This is topic Christmas Twist Challenge in forum Writing Challenges at Hatrack River Writers Workshop.

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Posted by Owasm (Member # 8501) on :
Post your First 13s here.

Trigger: Christmas with a twist (Chanukah works too.)

Post by 12/18 Voting goes from 12/19 to 12/23 Crits more than welcome.

Not anonymous

Voting: 1st place 5 points, 2nd place 3 points, 3rd place 1 point Best title 1 vote.

Put entries below - comments on the other thread.
Posted by snapper (Member # 7299) on :
Red Christmas

When the First Martian Congress assembled, no one dreamed picking the day that would serve as Mars’ Christmas would prove to be the divisive issue. Traditional factions insisted the day coincide with Earth’s Dec. 25th, while separatists factions demanded the day be Martian unique. After weeks of fiery debate, the assembly decided to recess so calmer heads could prevail. It was during this time when Martian numerologists – hoping to put the issue to rest - devised a 20 month calendar with 33 days each, leaving an extra day to fill out the year. They proposed this remainder day to serve for Mars’ Christmas, a day worthy of a planetary celebration. They completed the calendar during the recess and impressed it upon all the CP servers on the planet.
Historians agree their decision led to the Red Sands War.

[ December 13, 2012, 03:24 PM: Message edited by: snapper ]
Posted by Owasm (Member # 8501) on :
Jynx and the Black Menace

Jynx crept into the velvety darkness of a cavern with only the light of the moon, dimly filtered through the ice roof, providing him with a view of gray lumps of all kinds of sizes. He had traced the inventory leakage to this room, the main warehouse that held Santa's packages.

He pulled out a map, drawn in glowing ink, and silently took up his post, waiting in the constant darkness of the arctic solstice. Only two days before the Big Trip and he faced a dwindling time frame to find the missing packages. His pointed ears swiveled to a sound far overhead as the gloom shifted by a section of the roof parting. Jynx stood out in the aisle gawking at the widening hole as he suffered a blow to his head and then fell to the floor, his senses fleeing.
Posted by Corin224 (Member # 2513) on :

"I understand the concept of Christmas," Karatan spoke with a bit of an edge, "It is the core premise that . . . disturbs me."
Sela sighed as she rearranged decorations on the tree. The hologram was very finely tuned, each ball changing subtly through hues at her slightest gesture, anchoring and moving easily to create a pleasant assortment of lights. The old electric bulbs had been more sentimental, but lacking trees here on the third moon of Graendalus, the colonists were using holos this year.
"Disturbing? Kari, It's happy! We're celebrating the birth of--"
"Of your great master who absorbed the sins of humankind," Karatan interrupted, the stacatto click of her claws forming words in Sela's mind faster than the translator earpiece could manage.
"What exactly," continued Karatan, "is there for me to celebrate?"

--Edited to fit the 13 lines more strictly.--

[ December 17, 2012, 04:09 PM: Message edited by: Corin224 ]
Posted by axeminister (Member # 8991) on :
New Man

I heard the Christmas wrapping paper being torn away. Light shined through cracks that soon became triangular windows. My wife stared at me. A pained smile strained across her quivering mouth. Tears dripped onto her folded hands. I had to wonder about a woman who would wrap her backup husband and open him two weeks after he'd been delivered. Was she giving herself time to prepare? Or was Christmas that important to her?

Re-Fit had programmed me with as many memories as they could, but they were related by my wife, so they were all in third person.

"Aren't you going to say something?" she asked.

"Hello, Honey." My first words.

She brought her hands to her mouth and I wondered if Ralph had called her honey, or if she'd told Re-fit he did so that I would.
Posted by Utahute72 (Member # 9057) on :
The shiny ornaments and sparkling lights glittered on the tree, green garland slithered over the mantle. Sam Evans sat in the big overstuffed chair and stared at the empty and forlorn stockings hanging limply over the fire. The end of the season was always so sad.
"The boys seem well." said the soft voice behind him.
"Yes they are, their kids are great too."
"Well another successful season come and gone."
A small tear creased his cheek.
"Yes, but it's just not the same without you here to share it."
Posted by Corin224 (Member # 2513) on :
The Devil Within

Sean woke from a dead sleep to find a man dressed like Santa sitting on his bed, grinning calmly through his thick white beard. He screamed and jumped back. "What the hell do you want, perv?"
The man didn't react at first. After a moment, he reached into his bright red coat and pulled out a piece of charcoal.
"You've got to be kidding me," Sean spat out scornfully.
"These are not matters about which I jest." His voice was deep and soothing, but something told Sean he was deadly serious.
"But it is not yet decided," he continued. "Naughty and Nice...we are not such simple beings as that. There is hope for you yet."
The man leaned forward placing his hand gently on Sean's head.
"This is my gift to you," he spoke. The world exploded into light, sound and pain, and Sean screamed.

