. The story was SO well-crafted with a great sense of voice. And I'm open to getting inside the heads of those we shudder to understand (look at the show "You" where we're asked to empathize with an actual stalker/killer). While I don't think this MC is a stalker, comparing courting a crush to an alpha-male sexually conquering a female hit wrong because it never puts Irene in a position of consent. Particularly if this is YA, I'd be sensitive about anything that even unintentionally glorifies rape culture. If this were part of a longer piece, maybe we would see the MC's more endearing qualities, but this ended with a note of triumph that never acknowledges the toxicity of that mindset. I try to weigh skill over story in this contest, but this was difficult for me to reconcile.

    Peace - I was surprised to see this work from you after the dog piece. Great thematic and stylistic versatility! Some of the metaphors pulled me out (snot and tears, Jack-in-the-box clown) but otherwise the story had nice flow and imagery. The time was a good convention to build the tension of the scene all the way to the final seconds. I'd workshop the lines "it's not his fault after all" which trivializes her relationship with the husband and "do it Ella, now" which felt grammatically off (and TBH brought me back to your Nike reference and their "just do it" tagline).

    Voting Peace and Quiet for this one.

  31. My vote is for A.Lynne Smithee
    A.Lynne Smithee – Funny story. I laughed aloud a few time. I can’t send another Snap so I’ll text instead, is gold. The character is annoying and self-absorbed and I think he could have found himself equating his life to anything on the TV, the fact that is was seals is comedy. Reminds me of Nick Hornby’s characters. Had to look up proboscis, took me out of the story.
    Peace and Quiet – Super sad story. I liked some of your similes and metaphors but felt that there were too many. The branches embracing was a cool visual but the jack-in-the-box clown took me out of the story, maybe a cadence thing. I felt so much grief for the husband.

  32. A. Lynne Smithee: I enjoyed the interplay between the animal drama on the screen and the internal human drama, and the whiplash of the narrator's attraction to and rejection of technology. Like most of us, I've been there! I was turned off a bit by the narrator's decision to demand control over the woman he saw as "his." Doesn't she get to choose who she's going to be with?

    Peace and Quiet: Initially I thought this was a time travel story in which Ella was going back to change history so her daughter would live, though I couldn't figure out how she was planning to do it. Once I finally got on track it made much more sense. Still, there were some lines that I didn't like. It didn't make sense that she was looking down at her feet while driving to see the Nike swoosh. The Jack-in-the-box image seemed too cheerful for the moment. I don't judge her for choosing death to be with her baby instead of life with her husband, because grief takes each of us differently, but it did make it hard for me to sympathize with her choice.

    I realize my misreading of Peace and Quiet's story was my own fault, but it probably contributed to my decision to cast my vote for A. Lynne Smithee today, in the hope that as the story goes on the narrator has another epiphany, realizing the alpha-male domineering attitude is not okay.

  33. A Lynne Smithee, your story is fairly well-written. There are a couple of places where a word is missing. Unlike some of the other readers, I am struggling to find any humor in this piece. It did not strike me as funny at all. The MC comes across as being self-centered and when he throws the phone, it suggests he might have anger issues.

    When he sees the male seal, "belly-bumping another into submission," and then states, "he needs to find his inner seal," it shows the MC to be aggressive and controlling. Basically tells me as a reader that he'll do whatever he wants to get what he wants, and I don't like reading that.

    Also, the excuse of a "family drama" felt weak. Surely in this age where nearly everyone is connected to a device, Irene could have sent a quick 2 second text to explain she'd be late?

    I think if you'd used the idea of the title, and instead of him sitting around watching TV had him going out into nature and making the most of his day instead, the story would have been much stronger. As it is, I felt no emotional connection to him at all and really wasn't bothered what happened. I did enjoy your previous entry, but this fell flat for me.

    Peace and Quiet, again a very well written story. There are layers of emotion here, and so many questions that I as a reader want answers to. This could well be the start of a novel. What happened to Ella's baby? Can Matt's words save her? Does she push that button, or at the last second change her mind? I know I want to find out.

    Some readers have commented that her actions are selfish, or that in her situation they'd never do that, but catastrophic grief (as that of losing a baby would be) has no script, and I don't think anyone can say what they would or wouldn't do unless they were in that horrific circumstance.

