Category Archives: Spookymilk Survivor

Play With The Prose II — Challenge #7: Rock Concert

Round seven of head-to-head challenge with Fiction 59 (59-word stories) takes place before, during, or after a rock concert. What? What?! YOU’LL HAVE TO SPEAK UP!

“Alright class, it’s time to look at your Inukshuk dioramas. Justin, yours is first – can you tell us about it?”

The shy fourth grader stood up. “Mrs. Hornette, it’s a rock concert. And these guys on stage are the Rolling Stones.”

“Well, it’s an excellent diorama, Justin, but I’m giving you a week of detention for those bad puns.”

Will I ever make it to .500? RESULTS

In this round my story was submission #1 in the match-up — the judges’ comments:
MATTHEW: Ugh. I have to say, neither of these stories worked for me. First of all, the pun wasn’t that successful, since Inuksuit don’t roll. And the second story didn’t really feel like there was any driving emotion behind it. Not even opportunistic greed, or scheming. I don’t think you did yourself any favors by starting with the mouth-wipe and ending with the announcement of the paternity suit: the main character feels loathsome, and not in interesting ways. (There’s also the fact that Coldplay is one word, not two.) However, the edge does go to #2 because #1 wasn’t even tangentially related to a concert event. WINNER: #2

Novak – Oh you kidders. These are both funny. #1 makes me proud to have been that kid. #2 has a fantastic twist, but that last sentence comes off a bit awkward. It’s my “Close Call” of the week, but I gotta go with the one after my own heart… #1 wins.

ANDY: Minus 1 point for misspelling Coldplay. Just unforgivable (not really). Both went for the funny here, and I have to say, #1 really nailed it for me. The dialogue put me right there in the setting, and the language was perfect. It didn’t hurt that the joke was great, too. Congrats, #1.

WINNER: David Larson

This week went well, but I foresee an impending crisis…

Play With The Prose II — Challenge #6: Apology

Round six of head-to-head challenge with Fiction 59 (59-word stories) revolves around an apology. Here’s what I came up with, sorry if you don’t like it.

As Tricia sat down on the top of the slide, Tony gave her back a shove with his foot. “Oh, sorry about that! Ha ha!”

Tricia got up and sat on a nearby swing, pulled out her pocket diary, and wrote, “Tony = jerk.” Then she defiantly added, “but I still love him, and after school he’s going down!”

  • While working on an idea for this one, I suddenly found myself attempting to pull in the previous challenges, until I had to get them ALL to work. Apology? Check. Jerk? Check. Playground Equipment? Love story? Check and Check. Same with private journal entry and showdown (well, sort of). Maybe not the best story, but it did what I was trying to do.

.500 for the season? RESULTS

This time around my story was submission #2 in the match-up — the judges’ comments:
MATTHEW: Mixing a jerk with an apology! Economical! The kick in the back at the top of the slide was nowhere near as brutal as the kick to the stomach in story #1, though. As much as it’s nice to see a positive conflict in one of these stories, I have to give the edge to the first story. WINNER: #1

Novak – #1 actually does a good job of showing, instead of telling, but because of the first person narration it feels a bit like telling, and that blunts the impact. #2 does it just a little better, and I believe the characters, which can be tough to do with kids. #2 is the winner.

ANDY: Wait, are we still doing jerk stories? What a couple of jerks we have here. But wait, there’s apologies too. Unfortunately, I think both stories need a little bit more polish. The prose doesn’t quite flow, but the ideas are sound and the stories fit well within the word limit. I’m going with the higher emotional impact of #1.

WINNER: AMR

Time to get back up on the horse again!

Play With The Prose II — Challenge #5: Jerk

Round five of head-to-head challenge with Fiction 59 (59 word stories) had to deal with a jerk. Yes, that’s right. Well, here we go:

“Steve-o!” Thad dropped himself onto one of the wire-backed stools. “Nice outfit! Does it come with matching frilly panties?”

“I don’t…”

“…Shaddap, and bring me a cherry cola, with two shots of cherry this time.”

Steve whipped off his hat and placed it on the counter, untied the red apron, wadded it up, and threw it in Thad’s face.

  • Yep, TWO jerks in this one — Thad the jerk and Steve the soda jerk.

