Deathmatch 2013 Quarterfinals Round3

Deathmatch Moderator

A.G. Pasquella’s writing has appeared in various spots including McSweeney’s, Wholphin, Black Book,The Believer, Broken Pencil, Joyland, Dragnet and The Utne Reader. He collaborates on comics with Brian Evinou and underground Halifax cartoonist Burnt Lobster. A.G.’s book ‘Why Not A Spider Monkey Jesus’ is about a talking chimpanzee who becomes a televangelist.

 

 

 

Step One: Read the stories.
Step Two: Vote for your favourite. Repeatedly. You can vote once every hour.
Step Three: Sound off in the comments.
Step Four: Blog, tweet, tell all your friends – help your favourite author win!
Step Five: Repeat until an Ultimate Winner is declared and all others lie bleeding in the dust.

Previous Rounds:     Round 1     Round 2

Click here for Deathmatch rules and regulations and for links to all the people and presses that have generously donated awesome prizes for our winner and runners-up.

Muscle Man

By Brittany Smith

Muscle Man’s plastic hands are curled into fists. His chest muscles bulge. He wears yellow briefs over an orange bodysuit and his chiseled face is set in a confident smile.

Every day Carl tries to break Muscle Man.

He coils a length of twine around Muscle Man’s ankles and strings him up by the feet. He buries him in the backyard. Once, he even coated the toy with honey and watched ants cover his body in a writhing mass.
“Surrender, you coward,” Carl whispers. But Muscle Man never does.
“Alright, then. You give me no choice.”

Carl holds a lighter to Muscle Man’s cheek. Instantly, the plastic sizzles and his features began to run. His face dries half-smeared, like he’s suffered a stroke. The smile looks more like a sneer. But Muscle Man is still strong.

Read on...
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Trying

By Emily Kendy

I woke up Monday morning feeling out of whack and as scrambled as a failing hard drive. A dream about fizzled love left my mind burnt out to the point where just being alive took a Herculean effort. I wasn’t going to bother getting out of bed but eventually cracked from the pressure of boredom, and extracted myself from self-loathing to take a bus into the city. I needed to rummage up a distraction.

Outside, the streets were sputtering under a lazy springtime shower. With my camera in my lap I peered through the window at the washed-out wetlands of the Downtown East Side. Rows of Asian strip malls pass by; packed to the ceilings with sushi-equipment, Japanese urns, accordion lanterns and mismatched china. Then the Happy Endings Funeral Home; which was conjoined to Vernon Dobb’s Meatpacking Factory. Where reincarnation is both ironic and delicious!

Read on...
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299 Responses to “Deathmatch 2013 Quarterfinals Round3”

  1. AGP (Moderator) ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Nicely said, Emily! Congratulations, Brittany! You are both good writers and I look forward to reading more of your work in the future! To all those who left comments, thanks for commenting! Stay tuned for ROUND FOUR!

    • greg blee says:

      Yes, kudos to both writers and to two stories interesting enough to get us all riled up defending. Keep on scribblin’, both!

      Congrats, Britt, and way to go out with class, Emily.

  2. Emily says:

    Yeeeooow! That was invigorating! Still in awe of the loyal slugs my friends and family have given and taken, on my behalf, in the Deathmatch arena this week. I salute you! Congratulations on your win Brittany, not to sound like Captain Obvious here but you killed it! You’re a good writer, I Googled your name before our round and enjoyed reading your story Walls. Best of luck in the competition!

    • Brittany says:

      Emily, you were a total Deathmatch ninja. You schooled me many times and also had me laughing like the fool I am. It was truly an honor to sling some mud around with you. And that comment your Mom made above was the sweetest!

    • Nano says:

      Awesome Concession speech there you poitical/ death-match enthusiast. Maybe next time instead of entering a death-match competition, it can be a laugh-match competition and you can write an Acceptance speech for winning!!!

  3. Brittany says:

    Oh, gerd. My favorite part about these arguments is that everyone seems to have the authority on what the deathmatch “is.” Why? Cause you read a few posters? Is this your special deathmatch game that you brought from home? Is that how come you can tell everyone else how to play it?

  4. JayL says:

    If the only purpose of the deathmatch is “mud to the face and a swift punch to the crotch,” as K80 explains, than it’s pretty much the most pointless writing competition ever.