    I loved the visual of the sign appearing in the dark night, could imagine ducking in the driver's seat as it appeared. I would turn the page if this were a novel.

    Really hoping Ella doesn't push that button.

    Vote this round for Peace and Quiet.

  34. A. Lynne Smith - Your piece is well-written, but the parallels between the guy and the seal were too much for me. I would've liked to know more about him to feel more invested in the character.

    Peace and Quiet - I like your metaphors and your use of language. The piece is well-written and took me to the action right away.

    My vote is for Peace and Quiet.

  35. My vote is for A.Lynne Smithee. I thought this piece was an amusing portrayal of how dependent we are on technology even when we know we are too dependent on it. I loved the Animal Planet seal show references and the way the MC related to it. And even though he really did nothing to triumph over the "other seals", in the end, he FELT like he had and that seemed very real to me.
    Peace & Quiet, I enjoyed the imagery of this story but I was confused at the end because I hadn't realize that she had turned off her car when she skidded to a stop. That pulled me out of the story just at what should have been the climactic moment. And if she had left her husband a note about her intentions, maybe to avoid him talking her out of her plan, then I don't think she would have answered his call. That caused me to feel the conversation was unrealistic as well. Still an well-written piece.

  36. I keep think this is going to get easier. Oh, silly me.

    A. Lynn Smithee: A fun story, with some excellent writing, but I didn’t really connect with the MC. Maybe I just needed to know a little more about him to understand why he’s such a needy loser. I didn’t get a stalker vibe at all. She stood him up, so it’s reasonable he would try to find her. I liked the contrast between the call of the wild and his own tech-dependent life, though sometimes I think the comparison stretched a little too thin. Small nitpick: Was the baby seal born that fast? I guess because there was a passage of time in the documentary he was watching, but I think you could briefly set that up.

    Peace and Quiet: Good writing and figurative language. You made us feel the mother’s sorrow. But I needed a better reason for her to answer the phone. She’d written a note, she was determined to do it. Unless, she wasn’t that determined and she answered the call because she was hoping he’d talk her out of it. If that’s the case, I think you should have set it up earlier. Show the doubt creeping in, show more concern for her husband. Otherwise the story takes a big hairpin turn and loses us.

    Because I thought the writing was a bit better, my vote is for Peace and Quiet

  37. Congrats to both writers.

    A. Lynne Smithee: I didn’t get stalkery vibes, and I think the reference to the number of snaps was just as much a “feeling” of that many than necessarily that number. I don’t think I would have waited for two hours! I would have liked to know a little more about their relationship before this disastrous date - how long have they known each other? With that info, we could also be a little more understanding of Irene’s text - I know from experience that family drama can pull you away from all cell contact until it’s been calmed down! Otherwise, I enjoyed the interplay with the documentary and the very real need to check our phone constantly for gratification.

    Peace and Quiet: What an emotional wallop from your other piece. I went into it expecting a tug on my heartstrings that would still make me smile and came away an emotional tangle. I think maybe a little more time could have been used building up her memories of Sophie - it’s all rushed into such a short space. I think I would also have liked a little more of her feelings for Matt - maybe a pang of how much she loves him. If you wanted to give it a more painful twist, that maybe he would decide to follow her lead and join them.

    My vote goes to Peace and Quiet.

  38. A. Lynne, I liked your first piece better, but this did make me laugh.
    Peace and quiet, I liked the idea, but I couldn't get behind the husband being discarded so casually.
    I have to vote for A. Lynne Smithee

  39. Good writing, both contestants. My choice is for A. Lynne Smithee for a well-realized story.

    A. Lynne, I really enjoyed the pace of the story and the frantic, paranoid lead character. Haven’t we all been that person, waiting impatiently for a crush to reciprocate? I don’t understand why others are getting a stalker vibe. They had a date, she stood him up. Isn’t he allowed to feel dejected and waiting for an explanation? Great use of animal magnetism and determination as parallels.

