Category Archives: writing

Play With The Prose II — Challenge #15 (And Last!): Christmas Ghosts

Round fifteen, the last of the Fiction 59 (59-word stories) head-to-head challenges required writing about Christmas Ghosts…past, present, or whatever:

Santa entered the large chamber to begin his yearly review of the prospective Ghosts of Christmas Past/Present/Future.

“Lots of chains, good, good …. and hey, I like the red eyes – nice touch. You – add another couple layers of gauzy cloth. Impressive garland crown!”

“Wait a minute … Daneeka’s Ghost?!”

The gaunt, ethereal cheetah slunk out of the exit.

  • Santa’s in charge of the Christmas ghosts? Why not?
  • Daneeka’s Ghost? Who? Only WGOM Citizen and multi-Spookymilk Survivor winner, that’s who.

Once more into the breach — RESULTS

Mine was submission #1 this time — the judges’ comments:
MATTHEW: If any of you guys can be described as a gaunt, ethereal cheetah, I’m never attending a meet-up. Story 2 was cute, and I like the idea of Santa being involved in the selection of the various Xmas ghosts. But it was in service of a hook that didn’t work on me, since I don’t know who the hell anyone is around here still. Story 1 was meatier, and I’m glad I figured out who it was referencing. It’d be interesting to see the author lay out just what the consequences would be of an ancient British spirit pimping for the US military. WINNER: #1

Novak – #1 makes me go “huh.” Huh. Where did this idea come from. The transformation from Christmas yet to come to Uncle Sam is so out of left field that I can’t help but be impressed at the concept. #2, on the other hand, has such a strong inside joke reference – but not too inside, as we should all get it – that I’m a huge fan. It’s very good showing vs. telling too, so I’m happy to give #2 the win.

ANDY: Hmm… not sure what to make of these two. I’m in a bit of a stupor, so forgive me, #1, but I’m not grasping what his right arm will advertise. Otherwise, I like the concept and it’s written well, with the right tone. #2, you came close with the Santa character, but for some reason I’m not feeling the meta in this entry. Sorry. Winner: #1.

WINNER: Will Young

*sigh* 5/10 record — disappointing? Well, didn’t make the playoffs, yeah, but I had fun, didn’t I? Darn straight! Thanks again, Spooks, judges, and everyone that participated.

Play With The Prose II — Challenge #14: Modern Tall Tale

Round fourteen (one more!) of head-to-head challenges with Fiction 59 (59-word stories) pressed us to write a modern day tall tale. Well, once upon a time…

The battle between Godzilla and Superman raged for interminable weeks, each having materialized inexplicably from their respective country’s tortured psyches. Yet both cowered in abject fear at The Unspeakable Horror that emerged from the crushing depths, summoned forth by the misguided faculty of Miskatonic University. It was then that Americans realized a crippling two-party gridlock trumps a non-benevolent dictatorship.
  • As far as “new” American tall tales go, I considered comic book heroes and modern fiction to be the tale tales of the current era. I chose to mix comic book, movie, and book figures into my story.
  • Many tale tails worked to explain the existence of something, typically a geographical feature or some such. The idea fell out that it instead explained something political.

Same ol’, same ol’? RESULTS

Mine was submission #2 in this time around — the judges’ comments:
MATTHEW: Whoa, matchup serendipity. Two stories of the Zilla/American Hero variety facing off. Story 2, did you mean to say that two party gridlock trumps dictatorship? Because your story seems to suggest that the Cthulhu mythos wins here. Maybe you meant to imply that Americans would’ve preferred the two-party system. Well, never mind…I still found myself enjoying story 1 better, because it made me laugh out loud. And it was…a love story. WINNER: #1

ANDY: I appreciate the effort, #2, and the prose is great, I just wasn’t moved enough by the concept. I don’t want to take too much away from your piece, as it shows the signs of excellent writing skill, and clearly a good amount of effort. The concept of Paul Bunyan falling in love just tickled me a bit more, and I guess that’s the difference maker. Winner: #1.

Novak – Oh, you’ve got me laughing out loud #1. That’s awesome. Also, two godzillas? What are the odds? #2, I wasn’t quite sure what you’re going for. The last line reads like the moral of a fable, but the rest of the entry doesn’t set it up quite right. #1 wins.