  5. Britt's American Sister says:

    I don’t like you very much, Emily. I certainly don’t like your BFF. I’m all for competition, and as the baby of the family, I generally thrive on it. I’ve been voting every hour for Britt’s story, not because she’s my sister, and not because she’s one of the most beautiful, genuine, loyal, sweet, and talented women that I’ve ever met, but because, frankly, her story is just better. Unfortunately, your BFF’s lack of respect for her, lack of respect for the game, and her lack of respect for the written word is an embarrassment for you. And that’s all I have to say about that. Go TEAM BRITT!

    • K80 says:

      Oh, Britt’s American Sister! You’re obviously not just the baby of the family, you’re a baby in general. Are you sure you want to step into the ring with the grown-ups? I wouldn’t want you to get your widdle feelings hurt!

      It’s so nice that your own sister is “one of the most beautiful, genuine, loyal, sweet, and talented women that [you’ve] ever met”. Isn’t that special!? And her story is “just better”. What an impressive literary analysis! Thanks for that insight. I’ll have to spend some time unpacking your arguments. Oh right, you don’t have one except for “my sister is a good person and everyone else can go fuck themselves.”

      Deathmatch is a game, but it’s not the one you think it is, sweetheart. It’s a slug-fest. It’s bare-knuckle boxing. It’s mud to the face and a swift punch to the crotch. It’s dirty and that’s the way we like it. So why don’t you pack up your dollies and just go on home now. TEAM EMILY doesn’t give a shit about your scorn.

      • Britt's American Sister says:

        Wow K80! I’ve got to hand it to you, your little spout was much more entertaining than Troubles. I’m sorry that I wasn’t able to provide you with the literally analysis that you were looking for. Perhaps I could say something as insightful as Emily’s BFF, “a whole load of shitty sentences in a shitty boring story.” Please. Team Emily didn’t want any constructive criticism, they only started talking about the actual writing once they realized that they had no chance of winning. That’s why I didn’t provide you with my thoughts on what a bore it really was. I wish this were just a slug-fest, honey, that way I could just knock you out and get it over with. I guess I’ll just have to settle for watching Britt kick Emily’s ass. Oh, and thanks for the suggestion…my sister IS better than everyone else, and you CAN feel free to go fuck yourselves. I’m sure you’ll have plenty of time to do so, since today will be the end of Troubles little run.

        • K80 says:

          I was wondering if you’d get your mommy’s tit out of your mouth long enough to fashion a reply.
          “I could just knock you out and get it over with.” I’ll have to take your word on that, will I? Or are you going to come out from behind your big sister and actually take a swipe at me? Come on… make me bleed.

          It seems to me that Emily has been bravely, amazingly, open to constructive criticism. The members of TEAM EMILY, on the other hand, are pretty much only here to flip over tables, light shit on fire, and voice our opinions as loudly and as righteously as you sanctimonious turds.

  6. Emily says:

    There’s been a lot of “trolling” critiques with some real insights. Are those really tolling though, or just comments from the opposition? They’re all worth the time to read and pick apart for the helpful bits. Except, perhaps, Binari Jenni.

  7. Emily's BFF says:

    Hey B-bot, I appreciate that you’re trying to take this conversation in a more genteel literary critique direction. But posing the suicide vs cutting issue as a “lightbulb moment” is a little masturbatory. It was established pretty early on in this round that the ending might be confusing. The more compelling subject for you to address, and the more challenging exercise for you as a writer, is why (some of) your readers just don’t care. Yes, your sentences are clear and run smoothly. Now how will you turn them into something meaningful?

  8. greg blee says:

    Yup, B-ster. It was belatedly clear that he was slashing his wrist, but using “forearm” was coy of the writer. Also misleading, because some kids do slash their forearms: they’re called “cutters,” and they’re not trying to kill themselves, they’re crying for attention. Which, it seems to me, would better suit Carl. He’s, what, ten? That’s too young for suicide, i think.
    So his losing consciousness in the end rang false for me. For one thing, you don’t black out that quickly after cutting your wrists; you have to lose a LOT of blood first.
    Fix the coy, halfway hinting at suicide, along with the black-out, and the ending will be a lot stronger. IMHO!

    • Heather says:

      I agree with you Greg on your suggestion about fixing the ending that way. Sadly, though thank goodness it’s rare, there are children that young who do try and some succeed in suicide.

      • greg blee says:

        I’m no expert in the field but i’d bet there are, Heather. Sadly. Still, i don’t get the feeling that Carl is *that* disturbed — yet. He’s got issues, he’s dealing with them as best he can, including through abusing Muscle Man.

