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Author Topic: In Medias Res - Entries
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I will post the entries in this thread.

1st Place

# 15 – Dragon Hunter – WriteRebekah

2nd Place (TIE)

# 18 – The Big Finish – wirelesslibrarian
# 23 – Burn – WriteRebekah

3rd Place (TIE)
# 8 – Time is a Refuge – Brendan
# 16 – Heads Will Roll – genevive42

Favorite Title: How to Steal a Pie with a Time Machine

Please reserve conversation for: http://www.hatrack.com/cgi-bin/ubbwriters/ultimatebb.cgi?ubb=get_topic;f=7;t=000225;p=0&r=nfx

[ April 16, 2013, 02:23 AM: Message edited by: genevive42 ]

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Entry # 1

Life Cycle

“You have seen the evidence; the video of Tampsal’s death, the defendant’s confession and overt lack of remorse,” Attorney General Baxter summed up. “The killing of any intelligent species is murder, and this murder deserves to be punished with the maximum penalty - death.”

I watched each jury member as they listened – they were soaking it up. Each one showed those tell-tale signs they were under Baxter’s sway. As I stood to make my reply, I searched for a way in. For the first time, I regretted representing myself.

“Members of the jury,” I said. “It is true that Tampsal died at my hand. He was a wonderful being; a potter of plants, a priest of the Church Everlasting and a preserver of Aurium. I'll miss my friend. But most important to this case; he was a Snoddrill.”


--You will find Snoddrills interesting. You will find Snoddrills interesting. Look into my eyes. You will…

--This one definitely follows the rules of the challenge by putting us right in the middle of the action. The writing seems a little bit choppy to me, though, and the narrator does not endear me to him or herself by failing to refute the allegations of having killed without remorse. Also, the use of terms from the earlier challenge make me doubt the sincerity of this entry. I would not read on.

--Moderately hooked. I'm a sucker for a courtroom drama, but there are warning signs that this story tension may diffuse quickly. I hope not, but I will read to find out.

--The opening might have been stronger starting with the first person POV

--I like the irony of the attorney asking for the death penalty, but aside from that I wouldn't read on.

--Good tension in there, high tension environment, but it feels a little odd to have such an American court scene in a SF or fantasy setting.

-- Definitely starts in the middle of things. First person trial, representing him/herself. I like. My only suggestion is to add at least one adjective before Snoddrill. We know nothing about them. One adj could add a lot of punch.

-- Nice opening. Now I want to know what a Snoddril is! Not sure if we need a bit more idea on these things and why they need to be killed.

--I love revisiting the Snoddrills and the other mentions from the first challenge. This also made me want to find out more about the Snoddrills and how the case comes out. Well done.

--I find opening with dialogue a little off-putting. In my opinion, it leaves the reader in a vacuum of time and place. Perhaps starting with: The prosecutors voice echoed within the courtroom… might be a better start. Having said that; you do have me wondering what a Snoddrill is and why it’s important in this trial.

--Snoddrill kills this for me. I can't take something seriously that sounds like snot-drill.

[ April 16, 2013, 02:25 AM: Message edited by: genevive42 ]

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Entry # 2

Diabolical Liberty

Kenrick felt ice cold horror course through him. A flurry of silver sand and the felling of a single candle broke the barrier and loosed the beast. Shah-Shahan bellowed his fury and a fiery hand, longer than Kenrick was tall, slapped the young mage aside and the demon was free. The rest of the candles melted into pools of black wax at the passing of the master of the third level of hell. Shah-Shahan plucked Shalya up from the floor as he passed, smashed through the chamber wall, showering Kenrick in dust and shards of flying stone, then hurtled into the night with a scream and a flare of red hot wings.

Kendrick shook and pulled the silver bell from his pocket.


--Nice combination of action, description and information. The final sentence gave this a good sense of pace. The only issue I had was the first sentence seemed a little cliché.

--I had trouble with the beast’s name, and the last sentence of the first paragraph needs some serious attention. There’s certainly lots of dramatic action going on here, but pulling out a bell after all that destruction seems a bit incongruous. Is the MC Kenrick or Kendrick? I would probably not read on.

--Moderately hooked. The tension didn't show how Kenrick struggled, so it seems like it's at the end of the action, not in the middle of it, and it seems like the demon escaping is the end of the scene--except it looks like it might be saved by some action with the silver bell. I'll read a little further to see.
--Way too much info—too many people, candles, flames, demons, mages, bells--I just couldn’t sort it all out. Though I love the name “Shah-Shahan.”

-- Keep it shorter sentence to move action along. ". . . longer than Kenrick was tall, . . ." slowed the action down for me. Also, "At the passing . . . " sounds like someone died, when I think you meant, " . . . as the Master . . . passed by." Nice action though.

--I know it's in medias res, but you still need to take time to give character reaction.

--I found this beginning too busy. Yes, there’s action aplenty going on, however I think there’s too much information being handed out. I’ve got the names of two people and one monster to deal with, as well as coming to terms with: the master of the third level of hell.

--This seemed to be too close to the inciting incident. I don't get any sense of character.

[ April 16, 2013, 02:26 AM: Message edited by: genevive42 ]

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Entry # 3

The Mage Underground

"I won't allow it!" Tara's father folded his arms and pushed up his lower lip. It always made his beard look funny and she had to keep from laughing.

"It's my life, we're discussing. I've been summoned by Quotet and must go or you'll lose the butcher shop. Besides I want to go." She could fold her arms, too, and stood looking at her father's green eyes trying to channel defiance.

Tara had never noticed his flecks of gold just like hers. That meant he had the power as well. Why did he cut animals up for a living when he could be a mage?

"They will chew you up and spit you out. Quotet is the worst and he won't dare take away my shop—not with all that I know."


--A softer approach to the brief, but still opens in medias res due to the dilemma and the hint of deeper backstory. Consider putting the period of the second last sentence after “worst”, so the two pieces of information (“They”/Quotet’s character and Tara’s father’s leverage) are separated and therefore both made more memorable.

--I liked this, and I’d definitely read on for a while. Good job on giving us the situation within the action of the story. Two things bumped me out. First, Tara having to keep from laughing at her father during what appears to be a serious interchange reads wrong to me. Seems too cavalier. Second, what is meant by “trying to channel defiance”? Is there defiance in the father’s green eyes? In Tara’s? Otherwise, a good start.

--Slightly hooked. A child rebellious to her father isn't especially compelling to me, and slightly off-putting as a hook. I don't know the characters well enough to care, yet. And the problem is vague. Still might read further to see how it resolves.

--Intriguing character, a man who’s a butcher instead of a mage. Lots of story in that alone!

--Not sure about this. The antagonist that are eluded to are at the same time feared and dismissed by the father. Not sure what's going on and wouldn't read on to find out either.

--Love the personality, the slight humor, all the introduction to the world and her family, tons of good details in a small space. I would keep reading.

-- Starts in the middle of an argument, which is good, but I can’t believe she’d never noticed his gold flecks before. (where? In his beard?)

-- Nice start of what sounds like Tara's journey. Nice little hook at the end. Dad knows something about the bad mage.

--Feels like you're trying to cram too much into this just to get story bits into the thirteen. Write well and intriguing and the reader will have patience in gaining information.

--I’m getting a lot of information in these opening lines without knowing about time, place or context. You’re asking me to trust that you will let me now all that, and soon.

--This one just didn't catch my attention.

[ April 16, 2013, 02:27 AM: Message edited by: genevive42 ]

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Entry # 4

A Time for Dying

The blast-wave of the massive explosion picked Jim Newcomb off the ground like a rag doll and flung him against the brick wall. He didn’t feel any pain as the tensile-armour covering his back absorbed most of the impact. But when his helmet made contact he did feel it, and an explosion of white light that blinded him followed instantly. At least this isn’t going to hurt, he thought as the blackness overtook him.

When he opened his eyes, Jim was surprised to realise he did hurt . . . all over; he had expected to be dead—he had hoped to be dead. Levering himself out of the rubble, he looked around for his blast-rifle. It lay ten feet away, a useless mangled mess of metal and plastic. His hand went to his holster and he sighed with relief when he felt the roughened grip of his pulse-pistol.


--This certainly starts in the middle of action. I didn’t like the adjective “massive”, as it implies a distance in the narrative that is not followed through later on. And the rag doll was too much a cliché for my taste. But after that first sentence, it picked up quite nicely. I would still want some more information about the story dilemma by the end of the first 13, but I would read on a little to find it.