WINNER: Ian Pratt

I barely have a ghost of a chance next week…

Play With The Prose II — Challenge #13: Shooting A Gun

Round thirteen (two more!) of head-to-head challenges with Fiction 59 (59-word stories) required us to write about the firing of a gun. Let’s start with a bang:

His ears still ringing, Dean sighted through the scope, out the shattered plate glass window, past the splintered tree limb swinging from its tentative grip, to the craft store’s pierced sign shaking from the chains that held it nearly two blocks away. Turning to the cowering man behind the display counter, a grin split his face. “I LIKE IT!!”
  • I intentionally extended the first sentence as a metaphor for the long shot that Dean just took. Nice that at least one judge picked up on that.
  • I named my character after my worthy opponent, but really wanted to go with Chekhov.
  • Last line was going to be, “I’LL TAKE IT!!” but instead I made it an homage to a great line in Robocop:

Blow this thing up! RESULTS

Mine was submission #2 in this challenge — the judges’ comments:
MATTHEW: I like where you’re going, Story 1: Quentin Tarantino’s “Kill Williams, Vol. 1″. And nicely evocative descriptions. Story 2, you really grabbed me, though. The overlong first sentence was perfect to describe the aftermath of a super-long-distance sniper rifle. The pace and payoff sold me. WINNER: #2

Novak – Is this a thing now? Using names of CdL folks? (Williams/Brookings = Will/Brooks; Dean; Gilman… etc.). #1 has great motivation. I love the descriptions, but I find myself wondering if it would have worked better in first person. Maybe not. #2 took me a minute to realize what had happened. So much focus was put on the path of the sight/bullet that I thought the target would be more relevant, when really it was the shooting that was the issue. A bit confusing in that, but really fun to envision what happened and the path the bullet took. It’s my close call of the week, and I’ve gone back and forth on this, but this time I’m giving the edge to #1.

ANDY: A little corny and predictable for my taste, #1, sorry. #2 is a bit more original of a concept, and written a bit better as well. That’s my winner: #2.

WINNER: David Larson

Well, alright then. The next challenge is a tall order…

Play With The Prose II — Challenge #12: No English

Round twelve of head-to-head challenges with Fiction 59 (59-word stories) posed the challenge of writing about someone who could not speak English. Can do:

“Hey! Which way is the courthouse?”

Pedro looked up and saw the suited man, but Carson answered, “Pedro doesn’t speak English. Courthouse is three blocks that way.”

“Stupid spic!” the suit uttered as he walked away.

“He understands it though,” Carson mumbled, giving Pedro the universal sign for “jerk off”, to which Pedro signed back, “big time jerk off.”

  • I intentionally chose a character who it would be believed didn’t speak English to draw away from the idea that he couldn’t speak at all.
  • It’s too easy picking on the suits, isn’t it?

More of the same? RESULTS

Mine was submission #2 this time around — the judges’ comments:
MATTHEW: I’m feelin’ ya, Pedro. Stupid privileged suit and his subtle, vulgar racism. It’s a nifty little story, but oh man. Story 2, you had the misfortune of being paired against Story 1, which is clever in the right ways. Not just a gimmick, a nice little piece of tidy science fiction. Well done. WINNER: #1

ANDY: Very clever, #2. A great concept and it’s executed pretty well. However… INSTANT WIN for #1. Don’t know if this was done for my benefit, as I’ve already admitted my computer-nerdness, but I totally dig it. And yes, I speak ASCII very well, thank you.

Novak – There’s just far too many typos for me to consider #1 seriously, but I love what they’re going for here. Seriously though, no typos, I know… I wondered if I’d be having to use translators a lot. Didn’t anticipate this one. #2 is a solid exchange – very realistic, and I like the approach on difference between speaking/hearing. I wish there were a little more at stake in the story though. Ultimately, though solid, #2 can’t compete with #1’s big risk taking. #1 wins.