        Hey, another “lightbulb moment” — would this be a better story if, instead of caving in to the bleak situation, he used that innocent power children sometimes exhibit and somehow transcendeds the whole situation, migraine mother, addict bro’ and all? Finds his way to live with it, perhaps with Muscle Man’s “help”? A sudden upturn at the end, rather than a sudden downturn? I bet it would poll better in the focus groups. (‘Cause that’s what this whole exercise is basically about, right?)

  9. Brittany says:

    Just had a little lightbulb moment when I realized that perhaps people think Carl kills himself in my story. So at the risk of a public thrashing (which comes with the territory in this colosseum of smack), I thought I’d put it out there and ask you folks. He jabs himself with the knife, indeed, but maybe my saying forearm instead of wrist isn’t clear enough. Thoughts?

  10. Unimpressed says:

    I must say that I am super disappointed at what I found here in the blogs. I came here to read two stories and vote for the better of the two and perhaps read a few interesting comments and criticisms. Instead I feel like I am a part of some terrible high school drama. The bashing that is going on here is pitiful and weak. Come to think of it, the setup of this so-called competition is weak. Vote every hour?? What exactly are we voting for? The better story or how many hits this website can get?? Allowing multiple voting will not give an accurate result. It may simply mean that one author has a large number of friends who don’t have a life to live and spend their time glued to their electronic device somewhere in Twitter world waiting until they can vote again, and again, and again. LAME!

    • greg blee says:

      You have a point, UNIMPRESSED. I don’t think the next Giller will be awarded using this method. But it is what it is, and it does allow for a lot of juicy reader/ally participation, which i gather is the intent.
      So get yer highbrow lit’rature elsewhere. This here’s the fuggin’ DEATHMATCH.

    • Jerome says:

      I agree with the Unimpressed, as far as the voting protocol goes. Initially, I thought the comment section was a bit odd, but then I was reminded it is a Deathmatch and anything goes.

      Taking yourself (and everything else by extension) so seriously must be exhausting.

    • JulieJ says:

      You know what I hate doing? Going to the Santa Claus parade. It’s full of idiots and kids whining – and so you know what? I don’t go. If you don’t like what you see her or how it works, UNIMPRESSED, then beat it. Nobody’s making you stay. Go do something better. LAME!

  11. Jackie says:

    I wish I could say I finished both stories. But I couldn’t. Muscle Man was written in an engaging, fluid way. I barely finished two paragraphs of Trying before I propped my eyes open with toothpicks. I wish this had been more of a challenge!

  12. Jerome says:

    Jenni is a piece of work. Why would anybody lord “intelligence” over people in a thread? Kind of off topic.

    Still believe Trying is the better story. Imagination trumps deliberate storytelling everyday of the week.

    In the spirit of Deathmatch, which I am new to, whichever story wins this round is gonna get stomped in the next.

  13. librarian says:

    I think both writers deserve props for putting themselves out there with a couple of good reads. At the risk of being repetitive here, I think Brittany’s story was smooth and poignant, but it didn’t really take me anywhere. Emily’s extra descriptive language sometimes gets in the way of the flow of her story, but I found her plot more engaging. It’s the funny, creative and unexpected story that’s going to stick with me over style, so Emily gets my vote. And way to get some zings in here too, ladies (at least Emily is ahead in that department).

    • Brittany says:

      Whahoo, librarian! As much as I’d love it if you voted for me, I’m just thrilled you actually want to talk about the stories themselves. When you say my story didn’t “take you anywhere”, what do you mean? I know it needs work, and I am looking forward to chopping it up. Truth be told, it’s something I wrote specifically for this competition and finished the day of submission. (Probably shouldn’t admit that, eh?) I’d love some more feedback. Or, crap. Maybe this was too nice? Hang on…let me dig up something nasty, or I’m gonna get kicked out of here.

      • librarian says:

        Ok, I’ll try to elaborate. It seemed to me to read more like a description of a scene (a well executed description, truly), but not so much a story. A good, clear snap shot, but without the compelling hook to make me want to know what happened before and after the shot. I’m more of a reader than a writer, so couldn’t say how to add that hook. I just feel like not much happened. Maybe it’s just a preference thing…maybe my tastes are too linear. Not sure if that was helpful, but I tried.

  14. Nano says:

    Hilarious! I am laughing my self to sleep now. Keeping my trusty blade close by my side though in case I see Jenni the ‘visious hater’ from Smithers! Oh and while I am on “that point” I have to say I think Emily’s sense of humour here clearly shows her intelligence and wit and “I” am from Smithers!!