--I actually like that this one opens without dialogue. Sometimes I think we equate action with character interaction, and openings where I’m instantly thrown into a conversation often feel forced. Not really a battle scene aficionado, but I’d read on.

--Slightly hooked. "At least this isn't going to hurt" in the moment of blast to pain to blackness rings very false to me. I wouldn't think he would have time to think that. The blast gives some action, but we have no idea what, if any, danger there is, so there's only a slight hook to find out what just happened. I will read to find out.

--Strong opening action—engaging, interesting, good use of voice

--This is all a bit stilted. It's not going to hurt, ooh, it did hurt, nah, I won't feel a thing, ooh I felt something. Did it hurt or not?

--Definitely starts in the middle of things, an explosion. I’m feeling white room syndrome here. “Flung him against the brick wall” is all I know of his surroundings.

-- Nice action. A bit confusing for me at the " . . . an explosion of white light that blinded him . . ." perhaps it might read better using " . . . the explosion of white light . . ." Not sure

--Why would he have hoped to be dead? Also, no hint of story or setting. Need a little more. Prose is stilted.

--This one had an odd juxtaposition where after the explosion of white light he was engulfed in the blackness.

[ April 16, 2013, 02:28 AM: Message edited by: genevive42 ]

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Entry # 5

The Intended Destruction of Maestro Ostend

Music filled the air like sheets of silk, billowing in the wind. The orchestra’s volume rose into a crescendo. The audience’s eyes grew wide as huge balloons expanded from nothing on the stage. They thought that the balloons were something new to the King Parsnip and the Fairy Hog Farmer Pantomime and began to cheer.

Ostend, the maestro of the show stood at the back of the theater with the intent of feeling the reactions of his patrons, but tendrils of alarm slithered up the side of his face, as he knew the act didn’t feature balloons of any kind.

The bubbles burst and monsters, of unknown ilk, lept onto the stage. Pink and black and green. Spotted, mottled and striped. Surrounding the costumed characters, they swallowed, gobbled and gulped.


--Ok, I’ve seen this before. It’s improved, and I like the Fairy Hog Farmer play on words. In medias res, sure thing.

--Love the title of this one, and it engages my senses of sight and sound. Has some punctuation issues which kept me from really immersing in the story. Didn’t like the phrase about alarm slithering up the side of the maestro’s face. I guess alarm is more explosive than snake-like in my experience. I don’t think I’d read on for long.

--Moderately hooked. Kind of funny, and the chuckle will make me read a little further.

--Awesome title. Very funny scene. I’m particularly fond of “swallowed, gobbled, and gulped.”

--I like this. It promises something different.

--Like the contrast between the happy balloons and monsters. I might watch the metaphors throughout--it just gets a little hard to tell what's real or not.

-- I love the language on this one. Reads like a horror picture book. There’s a market that’s not fully explored. Ha!

-- Starts slow and the really nice action is in the last 2 lines. Try starting with those lines and see what happened.

-- 'of unknown ilk' really ruins this. Why make a point of being vague? Also, I think the tension of balloons that weren't supposed to be there could really be built up better. Consider starting with the maestro and showing the balloons appearing.

--The choice of opening with a simile is fraught with danger, particularly if it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense at first reading. My question is: why is music like silk sheets? Getting past that ruined the rest of the reading. Also, when you tell me what the audience thought about the balloons, I’d ‘show’ Ostend thinking it instead.

--This story had mystery and intrigue without being confusing. I'd read more of it.

[ April 16, 2013, 02:29 AM: Message edited by: genevive42 ]

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Entry # 6


Stanon hurled himself to the floor as the priest shouted a prayer at him. The blessing took on the form of an angel. Face serene, wings spread, halo glowing golden, it roared across the tops of the pews, tearing up oaken splinters and dust.

A voice laughed in the shadows and Stanon felt his blood run cold. The prayer he could counter, even the entranced priest of Belkin, with a little effort, but this creature was something even he would struggle to best.

A monk stepped from behind the fluted pillars of the apse, his features hidden, save for a demonical glow where its eyes might have been. It raised a hand and the prayer screaming towards Stanon faded from existence. It was one of the brethren, a Brother Grimm.


--Weird contrast in the opening paragraph, a serene being tearing up oaken splinters. The writing is well paced, and the main antagonist is strong. I am not sure of the alignment of our hero, but given the angel started out fighting against him, I have to presume evil.

--So, is this an action version of last challenge’s glowing-eyed priest entry, or are priests just in right now? This held my interest the whole way through, and I liked the word play at the end – Brother Grimm. Nice. I’d read on.

--Slightly hooked. The danger was met and immediately diffused, so I'm only left to wonder what the Grimm is rather than look forward to more action and conflict. Slight curiosity will keep me reading.

--A bit confused by this opening: a prayer that’s shouted doesn’t seem like it’d be a blessing. I’m sure there’s more going on here than we’re given, but it

--That first sentence is so killer. Mixing up good and evil--the main character is obviously a demon. I got confused about the monk though, and which side he was on and what he was doing.

--. Love it! We need more stories from the bad guy’s POV. A priest shouts a prayer at him. Excellent.

-- The term "prayer" is a bit off-putting as it does not immediately conjure up a threat, but know that you were trying to make it that way. Perhaps add "deadly prayer" to give it the twist I think you're after."

--I actually find this confusing. The second paragraph is what does it. The first time the priest is just a priest, and then he has a title, then you talk about 'this creature' and then a monk, and then you refer to the brethren and finally the Grimm. I was able to decipher it all but I shouldn't have to. The imagery in the first paragraph is cool though.

--A good opening that has me wondering what’s going on. Btw, demonic rather than demonical would be preferable, I think.

--This was too much, too soon, with too little support. I think it shows the danger of in medias res where the reader is left saying "Uh, what?"

[ April 16, 2013, 02:31 AM: Message edited by: genevive42 ]

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Entry # 7

Serendipity Amortised

“Lady Mary’s coughed up its jackpot too,” said Banki. Conner snapped his head up to the video wall.

“Get camera three up, quick. And a time-delay on cameras six and eight – one minute before the other machines went off.”

Conner’s eyes worked over crowds in the video feeds, looking for their POI. Dang, they've recruited a regular. Dressed in a balloon jacket, one man was present in all cameras. Sweat glistened above his brows, eyes darted around the casino floor.

“Do you think he’s hiding some covert software?” Banki asked.

Conner grimaced. Where did Banki do his security training? This wasn’t the work of a syndicate – this was terrorism. Three slot machines in five minutes could only be fallout from quantum pulsing. This man carried a Luck Bomb.


--I liked this, although referring to a slot machine as Lady Mary threw me for a bit. An interesting set-up here, sabotage in a futuristic casino. From what I’ve read so far, there’s a con going on, but I’m not so sure about terrorism. I’d read on.

--Not hooked. The premise doesn't give me much of a sense of danger or story tension, and it seems a bit unlikely for a luck bomb to be a tool for a terrorist. I might read just to get the explanation of how it will be used for terrorism, but without something of genius to make it compelling, I doubt I'd read much further. An edge of humor might help it.

--“Luck Bomb” is awesome.

--What's a POI? I like the idea of a Luck Bomb and would read on a little bit more yet.

-- I was confused with the first words, "Lady Mary's coughed up its jackpot." What is it? Using a proper name for a slot machine might not be best. Or at least describe it as ". . .the slot, Lady Mary .. . " Nice hook

--POI made me pause and then I figured out –person of interest – Don't know if I want to pause that early on. And on 'Where did Banki…' I'd recommend an insult to indicate what Conner is thinking of him, 'Where did that idiot banki…' Otherwise, this is quite good. I like it and would read on.

--When introducing an acronym, it is good practice to ‘spell it out’ the first time you introduce it; not everyone knows what POI means. And, despite the frenetic pace and dialogue, you’re telling me instead of showing me. And, on a last note, I have no idea where I am when the story opens. It’s not until the end that I realise it’s probably a casino and the confusion ruins the reading experience for me.

--I think this one has character, intrigue, and action. I'd read on.

[ April 16, 2013, 02:32 AM: Message edited by: genevive42 ]

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Entry # 8

Time is a Refuge

“Keep running,” Taylor shouted. “More waves are coming.”