Winning streak? RESULTS

My story was AGAIN submission #1 in the head-to-head — the judges’ comments:
MATTHEW: Heeeeeey JERK! The Jerkiness in story #1 was rightly handled: with the kind of moment that is backed by a swell of 80s power pop, driving the protagonist of the teen movie into a training montage that allows him to get the girl in the third reel. Story 2′s jerkishness is very familiar, but you gotta give the edge to the story that features a little redemption. WINNER: #1

Novak – To be honest, I’m torn here. These are both straight-forward jerk stories (the first time I accidentally misread #1 to imply that Steve-O was the one sitting down and ordering, like right after getting off a shift, which would have been a fantastic twist). Both work well but leave me wanting a little more. I think the victim perspective adds a little more character, so #2 wins in my “Close Call” of the challenge.

ANDY: Close call on this one. Two, nice, solid stories that work well within the word limit. Can’t find much fault with either. I’m going with #1 today. I feel that the “jerk” was brought much more center stage, and that’s going to be the deciding factor in this one.

WINNER: David Larson

Winning streak! Momentum!

Play With The Prose II — Challenge #4: Playground Equipment

Round four of head-to-head challenge with Fiction 59 (59 word stories) revolved around playground equipment, of all things. Don’t ask me where this idea came from:

Atlas hated when his mother-in-law came to visit – Mrs. Atlas became even crabbier, and he was tasked with cleaning the house. Leaning on his broom in the kitchen, he had a brilliant idea, and went outside to retrieve the kids’ teeter-totter. Placing the low end under the Earth and heaving mightily, he swept all the penguins under the Antarctic.
  • After coming up with the idea, I had to research whether Atlas even HAD a wife and/or kids. I didn’t think he did, and he didn’t. Still, it IS Fiction 59, after all.
  • I was originally going to have him just sweep the pile of dirt under the Earth, but thinking of Antarctica down there at the south pole, penguins just made sense, didn’t they?

Resigned to a winless season? RESULTS

My story was submission #1 in the head-to-head — the judges’ comments:
MATTHEW: Is Story 2 another Hurricane Sandy story? Well, no matter, it’s interestingly written, but still feels like it skims over what could have been a more interesting telling of this character’s actions. Meanwhile, Story 1 makes very clever use of a teeter-totter, and has a funny payoff. And since story 2 doesn’t seem to really involve a piece of playground equipment (what could the obelisk be? A slide?), I’m tilting over to story 1. WINNER: 1.

ANDY: I like both of these stories. #1 has a nice, original story idea, and although #2 doesn’t seem quite as original after reading the first group, the flow of the language works well; it reads very easily. I have found after judging these after a few weeks that I seem to be rewarding original ideas and good flow of language the most, so these are both strong entries for me. The language is slightly more awkward in #1, and I have to give a slight edge to #2, as it feels a little more polished. Close call.

Novak- The first story seems similar to the kind of thing I might come up with, and feel very proud of myself for how clever I was. I’m proud of this author for being clever too. Pride because I assume I inspired it somehow. The second story seems to bite off a bit more than it can chew. The middle sentence about the first victim, and the last about the Times, are perfect. The rest of it all might be a bit too caught up details (twenty-first victim) that obscure the emotions captured in the other sentences. The win goes to the very clever author of #1.

WINNER: David Larson

I’m on the board! Time to rest on my laurels.

Play With The Prose II — Challenge #3: Love Story

Round three of head-to-head challenge with Fiction 59 (59 word stories) was all about love, man. Write a love story. Well, okay.

“The End.” Closing the book and getting up from his bedside chair, Hal gently kissed his daughter’s forehead. “It’s time to go — I’ll tell Mom you love her. See you tomorrow.”

Leaving the coma ward, Hal reminded himself he needed to stop by the florist on the way to the cemetery; Sunday will be the four year anniversary.

So, 1-2, or 0-3? RESULTS

My story was submission #1 in the head-to-head — the judges’ comments:
MATTHEW: Two stunners, right off the bat. Each of these uses an economy of language to deliver a very real, very resonant emotional sense to them. It’s a tough call, but I have a favorite. Even though the very first sentence doesn’t seem to fit the tone of the rest of the story, #1 is simply luscious and very sensual. WINNER: #1

NOVAK – I love the subtext of #1. “Stolen from his neighbor’s tree”… Fanfreakingtastic. It’s hard to tip your hand too early in 59 words, but I felt like #2 did it. Until it didn’t, and there was another reveal. Ultimately, the subtext in #1 needed a little more “text”, and #2’s double-take worked for me, so it gets my nod.