  15. Jenni says:

    Emily is indeed from Smithers, and as a local resident, I’ve gotta say that she’s giving her hometown a bad name. Good luck redeeming that reputation – as a writer and as a person. TEAM BRITTANY. Everywhere.

    • Emily's BFF says:

      The only reason I’d ever give a second thought to Smithers is because of Emily Kendy and Susan Juby. I wouldn’t think a place that managed to produce such gems as the two of them would be otherwise populated by humourless trolls, but Jenni is making me think otherwise.

      • Jenni says:

        Oh, “people” was only capitalized because I assumed that I didn’t have access to italics, which are traditionally used when you isolate a word whose meaning you’re debating the interpretation of. Too bad I didn’t write “binary” in capitals/italics as well, because apparently you’re not up on ALL the ways you could have used your understanding of the term to insult me. You’re right that it’s usually used in computing as a numeral system of 1/0. Sadly, that’s not all the term means. Happily, for my point about your amazing ignorance, it’s also a literary term. You’d think that someone commenting in a forum like this would know that as a basic pre-requisite to having any literary credibility.

        • librarian says:

          Congrats on your intellect. Too bad about your sense of humour. So you don’t like Emily’s approach to the Deathmatch commentary…I wouldn’t say that reflects poorly on her hometown, and it doesn’t make her ignorant. She’s taking the tactic to battle on the offensive. She has been explicit about her approach. Get over it. And you’re obviously not that morally opposed to some verbal lambasting, since you tried your hand at it. I’m not going to say you’re ignorant, or an embarrassment to Smithers because of it.

        • Jenni says:

          And to be clear, the term you want to be Googling is “binary oppositions”. Those of us that read books with any degree of regularity tend to call them “binaries”.

      • Jenni says:

        Susan’s amazing. Emily and Co., you ladies are amazingly ignorant. Whether or not you’re giving Smithers a second thought, people here are thinking about you. Poorly.

        • kellvis says:

          good to know on the vicious hater front, and if you will write people in capitals, it doesn’t mean i suddenly understand what the word people means any more than i did. clearly you speak on behalf of quite a few smithersonians. OR, is it just you (1) and your friends (0).

        • Jenni says:

          Kellvis, I’m at least arrogant enough to point out that I said “A local resident”, which implies one person, as well as “PEOPLE in Smithers” which does not at all imply the whole town. Good effort on logicking – but sadly, you’ve only revealed that you put yourself into the “amazingly ignorant” category. As for reading the stories, I have. As for being a vicious hater, I am. As you’ve illustrated so well, binaries can get SO confusing.

        • kellvis says:

          and so the whole town of smithers voted you to speak on their behalf against emily like this? rather arrogant stance to take don’t you think? did you even read emily or brittany’s stories or are you just a vicious hater?

  16. Hal Niedzviecki (Moderator) ( User Karma: 29 ) says:

    I just did an interview about Deathmatch with a fellow working on a local paper in Smithers, BC. He’s an Emily fan. Maybe Emily is from Smithers? Anyway, I thought it might help Emily close the gap with Muscle Man but apparently it’s not going to appear for a few weeks yet! Sorry Emily…

  17. Emily says:

    Hmm… fascinating poll commentary aside, Stew echoes a common complaint that now has me wondering if it isn’t clear that my little man is literally a little man, and not Buzz Lightyear?

  18. Stewart says:

    A play? Graphic novel? Cartoon? The Toy Story people may have something to say about that, what with Emily infringing on an already well-used concept. Doesn’t really matter anyway, since the little marionnette-wannabe man is already feeling the effects from the beat-down at the hands of Muscle Man, so the diminutive one won’t have enough energy left for future growth of any kind.

  19. aly says:

    Well if Emily doesn’t give a shit about her readers opinions, I am confused as to why she’s in the competition in the first place? Who does she write for, if not for readers? I mean who buys books anyways? Magical tiny men? Or maybe she’s writing for herself, in that case she could always just put it in a Hello Kitty diary and call it a day.

    Excuse me if I don’t get back to you tonight, I am heading to my night job, at the coffee shop.

    ps. Weary! You got me!

  20. Nano says:

    Yes, I have to agree with Favro that “Trying” is both ambitious and unusual. The dialogue alone is worthy of note! Perhaps a rewrite as a play for the next round would underscore the stories quirky humour and highlight the author’s originality! Beware Team Brittany of the tortoise and the hare!