Yeah, a thousand planes, tonight. I knew my history.

We raced down the street toward Kolner Dom, the only building we knew would survive. I looked to the sky. Flak lit up the smoke, searching but not finding enough targets. To our left, a deadly rain was falling. Incendiaries. The firestorm was starting.

“Are you sure it doesn't get hit?” I shouted back.

“It gets hit. But it survives. So will we. This isn't Dresden.”

A thunderclap of flame burst from a side-street ahead, turning bitumen into a maze of burning tar. Taylor ploughed through, weaving between the flames. I stopped to let it die down - fate.

For I heard a cry. A toddler emerged from the flames. Unscathed. Star of David on his coat. Unthinking, I swept him into my arms.


--A nice start here. I assume the characters are time travelers in WWII Germany, and the POV character saving a Jewish child at the end really sets the hook. I’d read on.

--Hooked. I'm a sucker for a good time travel story, and I like the way the knowledge of history is being used here. I'll read on.

--I really love this; was totally hooked from the beginning. Time travel vs fate, but still fear and uncertainty linger. Really nice.

--I like this. I would keep reading.

--Obviously time travel, and you did a good job at showing instead of telling it. The picking up of the toddler obviously sets the rest of the story. But "for I heard a cry" is a weird sentence fragment. I would delete the "for."

-- Good action and nice hook. Since I could only chose 3 entries to give points I'm giving three stars to those I had a hard time NOT giving point to . . . ***. Nice hook.

--'I stopped to let it die down - fate. For I heard a cry.' – This was awkward to read, had to go over it again to catch the actual meaning/inflection. Otherwise, I really like this opening and would keep reading.

--An interesting opening and I like it. The only criticisms I have are the first person POV, you’ll loose a fair bit of ability to nuance the scenes and, second, this sentence: I stopped to let it die down - fate. Fate? That word caused me to instantly stop reading and try and think what you meant by it.

[ April 16, 2013, 02:33 AM: Message edited by: genevive42 ]

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Entry # 9

The Bunker

That thing came from nowhere, just climbed out of the lake like a big old fish come out for a walk. It sauntered up the bank and tore old Henry's face clean of the front of his head. Then it turned to me and, well, I ran like all hell was chasing me, 'cause maybe it was.

I made for the only place I knew I might be safe. Me and Henry played there way back when we was just kids and it was the closest, safest place I could think of. I could hear that thing all the way, its thick, stubby legs tearing through the bracken and ripping through briars like they was made of twine. I made it to the rusted door a mite before it did and slammed it shut behind me.

For a while I didn't even notice the darkness.


--Use of the word “thing” felt like the author was withholding information. This annoyed me, distracting from an otherwise reasonable action start. “Creature” is a better generic word that wouldn’t give that feel. I liked the hints that there was more back story associated to the location.

--So, this is the immersion version of the sea folk from the sky? If it is, I have to say I liked the first one better. Something about this felt off to me; maybe it was the poor grammar of the POV character. Not really captivated by Henry’s face getting torn off his head, either. Not sure I’d read on.

--Hooked. The dialect will put off a lot of readers, but not me. The only caveat is that the voice comes off a bit lackadaisical for the action. I might forgive that for the intro, but as the action becomes more immediate and focused upon the protagonist, I'm going to need some passion. Will read on to see what happens to this poor soul. I think the title strengthens the hook because it implies we are already where the main action is going to take place. I'll read on.

--Nice voice; good action pushing the story forward. Love the juxtaposition of the creature’s slow sauntering and its violence.

-- Nice action. Makes me want to read more to learn what's chasing him. I'm giving three stars to those I really like but they only let me chose three to give points. So, you get three stars ***.

--Taking time for the recollection in the middle really slows this down and reduces the tension. Also, it feels likes it's a story being told in a bar after the fact, so I sense no real danger. I wouldn't read on.

--I like it; it puts me in the place, time and situation immediately. The last line ‘shows’ fear better than saying, I was terrified.

[ April 16, 2013, 02:34 AM: Message edited by: genevive42 ]

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Entry # 10

Hel's Fury

Heloise kept her gaze firmly locked onto the back of Sir Humboldt Grimm’s head as their horses picked their way through the wrack and ruin of battle. Night had long since fallen as they had made their way to this field of slaughter and Heloise had kept her thoughts tightly focused only on her duty. At thirteen years of age, and a woman for just the last month, she kept vowing to herself that she would be the example her people needed now.

They finally halted at the battered and headless corpse of an armoured man. The only way left to identify him being the devices painted on his breastplate. It was her father, Leo, the King.
She sat upon her horse impassively as Sir Grimm despoiled the corpse of its breastplate and then, drawing his dagger, he sliced open its belly. Cutting deeper, he reached in and pulled out some


--This was full of the types of detail that show an experienced writer. Well-paced and interesting. Even cutting off mid-sentence enhances the 13 and has me very curious. Good job.

--Another story with a Grimm in it. Same author? Not really liking Heloise so much with her lack of emotion or reaction to the horror before her. Especially when her henchman guts her decapitated father. Give me some of her inner turmoil, and I might not be so turned off by her cold façade. Probably would not read on for long unless I had some reason to empathize.

--Slightly hooked. It's unfortunate this got cut off where it did, because whatever he was digging for might have been that little extra needed to set that hook more firmly. As it is, I'm mildly curious what her duty is and what they are up to, so I'll read a little further to at least figure that out.

--Not sure a 13yo could sit impassively as someone cuts open her father’s headless body—would have expected at least a glimmer of horror or outrage

--Grim stuff. I like it and would keep reading.

-- Sounds really interesting, but not much action, though it does kinda start after the action and in the middle of things. What to know what the slicing and dicing guy pulled out of the king!

--Intriguing. I would read on for some distance. The writing gives me confidence. But my personal taste doesn't lean toward standard upper-class fantasy so I'm hoping for something more original than what I've been shown so far. Hopefully the thing being pulled out of the corpse's gut is something really unique, or leads to a great mystery, or something.

--The setting for this is vividly established with basic time, environment, and mood.

[ April 16, 2013, 02:35 AM: Message edited by: genevive42 ]

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Entry # 11

Location, Location, Location

Glass shattered and window frames cracked while fragments of plaster rained down, trailing dust behind like comet tails. Nikk Veeter threw his reader down and grabbed his emergency kit. He pulled his poccom off of the hall tray while he fled outside.

"Veeter calling in from East Seven Outpost. A porktail is running under the cabin! I'm heading to my skeeter." He fumbled with his poccom as he clipped it to his shirt. "Open LandTrans 81 and hover at one point five meters."

The ground shook at his feet as the black-scaled hide of the porktail appeared in his path like the humpback whale of Old Earth. Nikk scampered over the slithering back and jumped up to grab the rail of his floating skeeter.


--Good action and description. I did struggle with so many unfamiliar terms, e.g. “poccom, skeeter, porktail, LandTrans”, although mostly decipherable. I am curious about the porktail – what is the danger associated with it, is it an innocent creature, or a real monster?

--So, we’ve got window frames and plaster and hall trays, which sound perfectly recognizable. Then we’ve got poccoms and skeeters, and a black-scaled porktail wreaking havoc. Completely unrecognizable. I think the familiar elements made the sci-fi elements seem too far out-there for me to accept. I would probably not read on.

--Moderately hooked. Hm. My eyes are, in fact, going bad, but I read the word poccom as popcorn all the way through, which made for some odd imagery. Even with the mistake, it did grab me somewhat, so I'll read further to watch this battle and find out what the porktails are all about.

--Too many new concepts/vocab; couldn’t quite follow

--I get it, not sure if I like it though. Every time I read poccom I saw popcorn for some reason. I wouldn't read on.

-- I would be careful about using too much jargon in the first paragraph as the reader gets lost immediately. Nice action but I have no idea what's going on.

--So he's sitting there doing nothing, and when all hell breaks, he knows exactly what's going on. You tell what he does, but give no visceral reaction. Not sure what I'm supposed to be afraid for. Also, poccom is clumsy; usually people shorten things to make saying them easier.

--A good example of the difficulty of writing in medias res; the use of terminology without referent. I have no idea what the character is talking about and I don’t trust the author to enlighten me.

--Veeter's on a skeeter! It's a redneck sci-fi complete with a porktail!

