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Summer Writing Challenge Finals

Here are the top three entries, followed by the poll. Please choose the one piece you think is the winner of the 2013 Summer Writing Challenge and vote.

Summer Writing Challenge 2013What a lot of fun this Summer Writing Challenge has been. Thank you to all who entered–a total of twenty-seven eligible pieces. And thanks to all who gave a thumbs-up response so we could pared down the offerings to the top three. Finally, special thanks to those of you who took the time to comment. Your feedback makes this challenge a win for the writers no matter how many thumbs they received.

So, without any further comments, here are the top three entries, followed by the poll. Please choose the one piece you think is the winner of the 2013 Summer Writing Challenge and vote. Selections are randomized so they may not appear in the order presented below.

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Entry by Austin Gunderson

Afraid? Bri couldn’t say she was exactly afraid. What a funny question. The supersonic freight train wouldn’t crush them for another seventeen seconds. Her new contact must be a paranoid sort; judging by the proportion of time he’d spent glancing over his shoulder, his head might’ve been screwed on backward. Bri rolled her eyes, tossed back her hair, and extended a hand. “Don’t worry about the mop-up crew. They might not be aiming for us, but they can’t miss. Just upload the package.”

The man faced her and, with a nervous shrug, yanked off his right glove. Bri had expected to grasp a sweaty, trembling palm, but the fingers which engulfed her own were pleasantly dry and firm. That was the first red flag — one too many. Bri tried to snatch her hand back, but the man simply kicked her in the shins and was suddenly the only thing holding her upright.

Seven seconds left.

The man slid a fingertip down his narrow implant from elbow to wrist, and Bri shuddered as the upload commenced. Then she screamed. All she could see was blue. The package was a Trojan. Her scream choked off as motor functions abruptly stalled.

By the time the train passed, Bri had lost the ability to sense its sonic boom. She knew she’d been hauled clear of its path only because she was still alive.

This could not have gone any worse.

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Entry by Shannon McDermott

Afraid? Bri couldn’t say she was exactly afraid. Nervous, maybe. But not afraid.

Exactly.

She willed her heartbeat to steady and looked at the man across the desk. His oversized frame pressed into the soft chair, and his eyes – blind and bright – stared past her, as if he could see through the walls to the ends of the earth.

Bri didn’t know in what trackless regions he wandered; she didn’t want to. No one really knew what he did, alone in his blank office without even a computer. But they said that those he chose always won.

His head turned toward her, a soft but ponderous movement that made her nerves skitter. “So. You want to go to New Mashhad.”

Bri nodded, straightening to her small height. “I can fool all the watchers.”

He didn’t answer, just rested his heavy blue gaze on her until her heart raced. She wondered what he saw – a young, gingery agent, or just a skinny little girl who thought, for some reason, that she could play with fire and not be burned?

“You will fool them once and twice.” His low voice broke like distant thunder. “The third time, nothing is sure.” He pointed to the door. “Go.”

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Entry by haywireproductions

Afraid? Bri couldn’t say she was exactly afraid. This was her purpose in life: the reason they created her. But what if she failed? One flick of the wrist out of time could bring the whole realm of nature against them.
The first of her kind, Bri knew she was not so much an experiment or a prototype, but the last card in the deck. Without her, everything they’d built so far would be for naught; a wrong movement meant the whole structure would topple.
“Artess Bri? Shall we begin?”

Okay, so maybe she was afraid.

The Watcher led her out onto the platform. A precarious precipice for her people, this place would presently become either blessed or cursed for all time.
She took a deep breath as the sun set, lifted her arms, and began the delicate dance designed only for her.

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The poll will be open through Monday, September 2 (closes midnight, Pacific time). Please share this post and encourage your friends to stop by and vote. The winner will be announced next Tuesday.

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Kat Vinson
Member

I have to say, the poll confused me for a second as the options were in reverse order from the printed entries.

Rachel
Guest

I was very confused by Gundersons entry.

Leanna
Guest

So more feedback for the finalists. 🙂

Austin,
As I said before, I’m a fan of both the premise and the voice. I still don’t understand why she’s fine with being destroyed by the train but the question doesn’t overwhelm my interest in what’s going on. The pacing, the hard sci-fic feel, the ending sentence… it all works for me within this very short piece. My final vote went to you. 🙂

Shannon,
I think I like the premise but something about your wording choices/sentence structure didn’t capture me (I know that’s dreadfully vague :P). I really really like this part:
His head turned toward her, a soft but ponderous movement that made her nerves skitter. “So. You want to go to New Mashhad.”
Bri nodded, straightening to her small height. “I can fool all the watchers.”
But then I’m stymied by the contrast of young-gingery-agent with skinny-little-girl because neither one sounds like a positive to me. Does she want him to see her as a young gingery agent?
I think the final paragraph would have sold me except that it didn’t feel like it fit with the general tone/language of what came before.

Haywireproductions,
Honestly, it was hard to figure out why yours wasn’t an instant win with me. The main character is a dancer! The plot hinges on dancing! And “artess” is a super cool honorific.
… After mulling it over, I think it might be because there weren’t any word pictures in the excerpt. I know a lot about what is at stake (which is hugely important) but I haven’t “seen” anything. And dance is a visual art. I wanted to be enchanted by language that evoked strong visuals but I wasn’t. So dancing became the stumbling block for me rather than the selling point.
Generally speaking, more description and less stakes/tension is probably terrible writing advice. But its what this reader needed in this excerpt. 😛

Shannon McDermott
Guest

Hi, Leanna.

To answer your question about the contrast, those are the ways Bri thinks he’s likely to see her. She thinks her age will form some part of his judgment, either negative (“little girl”) or neutral (“young agent”). Her bid to be sent to New Mashad ahead of agents more experienced and physically impressive is somewhat audacious; she doesn’t know if he’ll think such audacity makes her naive or gingery (by a fairly obscure Dictionary definition, “sharp and lively”).

Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts. I appreciate it.