    • Heather says:

      A successful rewrite would be if Emily could get “autocorrect” to work or … now here’s a challenge, maybe try writing the correct words all by yourself! Yup, Black Knight in Money Python, just keep pushing that button.

      • Emily says:

        Mmm…? Not sure what your point is, but you might want to get back to that line-up of people waiting on their mochaccinos. They’re not going to serve themselves!

        • Brittany says:

          Nah, didn’t delete my pic, just on the move. You’ll be looking at my mug later when I get a moment to sign in on my phone. Wonder if by the end of this week, we’re all going to start to like each other in spite of it all? Kind of the way hostages end up developing affection for their captors.

        • Kellvis says:

          Brittany! You’re back! we’ve missed you. I can imagine you must be so busy, what with deleting your profile pic and writing your winning speech, which we know will be beautifully crafted, and thankfully not very long.

        • kellvis says:

          ahh yes, the rules…”this is not a competition for sensitive writer types”…”authors will be in constant communication with their audience through a blog which they can use to hype up their own story, or trash-talk their opponent’s writing”….the seriously sweet brittany campers are starting to grind…..anyone seen brittany btw? not seeing much constant communication, except to whine about trash talk. sigh. i actually quite like your story B, there…is that better?

        • Emily's BFF says:

          Seriously babies. Put your freaking big girl panties on. I’m a nice human being, so is Emily. We pet puppies and hug babies and volunteer and cried during Les Mis when Anne Hathaway lost all her teeth, just like everyone else.

          Isn’t this a DEATHMATCH? Read the rules: “This is an anything-goes contest – comments from visitors to the contest can be hurtful. Be prepared for battle.”

          Have fun, grow a pair, throw down some insults, enjoy the reading.

          ps. Speaking of autocorrect. “Weary”?
          pps. I like the suggestion of The Writer giving a shit about your opinion. That’s hilarious.

        • aly says:

          Implying what exactly?

          Be weary of not insulting your readers. Because make no mistake, writer, that is who we are.
          So far this competition has mostly been about us trying to determine if you are a decent writer, let’s not make it about whether or not you are a decent human being.

  21. AGP (Moderator) ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Hi Brittany– that email went out to your Hotmail address. I just forwarded it to your Yahoo address. If you’re still having trouble, drop me a line at adam AT broken pencil DOT com (except, you know, with an actual @ and an actual . ) We’ll work it out!

  22. Rosco says:

    When I got up this morning, this death match reminded me of how I felt the night of the first federal election after I moved to the west coast. It seemed like it was over before I got to the polling booth after work. Brittany has a voting machine that can churn out 100 votes in the first few hours of the morning while the folks on the west coast are sleeping. You just need 20 people voting mindlessly every hour for 5 hours to do that. The only thing that might die in this death match is the whole art of literary criticism.

  23. Emily's BFF says:

    Dudes. I totally had to work all day and couldn’t participate in tearing down the Emily Haters. Just let me get dressed in All The Purple, pull out my 9th Grade Essays, put on Gladiator, and bookmark thesaurus.com
    TEAM. EMILY. FOREVAH.

    • greg blee says:

      E’s BFF, a suggestion: Maybe if you’d put half this much literary effort into helping Em with her story, you wouldnt’ need such a spirited defence now. Just sayin’.

      • Emily says:

        She actually always helps edit stories. But because this story is so old and has gone through so many revisions since she’d last seen it, I never did get her to go over it again before I sent it into the contest. She is awesome at pointing out wordiness and clunkiness issues to fix so… My mistake!

        • Emily's BFF says:

          For the record, I’d be providing a spirited defence even if you were up against Margaret Atwood. “Screw you, Peggy! You think that’s writing? You call yourself a Canadian? Maybe you should get out more! Get a haircut! Stop it with all your pretentious tomfoolery!”

  24. Stewart says:

    One comment and then I’m going to shut up and go away…
    I finished reading Trying and promptly forgot about what I had just read. A certain measure of creativity, but no impact.
    I read Muscle Man and was drawn in. Thought was provoked. I was left eager for more, darkness or not.
    No contest. An easy vote for Muscle Man.

  25. Emily says:

    Good grief… I’m surprised you made it out alive! I like your gang of cronies reference also. Did you read the sign on the door? DEATHMATCH! Hello! Also, FYI, just repeating everyone else’s critiques, which I have already addressed, is a truly arduous – sorry, HARD – read for me also.