[ April 16, 2013, 02:36 AM: Message edited by: genevive42 ]

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Entry # 12

Don't Think Now

Mladen Sekulovic's Para-Psych Enforcement Unit burst from the truck. He injected calm into the psychogenic projection that frenzied the crowd. The crowd surged against a police cage, grasping angrily at four pedophiles cursing back at them and exposing themselves. Mladen pierced through the projection to see the truth--four innocent officers cowering from the madness.

Before Mladen could localize the rogue telepaths, a man smashed in the police van window, took the Jaws of Life, hooked it up, and pushed through to the cage. There. One on a rooftop. He dispatched two men through the comm.

He tried to change the psychogenic image to innocent children in the cage, but it was too strong. The Jaws of Life emitted a high-pitched whine as it fit between two bars.


--Although this has a Ghost Busters feel in the opening sentence, it is chock full of interesting ideas that show an underlying thoughtfulness behind the action shown. I would definitely read on.

--This is a really interesting premise, and there’s plenty of action and tension going on. The MC’s name gave me some trouble, because I had to stop and think about how to pronounce it. I would read on.

--I totally want a psychogenic projection generator. Great concept.

--I like this, though I have a feeling it's likely to get confusing before long. I would read on.

-- Damn, lots going on here. Love the vibe on this one.

-- Nice action. Good hook. What's going to happen to those poor guys in the cage?

--Great idea. Telling of action is clumsy and a bit unbelievable. The person pulls out the jaws of life far too easily, as if it were nothing more than a pair of bolt cutters. And I'm not sure who was exposing themselves. I'd read on hoping the writing smoothed out.

--In in medias res openings the danger is that you will refer to things the reader doesn’t know, and that’s always a turn-off. Some sort of set-up is required if you’re going to use ‘in-house’ jargon belonging to a particular milieu.

[ April 16, 2013, 02:38 AM: Message edited by: genevive42 ]

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Entry # 13


Rick dropped behind the bulkhead a nanosecond before the plasma bolt would've destroyed his skull. "Sh*t!" His partner knelt across the hall, her left leg seared in the last volley. The prince's scorched body lay twenty feet behind them. This escort mission had gone to hell fast.

"Mary, can you move?" She looked too damn pale.

She tried to stand, managed, but it was obvious she would be limping hard. Damn. No one was supposed to know they were escorting the prince. They were supposed to look like a group of friends on vacation to Saturn's rings; ultra-top secret the brass said.

Some bastard sold them out.

Dashing across the hall, Rick returned fire through the hail of plasma bolts. Up close he could see what bad shape his partner was in. She shook her head.


--Great example of in medias res. I was hoping for a little more grounding in the dilemma faced (e.g. what does the death of the prince mean to Rick and Mary personally). The title reinforces their current position in the story, where another may give insight into the direction of the story. But I’d certainly read on.

--This one definitely meets the parameters of the challenge. We’re dropped right in the middle of things going badly. The writing is fine, no nits to pick. My problem is that I kind of hate Rick. All I really know about him is that he’s failed at his job, and it sounds like his partner might die as well as the prince. I don’t think I’d read on.

--Slightly hooked. The "Up close. . ." line could be replaced by specifics that would have more impact. Because the Prince is dead, the story tension at the beginning isn't nearly as high as it could be. I would probably kill him at the last of the thirteen lines, but make it ambiguous whether he was dead or not, thus raising the questions regarding his survival. I'll read at least a little while longer to get a better feeling of their predicament, see how they escape, and see if Mary survives.

--Distracted by why the MC would care more about his partner than the prince, or how he could know he’d been betrayed. Couldn’t it be a random attack?

--I stopped at the first censored swear word. I've never screamed out an asterisk in my life.

-- Nice action. My question would be who's the prince and why does he need protection? Perhaps that's your hook

--Good opening and I’d read on. My only observations are that I’d name Rick’s partner in that sentence after the dialogue and where you start with: She tried to stand… I’d add Mary’s name to counter my perception of a POV change. I had to check it the first time I read it.

--I can only vote for 3, so hard not voting for this or Don't Think Now

[ April 16, 2013, 02:39 AM: Message edited by: genevive42 ]

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Entry # 14

Single Seeking Same

The clerk pronounced Anders’ doom without even twitching an eyelid. “Your request for union has been denied.”

Anders stood for a moment, staring in dismay at the man wearing the neat grey uniform. The worker turned away and pushed a button to signal another applicant to his window.

“Next,” the man called, looking past Anders to the rows of seated citizens waiting their turn.

Anders left the assignment center feeling numb. Without approval to apply for a partner, he could not remain in Vindication. Single adults had a six-month grace period to bind themselves to another citizen. Failure to do so meant banishment to the unsettled lands outside the walled city.

He walked aimlessly, dark thoughts swirling through his head.


--This opening sets up some questions that I would like answered, but may be peripheral to the story. If this sort of bureaucratic law was in place for any length of time, why are the lands outside unsettled? And why is the city walled? I am not sure, at this stage, whether these are inconsistencies or features that I will soon find out about, so there is enough in this to make me read further.

--This one made me wonder. Is the setting Earth, or some far away planet? Where did Anders come from, and why was his request denied? The last bit got tellish, but I’d read on.

--Hooked. It's slightly confusing because I had to guess at Anders' gender at first, and it seems like he is trying to get approval before even having a mate, but the line about "to bind themselves" seems to imply the challenge is simply to find someone. It's not bad once I think it through, but I shouldn't be burdened with thinking something through in the first 13. There are a number of things hooking as a team in this one. "What will he do?" "Will he find a way to stay?" "What are the dangers outside?" "Why the couple policy?" "Why is the city called Vindication?" All these questions add to the tug at my brain to keep me reading.

--Curious and intriguing world

--I don't get this. It seems as though the authorities are forcing union and also denying it at the same time. While there is nothing wrong with the writing I wouldn't read on.

--I like the moment where you start in the story. Didn't like the word dismay. Show the whole thing more, get into it more.

-- Good starting in the middle, but I want to know why he’s denied.

-- Starts out in the middle of things for sure. Nice scene and makes me want to know more about this place and this poor guy.

--I wonder why this society is the way it is, but not enough to continue reading. I feel no connection to this character or his plight.

--A solid opening setting up place, character and dilemma, however, I wouldn’t keep reading.

--If the explanation could have been put into dialogue and made to feel less of an explanation, this might have cracked into my top three. As is, I'd put it in my top 10.

[ April 16, 2013, 02:40 AM: Message edited by: genevive42 ]

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Entry # 15

Dragon Hunter

She was the ugliest, fattest, reddest creature I’d ever seen, but it took me only a glance to fall in love. “Yes!” I said.

The blue-haired woman stopped her spiel mid-sentence. “Pardon?”

“I’ll take her.”

“But I haven’t finished telling you—”

“Don’t care,” I said. “I want her. Now.”

“But there are papers—a waiting period---”

I rolled my eyes. “Really? Nobody’s enforced that in forever. This is Region Fourteen, in case you haven’t noticed. NOBODY CARES.”

She looked pained. “It’s the law. And you don’t know anything about this breed. There are dangers--”

“Look, I’ve got the gold. You’ve got the dragon. We have a sale?”

Beads of defeat sparkled like scales on her cheeks, and I grinned.


--I love how this sets up several twists and new elements of the world with every paragraph, yet each line is essentially dialog. Perfect approach for in medias res. Nicely done.

--Well done, this. You’ve given me a good sense of setting and premise in just a few lines. I do wonder how the blue-haired woman knows that the MC knows nothing about the dragon in question, since it appears they are strangers. I’d definitely read on.

--Moderately hooked. It's reminiscent of Gremlins and it promises to be fun and humorous due to his rash decision. I'll read a little further to see if you can deliver.

--A dragon from a pet shop. I like it, and would read on.

--The conflict between the ugly dragon and the fact that the main character wants her is awesome. That first sentence keeps me going, and I don't like dragon stuff.

-- Nice set up. I want to know more about why this dragon is so dangerous and why the character wants THIS specific dragon.

--I don't like that the vendor is 'defeated' just because the mc insisted. Also, makes the mc look like a jerk. The 'There are dangers…' absolutely calls up Spielberg's Gremlins and the predictable hijinks. Sorry, but nothing here makes me want to read on.

--A good opening and I’d read on, I do like the humour.

--Not only does this have character, intrigue, and action, it also has voice. Good job.