ANDY – Oooh, boy. Here we go. Starting this challenge off with a good fight, aren’t we? Both are very impactful in their own ways, and this is going to be a hard one to call. #2 has the right emotional impact. The language and subject matter of #1 are just too compelling. I’m going with #1.

WINNER: Christina Pepper

  • Thanks to my bro Big Al for the story idea, although the one he pitched would have been a challenge at 200 words.

Congratulations, Christina. Here’s your orange!

Play With The Prose II — Challenge #2: Private Journal Entry

Round two of head-to-head challenge with Fiction 59 (59 word stories), and this time against Spookymilk himself! Not to be daunted, I totally played off the challenge directions: to write a private journal or diary entry. Well, I can do that!

The attendant looked up as the exterior door opened and a soldier schlepped in, snapping off a sloppy salute. “I’ve got the post commander’s WSJ, sir.”

With obvious disapproval, the attendant straightened the private’s tie, brushed away doughnut crumbs, took the paper from under the private’s arm, smoothed and refolded it, and handed it back. “Knock first, then enter.”

So how did I do? RESULTS

My submission was submission #1 in the head-to-head — the judges’ comments:
MATTHEW: Story #1: Yeah, I get it. Wall Street Journal. That trombonist is going to be very winded at the end of this season, I can tell already. #2 gave me a nice chill, though, so I don’t feel any remorse in awarding it the win here. WINNER: #2

NOVAK – #1 – Private? Check. Entry? Check. Journal? Check. Well played sir or madam, well played. #2, I love the concept. Somehow – and I’m going to blame the 59 words here – it misses just a bit of the impact I expected it to have. Still, there’s enough there, and a high-enough level of execution, that it’s enough to win the challenge. I still want to encourage the kind of wit we see in entry #1 though.

ANDY: Didn’t you just break the rules, #1? I hate that. But in another way, it makes my job easier. #2 wins by default. But I enjoyed it a lot anyway, #2. I’m intrigued, and I’m thinking you won anyway.

WINNER: Kelly Wells

  • Sorry, Andy, it was pretty cagey, but it did followed the directions.
  • I’m pleased to see I have one of the judges in my back pocket now. Thanks, Philosofer 😉

Congrats, Spooks! Now, I need to come up with something I love to turn in for Sunday’s challenge.

Play With The Prose II — Challenge #1: Showdown

Yes, it’s back!  Play with the Prose was universally well liked, and with a few tweaks, a sequel has begun.  The biggest changes: all of the challenges will be Fiction 59 format (a complete story in 59 words or less), and competitions will be head-to-head, so with 16 contestants there will be 15 challenges total, followed by a post-season. There are three judges this time around, to forego any chance of a tie.

The first challenge had me paired up against Erik S; we were tasked with writing about a showdown.

Verlander shakes off the sign. He looks to first, then throws over to first, but Schumaker gets back easily. Count is still 2 balls and 2 strikes…

…so now all you need to roll is a 4 or a 9, and the lounge suite is yours!

Georgia placed the remote on the kitchen table and sat forward on the edge of her chair.

So how did I do? RESULTS

My submission was submission #1 — the judges’ comments:
MATTHEW: Story 2 suffered from a lack of atmosphere, unfortunately, although it was a strong story idea. In so few words, you have to sacrifice something, and the writer went for a sense of place over a sense of tension. And let’s face it, in a story about a showdown, tension’s what you’re looking for. Meanwhile, story 1 revealed itself marvelously. WINNER: #1

ANDY: I don’t really feel invested in Georgia’s story in the first one. I was hoping for a better payoff in #2, but the story kept me more engaged while I was reading it. So, #2.