    Peace & Quiet, I enjoyed your story as well. You did a nice job building tension and emotion. A small piece of advice I would give is not to mention brand names unless the only version of an object that can work for your story is that one brand. Out of Volvo, Nike and Google name-dropped, only Nike was useful to the story, and even that was a bit clumsy. Good story though, I can see you winning this contest with more practice.

  40. I don't mean to ignore A. Lynne Smithee. Your writing was solid and funny, so she gets my vote.

    But Peace and Quiet confused me. Main character thinks to herself, It is not his fault. Why would that be in her head? Both lost a child.

    As someone who had that happen, and I know I am not the only one, my head was in a different place. We needed each other to get through it, so when she ignores him when he says he can't lose her too, the story lost realism for me, and I did not like the main character very much. The writing was good, but premise was poorly thought out.

  41. Hello writers. I did not go through so can now sit back and keep enjoying what you come up with next.
    P&Q Very strong and different to your first story. You are a master of emotions and portraying the feelings of your characters.
    Is this part of a novel? It reads that way, as we are left hanging on wanting to know that Ella is to late to meet the 11.14 deadline. Does the next chapter start 11.15? And say she was too late, much to the relief of her husband.
    A.Lynne. Is this aimed at a young genre. I think it must be as the guy is very immature and jealous, who does not get me laughing, rather makes me feel uneasy as he likens himself to an animal that uses aggression to find a mate. this is not funny. For me to root for this guy, he would've been better worrying about his girl. Is she OK, normally she messages back. If he had seemed concerned rather than obsessive this would've been a nicer piece and maybe I would have seen the funny side. Some people said about a stalker vibe, I didn't get that. If that was the intention, then that is even worse. Such a shame that you didn't just add a nugget of pleasantness to him.
    My vote is for the writing that shows us a character in pure despair, with backstory to make us root for her, which A. Lynne missed out on for me.
    Vote Peace and Quiet, tragic but gripping.

  42. This comment has been removed by the author.

  43. Sorry writers, I duplicated my post, in case anyone queries my deletion.

  44. oh my what interesting writing from both of you.
    I prefer the reality of P&Q here, even though it upset me, so you get my vote.

      This is my email address

  45. My vote is A.Lynn, mostly because of a pregnancy loss myself, I honestly couldn't get through all of Peace and Quiet. Apologies for that, but I can't vote for something I can't get through! A. Lynne, thanks for making me laugh!

  46. Im voting for A. Lynne Smithee. Great story.

  47. This round did not at all tread the emotions I anticipated.

    A. Lynne Smithee
    I, like others, found this problematic.

    2 big reasons:

    1) Factual inaccuracies about elephant seals
    2) Depicting selfish, immature, and controlling behavior as humorous

    For the first point, this stuck out: "Their massive bodies collided like sumo wrestlers, without doing any real damage. How could they? They only had a handful of teeth between them."

    While amusing, older male elephant seals can be distinguished because they tend to have a lot of scarring. That comes from the fighting. They don't have a ton of teeth, but what they do have, they use to great effect and rather viciously (male elephant seals are pretty nasty on the whole). They have hardened patches of skin on their chests to try and protect them from getting so badly gored. As an animal fan, I was immediately taken out because this dude seems to romanticize male elephant seals as these big, blubbery animals that are largely all show and mostly harmless. They super are not.

    Another major point that implies a big inaccuracy and does not work well for your theme is: "He’d waddle his way over who knows how many more seals to find the right one." For those who don't know, this makes it sound like male elephant seals fight other males to then be with their one and only, or, at least, the female they really desire. Those other 30 seals though? That's his harem. He's going to mate with ALL of them (or close to, depending on how many he allows his helper to mate with). So for a story about a human guy who is torn up because this one girl didn't show up or respond to him, this is an especially bad fit. Female elephant seals also don't really appear to care about males at all. They show up, have pups and raise them, mate, then peace back out. Males from their viewpoint seem to largely just be there for breeding. They're even less involved with males than lion prides. So Irene's stand-up behavior kind of fits with female elephant seal expectations.

    Both factually and thematically, using a male elephant seal for this dude to relate to was a huge miss. Unless the humor is supposed to be that he has no idea that this is how male/female elephant seals really interact? If that's so, I think that's a bit obscure since a lot of your readers may not know this, and he's watching a documentary. They'd cover those details (only way it could work is if he had the show on mute the whole time and it's made very apparent he's an unreliable narrator who is super misinterpreting what he's seeing. Now that could be pretty entertaining! But difficult to pull off).