[ April 16, 2013, 02:41 AM: Message edited by: genevive42 ]

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Entry # 16

Heads Will Roll

"Pass the rolls, please," Emily said. She hated that the Snordle took up the charge. Its noodle-like fingers oozed over the edge of the plate touching no fewer than three of the rolls. She took a roll from the middle then returned her attention to the Pesselberk named Radii. He was her prime suspect. No one else had a beak so sharp that could have snipped the heads off her roses so cleanly just days before the competition, and was so short as to go unnoticed. But beyond Radii, the question was which of the competitors paid him to do it?

Her eyes fell on the Snoddrill, Essersil. Evil, they were all evil. They only grew roses so they could eat them. And since the heads of her beloved were never found…

"So, Essersil, taste any good flowers lately?"


--So, evil Snoddrills [Smile] . I loved the humor, particularly the seriousness that Emily deals with what does seem a trivial crime. But science fiction could mean that the roses themselves may be an intelligent creature. Well done.

--Love the double entendres. This is light-hearted and cleverly written. I’d read on.

--Hooked. The immediacy of the question "whodunnit?", the funny context of dinner with aliens (and details like "oozing fingers"), and the character's focus all lure me in. I will read on.

--Haha! This story made me laugh out loud. Wonderfully creative creatures and setup.

--I like this, light hearted with serious undertones. I would read on.

-- Not much action and a bit confusing as I have no idea what these creatures are. But they sound like interesting creatures.

--I found the opening sentences confusing in their structure, but perhaps that’s just me. My main criticism is the cast of thousands we are introduced to. To many unfamiliar names and, in addition, difficult to get your tongue around.

--Snordle kills this for me. It seems too childish. So, perhaps I'm not the market.

[ April 16, 2013, 02:42 AM: Message edited by: genevive42 ]

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Entry # 17

How to Steal a Pie with a Time Machine

Harvey Alvarez grabbed the Glock taped underneath the bench and stuffed it in his belt. His red and grey sweatshirt commemorated the Cornhusker’s bowl game last year. He picked up a wooden spoon and stepped out of the preparation booth.

Dr. Jacobson held open the time machine door. "Do the job and get right back."

Harvey looked at three spectators and locked eyes with Dr. Daniel Glenn--the man who stole his love and his only source of happiness. Pulling his eyes away, he said, "Of course."

He climbed into the machine, closed the door, and started the power sequence. He caressed the Glock through the sweatshirt with his forearm. He grinned slightly to bolster his resolve. But the job entails more than you think.


--I am not entirely sure what the dilemma is for this opening. The Glock and the time machine suggest a grandfather paradox, but there are some unknowns that could have been made clearer. What is the job that he is meant to do, and why does he need a time machine? Since we don’t know this, the last line just builds more uncertainty on top of the current unknowns. But importantly, you have gotten me thinking about content, not anything about the writing mechanics.

--I like the writing in this, but there are lots of odd details that compete with each other and for my attention. The title says a pie is being stolen, but Harvey takes a gun. A whole sentence is devoted to his sweatshirt, and he inexplicably grabs a wooden spoon. I’m feeling bounced around by the end of the very first paragraph. Probably would not read on.

--The tale of violent revenge feels at odds with the funny/whimsical tone of the title

--To be honest I'm more intrigued by the wooden spoon than anything else, but I would read on.

-- This isn’t starting in the middle of things, this is starting at the start of things. How about he steps out of the machine and into...

-- Nice title! Great set up with the hook at the end. I give it extra stars for being hard not to give it points. ***

--This is somewhat convoluted and wastes a lot of words. Do I really need to know what's on the sweatshirt so much that it's the second sentence? And then you withhold 'the job'. And the last line seems out of nowhere. I wouldn't read on.

--I’m intrigued by the wooden spoon, but I wouldn’t keep reading.

--The title actually throws this one for me. The prose seemed so serious, but the title suggests something silly.

[ April 16, 2013, 02:43 AM: Message edited by: genevive42 ]

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Entry # 18

The Big Finish

Cam Fletcher walked into his neighborhood recruiting office.

The recruiter stood, brushing crumbs off his red plaid jacket with one hand and gesturing to a chair with the other. “Welcome, future patriot. My name is Martin. How can I serve you?”

Cam came over but remained standing. “I’m thinking of killing myself. Isn’t that why people usually come here?”

Martin nodded. “Yes indeed, sir. I’ll be happy to help you with that. Please sit down.”

Cam eased into the plastic seat. “Here’s the thing, Martin. I don’t need attention. Can we get this done without the fanfare?”

“Well, yes, but your survivors won’t get as much money.”

“Not a problem,” Cam said. “I don’t have any survivors.” Not since his daughter had volunteered six months before.


--A great idea, an alternative beginning for one of the previous challenge’s entry. It is also well-constructed in its progressive dissemination of information. But I am not sure if I would read on because it seems to be a downer and there is little dilemma that I want to find out about. Sorry.

--So, this opening lets me meet what I suppose will be the main character. The version in the last challenge (same title, same storyline, so I’m assuming) gave me more background than this one allows for, but it’s nicely written. I’d read on.

--Not hooked. The dialog doesn't feel natural for the situation. I'm really not interested in this kind of story. Even the title doesn't help by implying this suicide will be done with some big flourish. If you could weave an additional mystery or hint at something other than depression or complete apathy that is compelling him to do this, I might be hooked. (I realize that some kind of cool reversal might utterly change my attitude toward the story, but I have no indication that this story is about anything else. I need something else to entice me.)

--Interesting, a recruiting office for patriotic suicide. I’m curious and would keep reading.

--I love the almost deadpan dialogue, and the small details of brushing crumbs off, etc., and the complete morbidity of what is happening.

-- I am hooked. Completely. Reminds me a little of the start of Old Man’s War, but not in a bad way.

-- Nice hook. I can feel the guy's depression. Love the second line.

--I don't find the idea of this interesting and I haven't been given any reason to care about the character.

--I’m intrigued by the idea and, with a bit of polishing, I think I’d keep reading to find out what’s going on.

--State sponsored suicide isn't a big turn on for me. I heavily question the "science" behind over population ideas and I just can't suspend my disbelief enough for this.

[ April 16, 2013, 02:45 AM: Message edited by: genevive42 ]

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Entry # 19

The Throne

-District Twelve? -District Twelve stands for the Regent.

Mergath’s pale blue eyes flash, her thin lips tight. Eleven districts lie in her hand, but eleven are not enough, not this time. All Twelve must stand.

-District Eleven? -District Eleven stands for the Regent.

They speak a shade too slowly and her face burns dark. “The throne is mine,” she says coolly.

The representatives from Districts Eight and Twelve vomit, but they too know the Laws must be obeyed. I think of the day Mergath came to us, ice-eyes raging. She quoted an obscure clause buried deep in the ancient Middle Laws, and in a heartbeat all yielded. Almost all.

-District Ten? -District Ten stands for the Regent.

I count along silently as they stand. Eight remain. Eight, then me.


--A nice approach. Opening with the voting, and then dribbling in backstory and flashbacks between each vote really meets the challenge brief well. Yes, I would read on.

--I think you’ve got the makings of a good opening here. I get a good visual of the evil Mergath, and I can visualize the frightened district representatives pledging their allegiance. A little bit confused as to why Mergath says the throne is hers when not every district has declared yet. I also wish that the first person POV had been introduced sooner. I’d read on.

--Hooked. I was confused for the first three lines, and it took a little to figure out what was going on. Additionally, it seems like it's in Morgath's POV, and I don't get first person until the fifth paragraph, which threw it out of kilter. Still and all, expectation for some great drama is set. Not quite sure of the nature of it, but the anticipation is there, and the voting countdown is a great device that should be effective for a page or so. I will read to see it.

--If this started at nine maybe or even eight I might read on, but as it is it's just thirteen lines of countdown and I wouldn't read on.

-- Good tension. Needs a space. We’re in a white room. Why did they vomit? I chuckled, but I don’t think the action was meant as funny.

-- Nice hook at the end. "Came to us . . . " who's "us"? Might be nice to give the reader an idea.

--Rather drawn out to not know why this is important. I wouldn't read on.

--An intriguing opening and I’d read on except that I find the style of writing not something I like.

--Yeah, they're voting? I think. It isn't going as hoped, but I haven't been given any reason to hope one way or the other.