WINNER: Erik Dikken

Erik kicked butt; time for a new opponent…

Play With The Prose II — Challenge #11: Mall Santa

Round eleven of head-to-head challenge with Fiction 59 (59-word stories) required the involvement of a mall Santa Claus. This can only spell trouble:

“So little girl, have you been naughty or nice this year?” the mall Santa asked, only to be answered by a round of quiet giggling.

Five minutes later Santa emerged from the bathroom stall and then nodded to Tina the Elf, who was still adjusting her bra and top. Definitely naughty, Santa decided, with a twinkle in his eyes.

  • It’s funny how our two submissions worked off the same idea.

Downward trend? RESULTS

Mine was submission #1 for this challenge — the judges’ comments:
MATTHEW: Nice that these two stories were paired with one another. Not so nice that they made me wanna hurl a little. The first was pretty rote, which in a sense I’m glad for, considering where “little girl” can lead one in a sexual Santa story. Story 2 latched onto the bizarre and misbegotten right from the get-go, and unfortunately it was the insistence of putting all those yuletide puns in the story that kept it from working for me on a shock level. WINNER: #1

Novak – I definitely figured we’d get more of these topics than we’ve seen so far. Y’all really haven’t disappointed with your creativity – I very rarely see too much of something expected. And when I do see something expected, it’s always handled really effectively, just like it is here. They both show instead of tell, and they both paint clear pictures. #2 is a bit more creative (and crass, but it works here), so that gets the edge.

ANDY: Good old CdL depravity. Strange that these got paired together. I’m giving this one to #2, which doesn’t pull any punches, has a great last line, and keeps us in the moment.

WINNER: Melissa David

The more things change…well, you know the rest.

Play With The Prose II — Challenge #10: Excuses

Round ten of head-to-head challenge with Fiction 59 (59-word stories) had a prolonged deadline due to the holidays…but that’s no excuse. HERE is the excuse:

“The Director needs his money — now.”

“I’m their daughter, and I don’t want you calling them anymore! You’re getting no more money from them. They’re on fixed incomes; they don’t even have a TV!”

“Lady, we know where they live…”

“Call again and I’m reporting you! Goodbye!”

“Mom, Dad — that’s it; absolutely no more pledging to PBS!”

  • Yeah, I had nothing. This thing just sort of fell together a few hours before the deadline.
  • Living on a pension and not having a TV aren’t much for excuses (an older couple without a TV? Come on!) but an excuse is an excuse.

More bad news? RESULTS

Mine was submission #2 this time around — the judges’ comments:
MATTHEW: Story 1 doesn’t really feel like an apology to me. Or an apology for someone else. Which is too bad, because it’s the first time anabelian geometry has been successfully used in one of these stories. Meanwhile #2 gave me a chuckle, and I like to chuckle. WINNER: #2

ANDY – I’m not sure what to make of the entries that force us to go on Wikipedia. Are you to be rewarded for the obvious extra effort, or do I fall back on my lazy nature, where I want to “get it” on the first read? I’m not sure about the first-person voice in #1. It’s not quite working for me. And I’m not sure the character is fully formed. #2 goes for the laughs, and succeeds, but it’s not quite a home run, as it suffers from a bit too long of a build up to the obvious punchline. Not to be too harsh, I actually enjoyed both of these. I’m going with #2 in a difficult call. The voice and flow is a little bit more consistent.

Novak – Oh, these are both clever. The exchange in 2 is solid, but it could have been punched up with a descriptive detail or two; maybe just one excuse? #1 is a bit awkward with the ellipses, but the genius of the approach is much appreciated. Of course, #1 isn’t someone giving an excuse for someone else, it’s giving an excuse for themselves. And on that technicality, I give the victory to #2.

WINNER: David Larson

How about that? My first concensus story! Gotta get my best Santa on for the next one, though…

Play With The Prose II — Challenge #9: Joke

Round nine of head-to-head challenge with Fiction 59 (59-word stories) is a joke … literally! See?