--Edited to fit 13 lines more strictly.--

[ December 17, 2012, 04:16 PM: Message edited by: Corin224 ]
Posted by Owasm (Member # 8501) on :
Only six entries. I guess there is a better chance to win. Go ahead and vote for your favorites, crits are welcome.
Posted by Corin224 (Member # 2513) on :
Not sure I've seen a Writing Challenge this small in a while . . . and with such a great trigger! Must be the time of year. In any case, here's my crits / votes:

Red Christmas - Honestly, I'd never thought about how holidays would work on new Earth-based colonies. I could see Easter posing a problem, too. The concept intrigued me, but in the first 13 lines, I didn't really have anything to hold on to. Felt a wee bit infodumpy, but I'm also intensely curious how a difference in holiday could lead to a war. Not my fave, but you managed to set the hook anyway.

Jynx and the Black Menace - The biggest complaint I have is one little phrase: "Suffered a blow to his head". We're seeing from his POV for the first part of the story, then suddenly it feels like a news reporter. It was quite jarring. In fact, it kinda felt like that whole last sentence was jammed full of stuff to try to set a hook in before the 13 lines were up. The funny part is, I was already intrigued by an elf detective (I'm assuming . . . there were lots of hints) tracking down thefts from Santa. I liked the "Big Trip" and glowing ink . . . just subtle bits of world building and the whole opening sucked me in completely. Until that final sentence.

Savior - Mine

New Man - Just not digging this one yet, though I don't hate it. It flows well, there's just too much info I don't have. For example . . . I couldn't shake the impression that the backup husband was a miniature . . . being wrapped up and all. And it was quite odd, the idea of the woman wrapping her own present, much less an imperfect-ish one that doesn't actually have the memories of the first husband. I would read more, as it's so strange I want to understand . . . and I find myself hoping that we discover the woman killed her first husband so she could replace him and "make him better" then have that go awry. Good potential, but very disorienting and puzzling.

Untitled - by Utahute73 - I'm VERY tempted to vote for this story for best title! [Smile] Okay, maybe not, but as far as the story itself, this one just flowed perfectly for me. Not much of a twist, but it didn't really need a bit one. It was paced nicely, delivered its subtle twist in the last line, was quite poignant . . . I can't think of anything I'd want different. By the end, I'm looking forward to the conversation and the rest of the story. Nice hook. Well done.

The Devil Within - Mine

A small set of entries, but not a bad collection at all! All that's left is the voting, so . . .

#1 - Utahute's Untitled Entry - smooth and patient. Gotta love it.
#2 - Jynx and the Black Menace - last sentence aside, an intriguing bit of world building.
#3 - Red Christmas - A bit dry to start, but I like the hard sci-fi feel.

And favorite title: Red Christmas

Merry Christmas everybody!
Posted by snapper (Member # 7299) on :
Jynx and the Black Menace

Jynx stood out in the aisle gawking at the widening hole as he suffered a blow to his head and then fell to the floor...

This read two ways for me, and I'm not sure which one you meant.

Did JYnx faint when he saw the hole as if he were struck on the head? Or was he struck on the head and blacked out? Can't get past it.
I also thought the modifers were a bit on the heavy side.


Slightly intrigued by it but it is looking like a new twist on an old theme. I'm betting Karatan discovers the true meaning of Christmas by the end.

New Man

Original! Could use some cleaning up, but I bet you did a cram-n-jam to get that last line in the 13, didn't you. Like the idea but I am confused on a few things. I'm sure you'll have them ironed out once you get rolling with it.


Biggest problem with this, no title. Last line was fabulous. Caught me of guard.

The Devil Within

This feels like a Scrooge story in the making. A little too quick of a start, which is something I'm betting you will fix.

#1 blank
#2 New Man
#3 The Devil Within

Title New Man - Title fits in so well with the opening.
Posted by Owasm (Member # 8501) on :
Red Christmas: This is a prologue. Although it sets up the premise, no characters are established… all milieu. However, I'd still read on because it's a solid premise and the last line has the possibility of being a hook.

Savior: This has the promise of an interesting insightful story… or it could descend into a trope. I'd still read on. Nice setting and I'd be interested in reading more of who Kari is.

New Man: Now this has the most 'twist' in my opinion and has the promise of a redefined relationship. However, the new husband has a massive amount of built in cynicism and I think that bodes ill for the new 'couple'. I'd read on for a bit to see if the wife becomes more sympathetic, because if she doesn’t I'd probably put it down.

Untitled: This didn't surprise me. The emotions are certainly powerful and I liked the sequence of the dialogue. It could nearly be intact as it is. As far as focusing on Christmas, I think this headed the list.

The Devil Within: I thought of the dreaded waking up from a dream opening when I first read this. Too bad that's a distraction, but there it is. I liked the sentiment, however, Santa's attitude didn't prepare me for the 'explosion' and I thought I was headed into another version of Dicken's A Christmas Carol. Perhaps I was, but then I'm a sucker for that story.


