TWA #16 – Agoraphobia – JUDGEMENT!

16-judgeThis week in the arena we had two short stories showing characters who had a little bit of trouble stepping outside of their homes.

Well…maybe that’s an understatement.

These characters hadn’t left their homes in years if not decades.

And that is just what the arena wanted for this agoraphobic challenge.

Tony Southcotte delivered: “Dust Bunnies.”

Scotch Frye gave us: “Seventeen Ways Your Home Can Kill You.”

Which tale won? Let’s check in with the judges.

Ellie Ann is a New York Times and USA Today best selling author, as well as a mother of three. Arena denizens and podcast fans know her for her fantastic work with The Silver Sickle, which you can find on the banner ad to the right. You can also hear her talk about her new project, The Tale of Frida, here on the Human Echoes Podcast.

Here’s my verdict and notes…


“Dust Bunnies” by Tony Southcotte


First reactions: Whoa, hello there big paragraph. Not a good way to start off–white space is good, white space is friendly. Split that big ass mofo into like two or three paragraphs.


Really excellent writing. Told so much about this character in so little space. I’m hooked.


Oh man, this internal dialogue is fantastic…well paced, well worded.


“The house had an otherworldly smell, due to that woman’s Ellis Island view toward cats.” – Ha! perfect.


Some redundancy here in the word choice, such as ‘was’ or ‘thought’ twice in one sentence.


Love the inciting incident! The exact thing he’s been craving!


“She sent a text of the image to her oafish husband and then to the doctor. For good measure, she decided to post it to Facebook.” – OMG. hahahaha! This is perfect.


Really loving this so far.


No, Gabe! You can’t just pick up extraterrestrial material like that!!


Now I’m feeling anxious.


“Ascended the mountain.” – Ha!


Blue powder. Nooooooo!


“The ashes of her dead cats.” Such a great place to remind us she’s used to the death of her loved ones.


OH MY GOD. This is horrible. Brilliantly horrible.


What a fantastic story. Everything I want out of a short story. Great pacing, I understood the goals for each character, interesting internal dialogue and voice…very entertaining!


“Seventeen Ways Your Home Can Kill You” by Scotch Frye


First reaction: love the title.


Gosh, great first line. Instant tension and mystery.


Enjoy the back story, but I don’t know about that last paragraph, regarding her memories. Not very concise or clear, just confusing.


Nice second section.


More backstory.


“Sometimes even saving yourself can kill you.” – Is this foreshadowing?


Great paragraph about how her mom was pregnant.


I’m concerned that everything is backstory. It needs to be in the present.


I love all of the mother’s sayings.


C’mon, pull this story into the present. Dream-scapes are cheating.


This is subjective opinion, but I really don’t like dream-telling, unless it’s a HUGE part of the plot. They seem so cliche to me.


This story, though the writing is good, could have been ten times more powerful if it was written out in a scene, not all internal dialogue. One or two sections could’ve been internal dialogue, but the rest needs to be present tense.


Paint over the windows. Very creepy.


Who is this girl? Someone obsessed with fairy tales, someone with no backbone, she’s like a ghost. I think her voice is very, very young. Like five or six years old. Actually, more like three or four. Even six year olds are more self-actualized than this. The characters are confusing, and I missed a lot of tension that the setting provided. I didn’t understand the motivations for any of the characters. Perhaps it would’ve been stronger if it was from the mother’s perspective.


I think this story missed its mark, the characters, setting, and plot just aren’t quite there yet.


Verdict: Dust Bunnies!


Sub-Verdict: Don’t stay in your house too long or you will go bat shit crazy and die!


Rich Alix is our second judge. He is a patron of The Human Echoes Podcast, and an all-around awesome guy. He is the voice of the common man in this contest, and here is his judgment:


This week we look at those held prisoner in their own homes by fear and anxiety. Is it all in their heads or are they justifiably frightened? Lets find out.


“Seventeen Ways Your Home Can Kill You” by Scotch Frye – First off, fantastic name for a writer. If it’s not a nom de plume, go thank your parents.


This story left me with a serious conundrum. You see, its an absolutely beautiful story that seems like it could actually happen. I really felt for the main character, her thoughts seemed simple but honest. The child-like descriptions of such a dysfunctional home were great. The way that we are given hints to the things that our MC doesn’t quite understand (and therefore attributes to magic) but that are obvious to us is fantastic. I liked her rationale behind staying inside and the way that, ultimately, it was love that kept her trapped.


What I didn’t really enjoy were the interspersed methods of dying in the house. They seemed distracting, like commercials I breezed through to get back to the story. I understand the way they build, and the last one is nice, but I really think that the bad outweighs the good in this case. I even went as far as to copy the story text, remove the ways to die, and when I read that version the ending hit me even harder.


Without those interjections, this was a winner against almost any competitor but with them? I don’t know.


“Dust Bunnies” by Tony Southcotte – I liked this story a lot. I liked the hoarder/compulsive shopper aspect to our agoraphobe. The relationship between Dottie and Gabe was very well done, the marriage broken under so much baggage and the love smothered and buried under all the material goods was poetic in a very tragic way.


Dottie’s sections provoked equal parts pity and revulsion. Perfect given the prompt. Gabe’s comment about her: “Ellis Island view towards cats” made me laugh. The descriptions of the meteorite and the dust were very good, loved the idea of the dust feeding off the moisture, and its reactions were excellent.


The part with Dottie and the ax towards the end was very well written, such as the details of how she can’t handle the ax and gets winded so easily. The part with the cats I was kind of waiting for, though I am wondering if you cut parts out of that section. I was bracing myself for a description of the corpse post-feline feeding.


The parts that didn’t work for me were pretty minor. The opening line packs a punch but seems out of place in this story. I was looking for the .45 to make an appearance later on or for him to mention it somewhere. When he leaves the shed, he carefully averts his eyes but the very next line he chances a glance at her. That seemed a little odd to me. There were just a few inconsistencies here and there, though that seems like a strong word for what they were.


I can see how this is part of something much bigger. It really feels like it sets the stage well for some serious stuff to go down. I will be very eager to read it when it is complete.


I know it seems like I say this every week (and that is really a testament to the quality of the stories we have been seeing in the arena so thank you for that), but this was a very tough decision. The deciding factor for me this week was emotion. One story hit me just a little harder and while part of me really didn’t want to vote for it, it really stayed with me. That story was:


“Seventeen Ways Your Home Can Kill You” by Scotch Frye


We have a split decision from the judges!

That means that you, the readers, get to be the tiebreaker. So lets check in on our poll:


[poll id=”12″]

And there you have it folks! “Seventeen Ways Your Home Can Kill You,” wins with the popular vote breaking the tie!

Battle Agoraphobia is in the books.

Thanks so much to Scotch Frye and condolences to Tony.

Be sure to come back next week when we’ve got the greatest show on earth on our minds…

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One Comment

  1. as i told tony, this was a narrow victory over a worthy opponent.

    i want to thank the arena for the opportunity to throw myself on the mercies of the masses. i had a blast writing this, and seeing tony’s take on the prompt.

    i also want to thank the judges, who were tough but fair, and who gave me a lot to think about. i truly feel like i’m walking away from this experience a better writer (though whether that’s true or not still remains to be seen). so thank you for that.

    finally, a great big extra special thank you to everyone who took the time to leave a comment on my story. feedback keeps writers writing, so thank you for making this experience all the richer.

    i can’t wait to see what the arena puts up next!

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