NOVAK: Both stories here leave me wanting more. I have a feeling I’ll be saying that a lot judging Fiction59. Story 1 is a little more complete, but we don’t quite get access to the character’s motivation for changing the channel, which is something I think would wrap up the thought completely. The name Georgia is absolutely perfect for it. So much imagery caught up in that single name. Story 2, we’re left with all sorts of tension, but I want details. I think the writing in Story 2 showed a little something more, so it wins this battle for me.

  • My idea here was not so much a showdown between Verlander and the baserunner Schumaker, or between a game show contestant and Lady Luck, but between the ballgame and the game show.

Good job, Erik. My work is now cut out to get back to .500 again. Next challenge: a private journal entry. I already have an idea percolating…

Spookymilk Play With The Prose — Playoff Challenge #2: One Month To Live

Round 2 of the Play with the Prose playoffs — okay, I’ll admit it: I was a little peeved about advancing out of round 1. It’s not like I phoned it in or anything, but last week and this week have been busy, and I wouldn’t have been too heartbroken to have had my season end. Still, I’m still in it, so the new challenge was to write about someone knowing they have one month to live, in 500 words or fewer.

Hal noticed the large foldout tucked into a family history book from the recently discovered cache of his late, great uncle’s memorabilia. All the intricate writing and curiously connecting lineages of the family tree drawn upon it absolutely fascinated him. Tracing various lines with his finger, he located his Uncle Ted, where Ted’s remarriage a month ago was duly recorded…and yet, this book had been in storage for at least four years. Hal noticed other recent family events were also noted with their dates as well. Looking closer, he began to identify dates in the future, some as far as 2080. How could that be? And then he froze at an item in his own small rectangle:

Harlan Joseph MILLER
DOD 10-5-2012

His own death, barely one month away! Hal quickly refolded the page like it was about to burst into flames, and put it back on the shelf.

For the next four weeks as Hal tried to go about his life as a HS sophomore, when he thought about the prophetic missive he found himself alternating between an icy chill down his back and uneasily trying to dismiss it. He never told anyone – how could he? He wasn’t sure he believed it himself.

On that fateful day, Hal thought about saying something on his Facebook page, but couldn’t see how he could and not have it look like a suicide note. Throughout the day he kept picturing himself in bus crashes, falling down stairs, ingesting spoiled cafeteria food (which it was most days), even seeing Ms. Tingle naked and subsequently having a heart attack. Still, he returned home from school just as alive as ever.

That night he gave his parents each a hug and went to bed. He lay awake a long time, wondering how it would feel dying in his sleep, which of course kept him awake. He put his headphones on and found a good station with some quiet music playing…and came suddenly awake at three in the morning. Hal threw off his headphones, got up, and walked over to the storage room and lifted down the box containing the family history book. He carried it back to his bedroom, where he carefully unfolded the large page under his desk lamp. There is was, just as he’d remembered it. This time, though, he scrutinized the area around his name closer.

Married 6-6-2018

There was a wife, kids, grand kids – his line continues! After spending over an hour tracing different lines and studying the foldout further, Hal came to a conclusion: he’d found more than one name misspelled and other minor discrepancies – his death date was a typo. Hal sat back in his chair, a heavy weight lifted off his chest. He refolded the page, flipped off the desk lap, and climbed back into bed. The last thought he had before falling back asleep was, “I need to check Facebook and find out who Carly Lynn Fassbender is!”

So…what happens now? RESULTS

The judges’ comments:
K: I rather enjoyed the fact that I finished with a happy ending this week. I always like that, actually, to cleanse my palate after the ball-kicking depression everyone else puts me through. The story is told in too unexciting a way – I think there was potential to show us some close calls with death before the narrator finds out he was all wrong – but I like where the story took me in the end. The theme was a bit of a cheat, but for me, it was fine. BRONZE

P: This sort of feels like cheating. It’s also a little weird to have Facebook be such an integral part of the story (being referenced often). I really like the idea of a person finding a family tree book with prophetic information in it, but the fact that it’s riddled with typos sort of ruins it for me. BRONZE

  • My work with genealogy gave me my initial idea for this one. And my work with family tree documents riddled with typos (like my own, no doubt) led to the final direction.
  • Not a whole lot of body to this one, but what do you want with 500 words?

Time to do some exploring now for some well-deserved rest!

Thanks again to spooky and Nibbish for your fine adjudicating, and to all the other participants, and best of luck in the finals!