I thought that all of the openings were good and with all of them I'd read on. A good little group and I thought that ranking them was a difficult task. Thanks to all for participating.

1: Untitled – most Christmas-like
2: Savior – promise of an interesting theme
3: The Devil Within – This had a few good directions to take based on the opening.

Best title: Red Christmas – Prosaic title but the opening makes it special.
Posted by Utahute72 (Member # 9057) on :
Red Christmas
Nicely done. Well setup and with an interesting premise. Intriguing use of the trigger, I’m hooked.

Jinx and the Black Menace
I liked this one a lot, nice lead in to a story I would be interested in reading. The only down side I could see was the first sentence seemed a little long and probably could be broken up or maybe use a semicolon to make it more readable. I did find “constant darkness of the Arctic Solstice” to be at odds with the fact he’s using moonlight to see, but that’s a minor quibble.

Another really good one and one that has me hooked. Nice premise and I would really be interested to see where it’s going.

New Man
I liked this one as well. I stumbled a little at the sentence, “I had to wonder about a woman who would wrap her backup husband and open him two weeks after he'd been delivered.” It took me a couple of readings and finally reading the rest of the paragraph to get some context. I would read on.

Mine and I apologize for being so caught up in trying to fit the thing into 13 lines I forgot to add the title. It is a work in progress and the working title is, “Home for the Holidays”.

The Devil Within

I don’t even want to know about your childhood. Nice creepy take on Christmas. I’m guessing you will end up as the next Tim Burton or a serial killer. Seriously though, I like the twist on the trigger. I would read on just to see what happens.

1. Red Christmas
2. Savior
3. Jinx and the Black Menace

Best Title: Red Christmas

I just want to say this was a really tough group to pick from Well done everyone, now write a story to go with each and I'd like to read them all.

Oh and Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to everyone.
Posted by axeminister (Member # 8991) on :
1. I love the information, but not the way it's presented. No character yet.

2. Great description. Very visual.

3. I love the sci-fi / Christmas combo.
Opening with a conversation is tough for me. And what did you mean by "this year"? If they don't have trees, isn't it every year?

4. Snapps, I didn't cram for that sentence. I'm planning to turn this into a flash. Figured I'd test it here.
Owasm, you want a sympathetic wife? I hadn't thought of that. She lost her husband and ordered the back up from DNA. But tried to make him more agreeable to her, which goes against his nature. (Which survived the cloning, leading to the question, is our humanity in our memories, or our genes?)

5. Using the word "the" so early leads the reader to make assumptions. (i.e. work) Could you paint a better picture by using "a" instead and planting us in the room with him?
I like the twist of the last sentence. That compels me to keep reading.

6. Oh no you didn't start with someone waking... But since he wakes to find Santa, it's okay. I wish I knew what was happening. For me, there's a difference between wanting to know more about the voice in #5, and wanting to know what happens to Sean after the light explosion. I think it's because I've got less to go on here. Could be anything, where #5 has a hearth and hearts kind of warm gloyeness to it that makes me want to read more.
If there's a more solid naughty or nice, I may feel like I'm more sure of the direction this is going, and thus want to read on.

1 = 1
2 = 5
3 = 2

Best title the punny Red Christmas. Or is that ironic?

Thanks Owasm for running this. I was kicking around the replacement husband idea and this gave me a start - and crits! on my 13.

Posted by Owasm (Member # 8501) on :
Thanks for participating: the few, the bold.

I think all of the openings were good ones.

UtahUte won First Place
Snapper snagged Second
Corin224 was Third

Results Detail:
Red Christmas - 11
Jynx - 5
Savior - 6
New Man - 3
Untitled - 18
The Devil Within - 2

Best Title: Red Christmas
Posted by LDWriter2 (Member # 9148) on :
Since this os over I thought I would say something.

Only six? The few, the bold is right. [Wink]

Really diverse this time...that's great. And I think all were good at least. Too bad we couldn't see if they could do the whole story and put it in an anthology.

But my favorite didn't get very far....about middle.
Posted by Progonoskis (Member # 9948) on :
Gah! I did 4 (!) entries. Then didn't get home in time to submit. <muttered curses>

Enjoyed reading the entries that did make it in, though.
Posted by axeminister (Member # 8991) on :
Why am I resurrecting a three year-old thread?

Because I sold the story, of course!

If you want to check out the full version of what OWASM's challenge sparked, it's up at Daily Science Fiction.

Might even have some name dropping in the author notes. [Wink]

Posted by wetwilly (Member # 1818) on :
Hell of a good story, Axe. Damn, that chick is crazy.
Posted by Disgruntled Peony (Member # 10416) on :
Nice! And, indeed, a hell of a good story. The ending was definitely appropriate (but I'll not say more for fear of spoilers).
Posted by extrinsic (Member # 8019) on :
A story about Ken Doll syndrome, apropos to the holiday, and ironic, sweet, but for a few minor diction, punctuation, and italics awkwardnesses.

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