“Hey Moose, did you know there are 10 types of people in the world.”
“Uh…no.”
“Yeah, those that understand binary numbers, and those that don’t!”
“What about the other eight?”
“No, it’s a joke.”
“What the heck’s a binary?”
The last thing Steve could recall as he awoke in the hospital was the fist that pounded him 10 times.
  • This happens to be one of my favorite jokes.
  • Originally the last line mentioned that Moose’s fist interrupted a belly laugh, but I thought number of punches tied in better with the joke. The beating Steve took seems pretty harsh when the laughter is left out.
  • I had been on a mission trip to Joplin, MO (a future post here, I hope) and just got back the afternoon this was due, so not a lot of thought was put into it. That’s my excuse and I’m sticking with it. If I’d thought about it longer, my last line would have been, Steve wasn’t sure if it was the second or the tenth punch that landed him in the hospital.

Continued decline? RESULTS

Submission #1 in this match-up — the judges’ comments:
MATTHEW: I have no idea if the joke in Story 2 was already in circulation, or if it was fresh…but it’s new to me, and it actually made me laugh. Story 1 wasn’t bad at all, but it wasn’t a joke so much as a story about a joke. But Story 2 still would’ve carried this one without my little joke-rule. WINNER: #2

ANDY: You really had me going there, #1, a joke after my own heart (I’m a programmer by day). But unfortunately, the punchline just didn’t reach the heights for me, sorry. Funny, but not hilarious, I guess. #2 constructed a great story-joke. The language flows very nicely, and the punchline hits the spot. It’s so much like a real joke, I feel like you must have stolen it. I’ll assume not, though. Congrats, #2.

Novak – Yup, I’m loving it. I’ve never heard #2, though I feel like I should have. A fantastic, efficient joke-telling. #1 takes a somewhat classic gag, and turns it into more of a story. The descent into the pounding made me laugh again, but I just can’t get past – or maybe I don’t want to – the effectiveness of #2, so that one wins.

WINNER: Sarah Johnson

Time for a winner next week, though — no excuses! Well, maybe one…

Play With The Prose II — Challenge #8: Crisis

Round eight (over half way there!) of head-to-head challenge with Fiction 59 (59-word stories) involves defusing a crisis. Can it be done? Will it be done?!

Shelly sat in the kitchen kneading her temples and staring at the blank paper in front of her. “Dad, I need a 59-word story about a man-made disaster, or my Creative Writing grade is sunk.”

The man left, and returned shortly with an ink-scrawled scrap of paper. “A spinning cat…the end of the world… 59 words – great! Thanks Dad!”

  • Meta! This is a thinly veiled reference to my very first Ficiton 59 submission, “Black (Hole) Cat” from back in Spookymilk Survivor VII.
  • While the crisis of not having a Creative Writing assingment to hand in was averted, I think there’s now a crisis of ethics with Dad doing all the work, don’t you?
  • At this point, I could turn in a random mix of letters and numbers, and Philosofer will judge it a winner. :P

A “return” to mediocrity? RESULTS

Submission #1 in this match-up — the judges’ comments:
MATTHEW: Slightly less meta, story 1, but still meta. Again, doesn’t really bring me into a feeling of crisis or the aversion of same. Story 2 was an interesting take on the idea of a midlife crisis, and the last line actually made me chuckle. WINNER: #2

Novak – #1 is more of the true meta I was talking about. And I enjoy that. It’s a bit campy, but I applaud the effort to introduce character in meta. #2 has a funny last line. For the life of me, I can’t figure out where you could have added anything more, but the tone of the narrator makes them a fairly blank slate, and I wanted more character there. A solid entry. Also, what’s up with double cats? Are you all collaborating on your matchups just to mess with the judges? Anyway, I liked ‘em both, but the meta one won me over. #1 wins

ANDY: For a second you guys had me fooled into thinking you were working together to create the most awesome spectacle of a matchup ever! Oh well. Sorry, #1, you went totally meta on me and I missed the reference. Was it from this season? I’m too tired to remember or look it up, sorry. However, the concept comes across just fine whether or not I get the reference. It’s the fact that I recognize it as a reference that’s important, right? Also, why did you call the dad “the man”? Anyway, on to #2. Rescuing cats as midlife crisis? OK, not sure I would have ever thought of that, but it’s certainly an original idea. I felt like a bit more effort and time went into #2, and without a clearer distinction to help me make the call, that’s what I’m going with. Winner: #2.

WINNER: Pete Bruzek

I think we all knew how that one would resolve it self. Looks like for the next one the joke’s on me…