[ April 16, 2013, 02:46 AM: Message edited by: genevive42 ]

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Entry # 20

Sunny Day Dreadfulness

The truant boy sat in the rowboat on the placid little lake, fishing line cast and bobbing on the water. The sun shone down, not too hot, but his broad-brimmed straw hat would keep his pale skin from burning. It certainly was a fine day, far too fine to be stuck in school. He didn't know that the legend of the lake monster was true, didn't know that his imminent demise was going to be the beginning of his adventure, even if it was the end of his life. So when the water around his little boat started to bubble and the giant, gnarly maw of the lake demon rose beneath him, the boy barely had time to scream before he was swallowed whole, boat and all. Being the middle of the school day, and with all the grown-ups at work, there were no witnesses to the truant boy's end. That's what bothered him most. Such a grand end and no one to talk about it.


--I think that it is hard to create an in medias res opening using an omniscient POV. But combine this with what is an entire paragraph of exposition, and this missed the brief, irrespective of the small bit of action that occurred. This would have sat better in the previous challenge. However, as an exposition story opening, it worked – it has a certain voice, especially the final two sentences.

--Does this follow the rules? I suppose it does, but it seems quite removed from the actual action. Sort of a second-hand retelling of the event. Aside from that, the writing is good, but I’m not intrigued enough to read on.

--Moderately hooked. I'll read on to see how this mysterious "adventure" plays out. It's a bit murky, though, so I'll need to know where it's going soon.

--Love the narrator’s voice

--Awful lot of telling going on here. It also seems to wrap itself up so that I feel no need to read on.

-- I’m being told this is the beginning and the end and I’m not sure what to believe. However, the contest is for the middle, so I’m confused.

-- Good action. A bit strange that the dying boy only cared about was no one seeing his ". . . grand end." Was he wanting attention and not getting any?

--The biggest problems I have with this opening are the use of a narrator and that the character that is being talked about isn’t named.

--This one was way too much telling for me. In medias res should have more showing.

[ April 16, 2013, 02:47 AM: Message edited by: genevive42 ]

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Entry # 21

Four Guys and a Universe

"I'm telling you, the alien did something to my vision," said Mark. "Five alien ships are coming this way."

“Ri-ight,” Jim said. "And there's a poltergeist coming out of my ICEE, plus Sam has a werewolf in his pants."

Sam’s substantial middle jiggled as he laughed. "A she-wolf!"

"I'm still not walking into a brick wall," said Jim.

Tim took a bite from his Blimpie and nudged Mark. "You're the idiot who picked up the alien. You walk into the wall."

"I have to hold onto the key-thingy until we're through."

"I'll do it," said Sam. He touched the wall. His hand disappeared, then his arm, then all of him. Jim's jaw dropped.

"Believe me now?"

"Alley-oop," said Tim. He pushed Jim through and followed.


--Another story portrayed almost completely through dialog, meeting the challenge brief. The humor brought a smile, but it would have helped to clarify the setting a little before we learn about the brick wall and its strangeness. This small (nitpicky?) issue dropped it out of the running against some other strong contenders in this challenge.

--I like the comical repartee, and the wall/portal thingy is neat. I wish there weren’t four guys, though. Made it hard for me to really connect with any of the characters, and I’ve no idea who the MC is. I would read on, though.

--Strong, clean writing; excellent dialogue and voices

--I'd read on with this, as in I'd give it a chance. It doesn't really grab me all that much, but there's enough of an opening for me to go a little further. I did find the sudden introduction of so many characters at once a little jarring though and, by the end, I'd lost count of how many there were.

--I got a little confused with all the dialogue--I'm not sure who is who and who can do what.

-- Sadly, I have no idea what’s going on, so I don’t know if I’m in the middle or what. I’m guessing he picked up the alien hitchhiking? That’s pretty funny.

-- Nice hook. I did kinda lose who was speaking at the end. Maybe tag "Believe me now?" with Mark said.

--Too many characters too quickly and I can't tell them apart. No draw for me here.

--Opening a story with a large cast of characters (more than two in my opinion) makes it a hard slog for the reader.

-- I did laugh, but in a way that worked against it. I'm normally not really looking for humor in my reading (I like it as a part of, but not the point of, what I'm reading). So the humor with the flippant title just makes me want to put this one down.

[ April 16, 2013, 02:48 AM: Message edited by: genevive42 ]

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Entry # 22

Dark and Stormy

Mama plucked at the curtain for the twentieth time.

“I don’t like this, Meriel. Cally should be home by now.” She peered through the wavy glass at an ominous sky. Another storm was rolling in, dark clouds piling up like skeins of black wool. Mama fidgeted with the string ties of her shift and paced away from the window, dark brown skirt brushing the flagstone floor.

“I’ll go find her, Mama.” I set aside the linen collar in its embroidery hoop. We’d been taking in piece work ever since Papa died last summer. The extra money helped, especially so since our garden only yielded a withered fraction of what it used to provide.

People said the storms brought an evil that had gotten into the very soil. Some even claimed the rain itself was poison.


--This has some nice world building. It’s a little bit of a soft start for the challenge brief, but if this has a strong milieu approach, then it does hit the brief. Meriel starting outside, in the rain, a few minutes later may be a stronger fit to the brief (though not necessarily a stronger start). I do think this is a good start, and I would definitely read on.

--Kind of creepy. I like it. It promises a traditional fantasy world, which you don’t see as much these days. I’d read on.

--Moderately hooked. I think this could use a little tinkering. I might try the last line first or near the beginning, but I don't like it at the end--it seems to try too hard. I also don't quite know what to make of the "evil" in the "soil" and "poison" rain. Is it merely portending, or is it real? Again, the ambiguity will work better if it's earlier, I think. Possibly helpless women and one of them is missing? You have a sucker in me. I'll read to follow the the protagonists little adventure and find out what happened to Cally.

--Like the ominous use of storms and poisoned soil

--I like this. It's well written, gritty and hooks. I hope this gets finished so I can read it.

-- Beautiful, but I’m not detecting a middle. Middle of their problem-journey maybe, but I don’t have a sense of immediate action.

-- Nice action with the mother being so worried and storm coming in. I would chose something other than, "Plucked the curtain." Sounds like she's playing the guitar.

--The info about the storms should have come when they were first mentioned, not the last line here. Also, how does the mc feel about volunteering for that potentially dangerous job? Get in her head. I might read on because despite those things, this is nicely written.

--Not certain that this entry qualifies as in medias res.

--The mood is established and the problem of the missing person. I'd probably put this in my top ten.

[ April 16, 2013, 02:49 AM: Message edited by: genevive42 ]

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Entry # 23


The trouble started when they threw the book in the fire.

Such a lot of folks, to be so hot and bothered over such a little bitty book. But there they went, all shouting and raging like their noise was going to make it burn faster. It didn’t, of course. It burned slow, its edges blackening and curling backwards one page at a time, calmly melting and sparkling in the cool orange flames like it was its own idea, almost in defiance of the white hot mob anger staring it down.

And I don’t suppose anybody felt any better about themselves when I reached right into those flames and pulled it back out.

Or, I guess, when I turned the sparks into teeny tiny gnats that stung at their arms and legs as they packed up their screams in an awful hurry and skittered home.


--The fact that the initial dilemma is completely resolved by the end of the 13 means, for me, that this missed the brief. It is a reasonable place to start, and well executed, showing an unusual and powerful MC. But it is definitely starting at the beginning, rather than in the middle. There is no hint of anything unresolved, or any hint of backstory that would need to be developed later.

--I like the cynical voice in this, and that it’s apparently attached to a kick-ass character who can change sparks into gnats. Seemed distant rather than in the moment, though. I’d read on.

--Moderately hooked. There's a little dissonance in not knowing anything about the book. At first I thought "they" in the first sentence were different from the "folks" in the second, and I thought "folks" might be incensed at them disposing of a religious book. It took a reread to sort out that they were the same. I'll read further to find out what the book's about.

--Like this. Well written and with enough mystery to drag me in.

--I love this description throughout, and then the action with the narrator pulling the book out. And the tension that he/she says the book doesn't matter, but it obviously does.

-- Nicely written voice. I can just hear his accent. Great hook and nothing gets my attention more than someone burning books.

--This is being told with too great of a distance and an 'I'm going to mess with the reader' tone. I wouldn't read on.