  26. KristaOK says:

    Trying was truly an arduous read. Could of been how haywire the author went with adjectives, adverbs and an overused thesaurus. Seriously big or fancy words don’t automatically translate into polished pieces, case and point this story. Or it could be how I felt like I was reading an adult version of Toy Story, Indian in the Cupboard or The Borrowers or … Talk about overused themes, tiny person is found by real person (yawn) and toys coming alive (snooze). The authour of Muscle Man created a far more imaginative relationship between protagonist and toy without bringing it to life which I found far more original and satisfying. Also I get that it is magical realism but what kind of dust buster vacuums up Barbies and 6 inch action figures? Have you ever looked at dust buster even? They would have difficulty sucking up a pretzel. It really bothers me as a reader when the author can’t be bothered to reread to make sure that the given details make any sense, especially when it is an integral part of the climax! Also did you mean to write “haunted expression” or was “hunted” really your aim? Hard to tell in the endless spew of descriptors but hunted didn’t make much sense to me so I was left thinking it was an editing error. No wonder you and your cronies have ganged up so viciously on the other writer you must be envious of her writing muscle and wishing you tried harder to flex some of your own (a Herculean effort even), regardless keep TRYING. Might help to start with something that hasn’t been so hallmarked by Disney and children’s literature in general.
    Vote number 170 for Muscle Man – obviously.

    • Kellvis says:

      If I was a six inch Barbie. I’d pretty frikken terrified being chased by an enormous cow with anything that vacuumed….what if she got my hair, my shoes…. or heaven forbid attached it to my cleavage??? It so easily could have been me in the back of that ambulance….if it wasn’t for my hero.

  27. greg blee says:

    Close read of both stories. Kudos to both authors for imagination and detail.

    “Trying” takes a while to get going, and once it does takes a few unnecessary detours into description and flowery language. Some great metaphors in there, though — language clearly Emily’s strong suit.

    “Muscle Man” has more writerly polish, lots of nice telling detail. I found the revelation rather quick and unexplained, and the losing-consciousness ending too dramatic by half.

    Both stories’ endings left me with a bit of a “huh, what’s the point?” feeling.

    It’s close (and i might feel differently tomorrow), but overall i’m going with “Muscle Man” for better execution and more literary potential. But i wish i didn’t have to pick one.

    • Nano says:

      Greg Blee I am disappointed in your decision! I would have thought you were more a nostalgic romantic who would enjoy a fun, funny story over a dramatically dark and bloody one. Over all I think the increased votes for the darkly tragic story a reflection of our state of society! People are so on the dark side. Where is the happiness side? Don’t you like to laugh people???

        • Jennafey says:

          Nothing dark about a desperate woman falling down a flight of stairs chasing after a miniature man who doesn’t return her affection… oh wait. That’s really sad, and painful, and… dark. 😛

  28. Martin LP says:

    Read both stories. IMO “Muscle Man” reads a little annoyingly because of the shifts in the use of present and past tense. Story just didn’t catch my personal taste/interest.
    “Trying” was a funny, well-written story (although a few sentences took two reads before it clunked in). My votes are for “Trying”.

  29. Brittany Smith says:

    It’s time for me to chime in here. I’ve been absent for most of the discussion because I am one of those unfortunate writers who has to work a day job and can’t sneak away. (Though I’d love to.)
    While all the nasty remarks and trash talk is entertaining, I just wanted to say that part of what drew me to this competition is the whole “rework in between rounds”element. This is what I find most interesting. I never viewed Muscle Man as a fully polished piece. I have a feeling Emily felt the same way about Trying.
    So, which story has the potential to be most fully realized, to work the best in the end?
    Muscle Man may have an ending that feels rushed (I completely agree with that), and it might have a clunky junkie (ha ha!), but it’s also strange and unique and it reads (mostly) smoothly. I’m open to getting my hands dirty with the smack talk (it’s a deathmatch after all),but let’s not forget what we’re here for.

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  30. Jerome says:

    As I’ve stated, Muscle Man is weak, weak like a baby. The evidence of lacking strength flows through the story like a popcorn fart.
    From Carl’s inability to destroy an inanimate plastic doll to the inclusion of a ferret to the cuisine to the vibrant lack of creativity to the urine to the (gasp!) drug use.
    Trying destroys Muscle Man based on ability to convey a complete story.
    Unfortunately, Muscle Man stands a chance of victory due to Brittany’s supporters enjoyment of their own smug.