    Where I see his behavior as uncharming is he never once considers Irene's perspective or emotions. He never even thinks her not being there is because something may be wrong. He just keeps spamming her with snapchats, then, finally, texts, and never considers if she's sick, or her car broke down, or what.

    I accidentally stood a friend up for a paint night once because I got back from vacation and was super exhausted. Just totally forgot. You know what my friend didn't do? Constantly bombard me with communications and think I was intentionally avoiding her. That kind of behavior is really juvenile, so this guy comes off sounding like he's 14.

    The snapchat thing is also hard for me to relate to. It's after my time, for one. And two, if he really wants her attention and to know what's going on, why in the world would he snapchat her so many times before sending a simple, "Hey, are you coming?" text? The fact he doesn't try to text or, gasp, call her before going home makes him sound ridiculous. And lazy! I don't see the humor in being pathetic and incapable.

  48. Continued (Yeah, I feel passionately when there are these kind of depictions in stories).

    The bigger issues, though, are he consoles himself and decides he needs to emulate a creature that "wins" females (he literally thinks of the elephant seal as the "winning male" before he watches him go have sex). For him, it's not about what Irene may want, he's going to be persistent until he's like the seal and gets what he wants... by fighting another dude and not considering Irene's feelings at all.

    The fact he jumps to the conclusion that Irene found someone else just goes to show any hiccup in their relationship he is going to filter through what he desires. Because again, he never even thinks something benign like, "She fell asleep" or "She got lost." It's just, "I KNEW IT! She's with another dude! And I need to change that." He only sees her as an object to possess, not a person who is being a person.

    The "be persistent until you get the girl you want" trope is a common one in our culture. And it's really unfortunate. Because it comes from that same mindset of "it's all about what I want," not "relationships are two autonomous people that are great because each CHOOSES to be there." It's very unhealthy and is a big part of why #MeToo even exists. Because men are taught just keep trying until she says yes (or at least until she doesn't say no).

    And at the end, when she reveals it's family drama, he sees that as a win for himself. What? Okay, family drama could be minor, or it could be pretty major. That's sort of sick to be happy about the misfortune of someone you claim to care about because it gives you a chance to play white knight.

    Here's how I'd refactor this story to make it work:

    1) Choose an animal that doesn't sexually dominate and is monogamous. There are a ton of examples in the bird kingdom. A bird of paradise or an emu would be an especially great pick for humor because the male courtships are hysterical. Birds are all about attracting, not winning a mate.

    2) Don't have him send so many messages. That can be a point of humor. He can want to send message, but constantly resists and puts his phone back because he's aware he's being potentially bothersome (the awareness here will show he actually thinks about how his behavior could impact Irene).

    3) Have him imagine multiple scenarios of why she's not answering. Have these be increasingly ridiculous. Then have the pay-off at the end, after he's either wound himself up, or decided that he can and will move on beyond her (you know, recognizing her right to choose who to be with and realizing he wants to be with someone who likewise WANTS to be with him), that HE'S the one who went to the wrong Starbucks. "Dude, where ARE you? I've been here for 2 hours." That's comedy! If he thinks he's been stood up, he watches this doc on birds and relates to them, decides he can move on or needs to make some crazy action, and then it's something as banal as, "You said to go to the Starbucks off I-10," that's funny. Make it his mistake. Works better for playing off his benign insecurity (if he thinks the issue is with him or recognizes Irene's right to choose, then the insecurity will be relatable and charming).

    Peace & Quiet
    Lot of strong descriptions! But, as others have said, dial back some of the similes/metaphors. The biggest disconnect for me is the tone starts off very thriller and ends super drama. I loved the intro and laughed at the snot and tears of the sky because I thought this was a thriller. Make clear from the jump the tone is very somber. You can achieve that by having the descriptions start less action focused and more bare and blunt. Less clever and poetic. She's not going to be clever in her grief. Seed us her hopes for this child at the start and show how those were dashed.

    Vote for Peace & Quiet.




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