--An interesting start, but if the trouble started then, this isn’t in medias res. And, if the character is remembering the start, it isn’t in medias res either. Flashbacks are for later.

--The distance between the narrator and the action is too big for me. Show me the flames licking up around the narrator's sleeve as he or she snatches the book, a light char curling the edges. Let's get the action back in.

[ April 16, 2013, 02:51 AM: Message edited by: genevive42 ]

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Entry # 24

The Benefactors

The sun beat relentlessly on Betty Jo’s pasty-skinned body. She’d gone from the late stages of a Buffalo winter, to a beach in Fort Lauderdale and felt heavenly.

The light from above dimmed and she wondered if Jim had moved between her and the sun to create a man-shaped eclipse.

She smiled up at him and the temperature plummeted like someone had flicked a switch and turned off the world.

“Can you hear me?” a male voice said. A voice, not Jim's.

“Yes.” She answered dutifully. She tried to cover herself but her arms were insufficient. She felt exposed.

“Good.” He clasped his hands together making a weak popping noise. “The first test of a successful time jump is hearing.”

“I’m sorry, time jump?” Betty Jo found herself in a small, metal room...


--One thing about “in medias res” is the fact that the action may not allow the reader to fully understand the situation that is happening. And then the author adds some information that makes the reader realise why certain clues or hints were made. This opening did that in the last sentence. Loved it.

--Some good phrasing here - I loved “man-shaped eclipse.” What I wonder, though, is why Betty Jo unquestioningly answered a voice she knew wasn’t her husband, and why can’t she see anything? I don’t get any sense of her being freaked out here, which would seem a reasonable reaction. Time jumping is cool, so I’d read on for a bit, but I’m not loving the characters so far.

--Moderately hooked. The implied discomfort of the first sentence (expecting a brutal desert?) doesn't fit the pleasure of the second. I'm a sucker for time-travel, but this doesn't do much more than tell me there is time travel. I'll read with hopes of being filled in fast.

--Love the title against the rather ominious/mysterious kidnapping of the sunbather. Makes me want to read on.

--Nothing wrong with this as such, just doesn't grab me.

-- Nice hook. Sounds scary, like she's been kidnapped by a diabolical Dr. Who!

--Well done. Succinct and with a distinct hook that doesn't feel gimmicky. I came to like the character quickly. I would definitely read on.

--I’m sorry; does she have her eyes open? If she can see, how could she not notice a change from the beach to a small metal room? And, if her eyes are closed, why didn’t she open them when she heard a strange man’s voice? The lack of cause followed by effect makes this very confusing.

--I don't like the abrupt jump. That quick cut was too jarring for me.

[ April 16, 2013, 02:52 AM: Message edited by: genevive42 ]

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Entry # 25

Skin Trade

“What do you expect me to do? You think I can just wave my magic wand and conjure some up?” said Rene Haterbrand into his headset. “It’s not like we haven’t had to delay delivery before.” Rene leaned to the right in his chair and passed gas. Sweat matted his graying hair down to his head but he felt cold. He removed his reading glasses to rub tired eyes. His belly gurgled and he could tell he was in for another day of the bowel boogie.

“Yes, I know you’ve been a very good customer to me so I’ll be honest. I’m sick and I don’t think I can guarantee a good quality product.”

“You’ll give me how much extra if I just bring all three today? Fine, as soon as I have the directions I’ll hit the road. But


--Nice portrayal of a one-sided conversation. I found the description of the sickness a little too visceral, which probably means it was a success in its intention. Well done.

--So, Rene seems disgusting so far, though I do sympathize with his irritable bowels. The title makes me fear that he’s delivering something illegal and potentially reprehensible, but I know that his cargo could be completely unexpected. I’m afraid I’m not really engaged enough to find out. Though it’s written well enough, I would not read on.

--Moderately hooked. The challenge laid down raises the question of his success, though I think it would be more effective understanding what kind of product (or the nature of the skin being traded). The gastric realism made me chuckle and made your character real. I'll read further to find out more and watch him struggle.

--I heart “bowel boogie”

--Not sure on this one. Nothing wrong with it, it just doesn't hook me.

-- Sorry to not have it all to read. The start was a bit gross for me. Farting never gets my attention. I think there's ways to make someone appear slovenly without resorting to being crude. But interesting that this guy is desperate to bring in the "three" of something. Want to know what the three are.

--Don't hide what the product/service is. It'd be much more interesting to know what was being asked of him rather than to hear about his bowel trouble. I would not read on.

--I find that opening a story with a conversation about things the reader doesn’t know yet to be annoying. Yes, it’s well written, but I wouldn’t get past the second sentence. Also, this feels like the beginning, not in the middle of things.

[ April 16, 2013, 02:53 AM: Message edited by: genevive42 ]

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Entry # 26

Call to Serve

Cedric shielded his eyes against the sand-spray from the dragon’s heavy landing. When he looked up, an open maw yawned before him, fangs inches from his face. Cedric gasped, and then relaxed as unexpected peace washed through him. He eased down to his knees, arthritis pain gone.

“Your will, Great One.”

The dragon’s jaws snapped shut, and it swiveled its head to fix one sky blue eye on him. “Not my will, but the One who sent me.” It’s disapproving tone made Cedric glance away, and he saw the astonishment on the faces around him. His apprentice, always grudging in his respect toward Cedric, lay prostrate at his feet.

“Get up! You do not bow to me!” His voice roared with the strength of a young man. He looked back at the dragon, and it nodded agreement.


--Nice reversal of expectations within the first paragraph. The Christ-like conversation didn't appeal to me, and didn't give me much of a sense of what was going to happen. Not sure if I would read on.

--Well, I do love a dragon, and this sounds like a good one. I liked the bit about Cedric losing his fear and his pain before the serpent. Like a snake charming its prey? I think more attribution regarding dialogue would make it read smoother, especially the last line (“Get up!...”), which reads like it could have come from any of the three. I would read on.

--Moderately hooked. Interesting. Some indication of the nature of the One's command would probably grab me more. I'll read on.

--Confusing wording—not sure who is speaking or bowing

--I don't think I'd read on from this. As interesting as an arthritis healing dragon is, I can't actually see much going on here and I'm lost as to who is bowing to who and whether the dragon is speaking (with jaws snapped shut) or not.

-- Good action and nice hook. A dragon with blue eyes makes me want to read more. I give it my extra stars points . . . ***. Want to know more about Cedric.

--Last line is a little confusing as to who's speaking. Clarify your speech tag. Otherwise, nicely done.

--This does not feel like an in medias res opening to me.

--I got confused on who was who on this one.

[ April 16, 2013, 02:54 AM: Message edited by: genevive42 ]

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Entry # 27

The Monster Within

A technician walks past the shattered bodies, ignoring them like so much trash on a cold, city sidewalk.

Bagged and tagged. His job is complete.

Blood stains the beige carpet and dots cover the wall like crimson stars twinkling in the light of camera flashes.

The press jostles outside the apartment. Respected reporters grunt when aggressive elbows jam into soft rib cages.

Yellow, open-bottom triangles litter the floor. Numbers count so high they need supplementation from folded index cards with hastily scrawled triple digits.

Walk gingerly, the shattered glass might contain a fingerprint.
Time inches by. I finger the tin-bronze badge pinned to my chest.

What have I done?


Edited because I missed pasting the last line - sorry.


--I love the fact that these challenges allow experimental approaches to be attempted. Present tense, omnipotent viewpoint give both an up close and a distant viewpoint, perfect for the scene under investigation, and then suddenly it all shrinks into a first person, close POV with the last sentence. Panorama then close-up shot. I do wonder which direction this is taking, so I would read on for a while, at least.

--This is so impressionistic that I have trouble grounding myself in the story. Why wait until the last sentence to reveal the POV character? I think the earlier observations would read better if I knew up front that they were coming from someone on the scene. As it is, it seems very devoid of emotion. I would not read on.

--Moderately hooked. Getting to first person finally in the seventh paragraph was clunky and a bit jolting. He can just as easy finger his badge after the third sentence. "Yellow tented evidence markers" would be better than "triangles," which is a confusing visual in the stream of conscious. Nice touch with the index cards. I'll read further to find out more about the murders and the victims.

--Strong, cinematic opening with the camera flashes on the grisly scene; vivid description

--I wouldn't read on, purely because I don't like present tense.