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  31. Emily's BFF says:

    Ana, I agree with your point on the snoozefest single-lady issue. So tiresome that I fell asleep while writing that sentence. But substitute a cisgender male, gay, trans, bi or queer character, partnered or single, and Emily’s story, with minor tweaking, still works. That’s just me though. And my love of purple. Also, commas.

  32. Kellvis says:

    C’mon, it’s supposed to be a short story competition, not answers on the back of a postcard. Trying is destined for the finals, with all the elements of a winning story…. intrigue, multiple settings, conflict, tension, humour and IMAGINATION. Maybe if Muscle Man had told Carl to cut himself in an act of defiant revenge, he might have won my vote.

  33. Nano says:

    I really appreciated the comical and the magical in Emily’s story. The writer’s vivid imagery found me chuckling out loud as I enjoyed the stories humorous antics. For that I say thank you Emily ~ I choose humour over “serious” and morbid anytime! Great story, certainly the BEST on this site!!

  34. Heike says:

    Emily, I love your story! Yes, it does start off rather clunkily, but once the story gets into gear with more action and dialogue it’s just a beautiful read! (It did seem a little familiar – had I read this one before?) Love the dialogues, love the dry humour!

    Brittany, I really like your writing style, it’s fluid and easy to read and engaging. The story is off to a really good start, but I have to agree with Emily’s BFF (whoever she is…) that then there’s just way too much stuffed into it in the space of a few paragraphs. Poor boy, tough life, but no resolution of any kind…

  35. AGP (Moderator) ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Yes! The Battle Is Raging! MUSCLE MAN has taken the lead! Plus we have another song title (see last round) from the comments section: “Clunkie Junkie.” Hey, shouldn’t that be ‘Clunky Junkie?’ Ah, but then it wouldn’t have the same ‘ie’ ending, would it? Chalk it up to Artistic License!

    • Brittany Smith says:

      Hey AGP, could you please tell me how to get my pic up here alongside my name? Tried a few things to no avail. Would like to be more than a faceless silhouette.

      • AGP (Moderator) ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

        Hi Brittany! I passed along your request to our web person Tracy. She sent you an email with the info. If you need anything else, just holler!

  36. DM : Graeme Lottering says:

    Wow. There’s some serious tag-team criticism happening in this battle. I hope I don’t meet ‘Team Emily’ in the next round. Plus one vote for Brittany.

  37. First, let me offer Emily my sincerest apologies. I wanted to provide some feedback, but couldn’t get through the first paragraph of her story without my eyes glazing over.
    Emily, I’ll try harder to finish this dense clunker of yours, and will be back with something more insightful to say. Thanks for your understanding.

      • Ana says:

        She’s right though, that opening paragraph is rough. In the future, you should really smooth out your clauses! Say what you will about her junky, but Brittany’s relationship to language reads as natural and that image of the jar rolling across the kitchen appeared to me. I have no idea what anything in Trying LOOKS like, except that the little man probably looks something like this: http://www.amazon.ca/The-Boy-In-Drawer/dp/0920303501

        • Emily says:

          I agree, clunky clunky. It’s an awesome critique to move forward with, because I also agree with the comment that it does actually read like it’s trying too hard. It is a good example of what can happen to a story that has been over-worked…

    • Emily's BFF says:

      You’re hilarious, Brittany. I laughed so hard at what you just wrote, Brittany. I’m going to print your story and read it out loud to all my friends, Brittany. SPOILER ALERT: No, I’m not.

  38. Emily says:

    Using a thesaurus, wha…? That’s grasping. I do admit it reads a bit clunky, but I’m okay with it not reading like it’s been totally over greased like an auto-tune song. I never said my writing was perfect, and I’m learning to live with this and other life failures through the help of my therapist. As for the other story, it’s got it’s own clunk going on. Mainly, the older brother. I’ve watched Intervention. Junkies don’t take “no” for an answer when they’re desperate for cash. Especially from their mother. He didn’t even try to hit up Carl’s piggy bank. That is half-assed. He’s a clunkie Junkie.

  39. Jennafey says:

    Feels a bit like the author of “Trying” might be trying too hard. I’m all for a rich vocabulary but it feels a bit like every 10th word was upgraded via thesaurus diving. It doesn’t read fluidly IMO.

  40. Emily says:

    Just so I’m clear… Is the older brother (gasp) a DRUG FIEND?! Maybe you should have hit us over the head with one more supremely cliched moment in the day of a junkie just so there was no mistaking the symptoms.