--Too gory for me--maybe that's a personal thing.

-- Great scene description, but I didn't see a hook?

--Took an extra reading for me to see this scene properly. The 'yellow triangles…' didn't make sense at first. Why not just say, 'evidence tags'? The line about the press, and the one about walking gingerly don't seem entirely necessary to me. I might like to see greater emotion or insight into the mc instead.

-- I thought this one had a good mood established, and there were glimpses where I could see enough of an image, but I wanted more. I'd probably read on and would have put this one in my top 10.

[ April 16, 2013, 02:55 AM: Message edited by: genevive42 ]

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Entry # 28


Paper doll spinning in wind. Out of control, I wonder how to move up and down when I’m used to moving left/right, back/forth. Surrounded by an expanse of space full of fragments—rooms, people, scattered conversations drifting as I fall and twist over/under/around. I don’t know how to move anymore. I can’t find the ground beneath my feet. Free fall.

Where am I?

Oh yeah, the Vortex. Wasn’t quite expecting this.

The Vortex was supposed to be a hallway of light with doorways to everywhere in the world. But it's too much chaotic space and the light burns and blinds and suffocates.

Ned, find me.

Where is he?


--The present tense opening works to give the reader an immediate feel. Poetic lines switching to a more down-to-earth voice and back were a fascinating mixture.

--This vortex sounds like a crazy place. Even though I’m sure that the stream-of-consciousness approach used here is meant to put me within the experience, I am not connected to the moment. It’s like I’m reading the thoughts of …who? Don’t know. No connection. I would not read on.

--Moderately hooked. Interesting imagery and concept. I'll read further to find out what happens in this mysterious Vortex.

--Excellent showing of lostness and confusion mirroring the MC’s POV

--That first paragraph made me dizzy. It's all a bit confused and messy to be honest. I wouldn't read on.

-- Really sets up the what's-happened-here question. Goo page turner for me. I want to read this one!

--Interesting enough to keep me reading but if it stays this abstract you'll lose me pretty quick, so you'd better get to something I can grab onto soon.

--Another white room challenge here. Nothing is concrete, and so, there is nothing to hold on to.

[ April 16, 2013, 02:56 AM: Message edited by: genevive42 ]

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Entry # 29

The Re-Education of Jarus

The image of a senator's electric bill flashed across Jarus Kahana's visor just before a brick struck his helmet knocking the educator over. "What was that?" demanded Jarus, as he rolled behind the burned out frame of an old car.

"It was a brick," replied Jarus's ANGEL. The Autonomous Neural Governmental Environment Link's voice was male and condescending. "Thrown from your left."

"Thanks, but I was talking about the electric bill."

"I did not register any media nor is it authorized while you're on duty. Are you sure you weren't daydreaming again?"

The image was surely a newsflash, but admitting that meant two things Jarus didn’t want to deal with. First it meant his system was compromised; it also meant admitting that the newsflashes were real. The implications of either for Jarus as an educator were bad.


--Well paced. I especially loved how the information was revealed in the last paragraph. The only issue was in introducing Jarus and then referencing the “educator”. This made the educator seem to be some piece of equipment, which the last line proved quite the opposite.

--I liked the ANGEL acronym, but I wonder why Jarus was stuck with a condescending male voice? We have quite a choice of voices right now on things like GPS devices, after all. Wondering about Jarus being an educator, seeing that he’s hiding behind burned out cars. Where does he teach? I’d read on for a bit.

--Hooked. There are three questions raised, all of which have my attention. I'll read on.

--Great worldbuilding; nice title

--Electric bill, as in a utility bill, or something else? It confused me enough to pull me out of the story. I wouldn't read on.

--I love the line, "Thanks, but I was talking about the electric bill."

-- Humorous twist with the electric bill. I’m curious to read on. The brick to the head confused me. Wouldn’t he be more concerned about that? Interesting that he’s not, but also confusing.

-- Nice action to start, but I have no idea what an "educator" is, so leave me a bit confused. Can we get a bit of explanation?

--The last sentence is a little clunky. Otherwise, nicely done. I'd definitely keep reading.

--An interesting opening and yes, I’d read more.

[ April 16, 2013, 02:57 AM: Message edited by: genevive42 ]

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Entry # 30

The Last Conqueror

Pohi jumped up on the pile of explosives and attached the detonator. The doors to the old warehouse flew open. Her enemy stepped through; his armor glinted in the sun. She activated the timer just as he leapt across the distance to land on the explosives with her. His helmet retracted into his collar.

“Fleet Commander, I’m honored,” she said standing and looking up into his stern face. He glanced down at the detonator. “Ten seconds. I’d get out of here if I were you.” She smiled.

Suddenly his armor reached out and seized her in a thousand tendrils, sucking her into it and pinning her against his body.

“Not without you, my dear,” he said with his own smile.

The armor blasted them skyward. The explosives went next. Pohi held on to the galaxy’s nemesis as the gee forces hit.


--An active start, with lots of hidden meaning behind their conversation. All is not as it seems.

--This is actually a really intense moment to open with. I’m not sure why I’m not loving it, but I think it is because the writing needs polished here and there. For example, I know that the helmet line (..retracted into his collar) was meant to show that Pohi could see his face, but it seemed an awkward way to convey the idea. Maybe if it was connected to a prior action (the commander pushed a button on his arm panel) or something. Gee forces or G forces? I’d read on for a while.

--Moderately hooked. I laughed at "gee forces," because the tone is already light, and it made me think of "forces of golly-gee!" If you want a chuckle, maybe leave it, but "G-forces" would communicate the concept better. I'll read a little further to see where this is going.

--Confused by this scene and its jumping back and forth between the two characters. If he is the galaxy’s nemesis (rather than just Pohi’s), how is he a fleet commander?

--See intends to blow him up right? So why tell him to get out of there and, willing to blow herself up too it seems, why ten seconds, why not instantly. It smacks as action for action's sake. I wouldn't read on.

--Slow it down. You're trying to cram too much in. The last line especially makes it sound like a slightly cheesy super-hero riff, though I'm not sure it was meant that way. I wouldn't read on in its current state.

--The setting seems too nebulous. I'm not picturing enough. I don't see characters or setting.

[ April 16, 2013, 02:58 AM: Message edited by: genevive42 ]

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Entry # 31

The War for Humanity

The drop shuttle carrying Jake Reilly and nineteen others touched down on alien soil. Recruits jostled with the impact. The mission’s corporal unstrapped herself early. She brandished her rifle-cannon, let loose a war cry, and stormed the still-sealed door.

“Remember your training!” Flag officer Franklin Harris called.

Jake, and many others, nodded in agreement. Although he didn’t specifically remember his training, he was told muscle memory would kick in. The training was there. His body would act accordingly.

High-powered hydraulics dropped the shuttle’s hatch. Bullets streamed inside. Screams were drowned beneath the sound of the metal projectiles colliding with walls of the shuttle. Ricochets tore through the meager armor the Kleths had provided.

The corporal was blown back and fell on Jake’s lap, pinning him.


--This dropped us right into the middle of a battle, and like a real battle, there is a lot of unknowns. That’s ok for this challenge, but I would like some more story grounding soon.

--So, the corporal demonstrates how NOT to lead a charge, and down she goes. Hopefully, Jake is a little bit smarter. I’m having trouble with the setting in my mind – alien soil, but apparently with a tolerable atmosphere, drop shuttles and metal bullets. Not cohesive right now, but maybe things will gel later. I’d read on for a bit.

--Lots of strong action. Why doesn’t Jake remember his training? Intriguing.

--Hooked. Good place to leave me hanging to get me hooked. Interesting questions raised. I'm not sure why, but this one made me feel more in the narrative than most. I'll read to see how they handle the attack and find the answers to those questions.

--I like this. There's enough fast paced action here for me to want to read on some more.

--I'd like some longer sentences.

-- Super action to start. I think of Starship Troopers when I read this. I would take the whole action scene as the hook. What war, where is it, and who is this poor guy just pinned down?

--Excellent description. I'm not sure I have a feeling that there's any chance of Jake surviving. If that's the case, I'm not interested in reading on. I'd like a shade more sense of hope. Then the confidence your writing gives me would entice me to continue.

--Seems like your standard military sci-fi. Not my cup of tea.

[ April 16, 2013, 02:59 AM: Message edited by: genevive42 ]

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