      • Emily says:

        Peri-who now? Such fancy talk, does your diploma tuck you in at night? I hear what you’re saying, though. I just wasn’t actually trying to veil anything, I dated a guy who was not tall and was more into me than I was into him. So I shrank him down in an effort to magnify the strange phenomenon of unrequited love. I’ll work on the clunkiness in the revision. 😉

        • Emily's BFF says:

          Emily, I’m so conflicted. I kind of like Ana now, what with the Liz Lemon reference. I don’t know what to do with my feelings. Can you write a short story about it? About all the feelings? And maybe try to get it published? Or enter it into a competition, maybe? That would help me, a lot.

        • Ana says:

          I know, I know. I really did like the Boy in Drawer element, and I love a good lonely lady story (if you haven’t, you should read Julie Hayden’s “Day-Old Baby Rats”). I even like purple hats! I think I was just getting into the ferocious forum posting because I saw Liz Lemon do it. Your story is great, but for me, beautiful/interesting sentences in a story are more important than the plot. Purely a taste thing.

      • Emily's BFF says:

        What’s an easy fix? A few clunky sentences in an awesome story with an awesome premise? Or a whole load of shitty sentences in a shitty boring story? Yes, I may be her BFF, but I’m also one of her toughest critics. TEAM EMILY.

        • Ana says:

          Is it an awesome story, though? Or is it a lamely-veiled allegory for all the single ladies? Magical realism might instantly elevate you to the realm of the unique, but it does not make your characters any more dynamic and the lonely, close-off female “artist” has been “pulled apart” in every fiction workshop since Perkins Gilman first saw a course kit. And also, why does the stand-in for the writer allllllllllways have to be a photographer? Snoooooze.

    • Emily's BFF says:

      Let’s see if I’ve got this right: Child operates in a special little world with his special little toy. Child has to cook food for himself because Mother has The Migraine. Child admires his hero Older Brother. Author tosses in some foreshadowing. Author reveals all. Older Brother is a DRUG ADDICT. Mother shockingly rejects Drug Addict and Child is sad. Child cuts self. Child dies, or begins a life of self-harm.

      Why do we care about any of this? You’re trying to do too much with too little. If you’re going to go with an over-used story element, pick one of them, and dive in. Pull it apart. Look at the insides. Do something new. If you had tried harder, or were a better writer, it wouldn’t matter that there is absolutely nothing original to your story. If you had a longer word count to work with, maybe you could have teased out some of these themes better.

      But you didn’t try hard, you aren’t a better writer, and this isn’t a novel contest.

      • aly says:

        Emily’s BFF, I must commend you on your excellent synopsis skills! From your book-reportish summary, I can tell you wrote a killer essay in grade nine English! What you forgot to include while reducing Muscle Man to a tidy -what did you say- “over-used” kinda story, is that in Muscle Man’s few words, albeit on a familiar subject, Brittany was able to create a strong, living, breathing environment, the kinda environment you can taste and smell, feel the stale air even, which I’m sorry to say, was only present in Emily’s description of the market. The rest of her piece I had to remind myself where we were and who, who is this about?

        Sometimes, we don’t need a new idea, just one with sustenance.

        And I’m really enjoying Team Emily’s new tactic of playing the “happier” “lighter” “lovelier” story of the pair, especially after the cattiness demonstrated on their behalf earlier. (A little niceness goes a long way) But if Trying is about unrequited love…. where is the love? Show me the love in the story? I am a gushy romantic, I will always gravitate toward the joy, but nowhere in Trying did I really believe anybody fell in love with anybody, unless there was some unicorn that showed up somewhere around Wednesday which I missed completely… I might have to go re-read…

        • Tom says:

          Wait wait wait, you have a problem with fancy words now?
          How did you deal with Trying? Did Emily explain it to you? Or did she write you a special grade-9 version? With pictures of the funny little man…? Did you like the funny little man? Wasn’t he funny!

        • Emily's BFF says:

          As I only have a grade nine education, I totally couldn’t make it through all those words you strung together there.

          Pssst. All that light and love stuff? Somebody’s mom began commenting. Somebody’s mom is a super sweet nice lady. Somebody’s mom likes friendly happy things.

          BFFs, on the other hand…

  41. Jerome says:

    Muscle Man had potential, but the author went for shock value instead. Perhaps it was intended for readers to not connect with any of the characters, perhaps not. I just didn’t care if the kid died at the end. Was I supposed to?

    Trying is a terrifying glimpse into the mind of an all too common urban woman. “Desperation is a stinky cologne” … can’t remember where the quote comes from?

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