TWA #25 – To and Fro – JUDGEMENT

To and FroWe’ve traveled long and hard roads to get to this Friday afternoon. Some of you waded through the foggy battlefields of office life, the taste of printer toner and passive aggression heavy in the air. Others, through the dark inroads of their own minds. All of these paths unite in a single nexus: The Writer’s Arena. We will reward your sojourning ways by crowning a champion in this first all-women’s Writer’s Arena bout.

Our writer’s were tasked with writing about a character who goes on a journey and then returns home.

Becca Elizabeth took us on a trip through the underground rock scene in her story “Hey, Little Songbird.”

Representing the arena for just her second time is Hannah-Elizabeth Thompson. Her story, “Flight,” takes very different path into your heart.

Let’s see what the judges have to say.

Rich Alix is our first 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 are his thoughts:

Not all those who wander are lost, but many a good story involves a journey. How did our authors handle the traveler’s tales? Let’s see…

 

“Hey, Little Songbird” by Becca Elizabeth – This was an interesting story. Not quite what I was expecting but very well done.

 

The main character here was great. I appreciated how the backstory was worked in here, it didn’t feel like an info dump but came across instead as more of a personal reflection. He is embarking on a new tour, trying to regain some of what he lost, it is only natural that he should look back at how he got there.

 

I liked the idea that he had to really psyche himself up just getting to the show. He had to turn on his “swagger”, something that would have come naturally in his prime is now another affect to be used as needed. It really helps to show that he has matured, isn’t still the cocky young stud he used to be.

 

The dressing room scene had me a little confused. I am not 100% sure what the writing on the wall was meant to represent. I did like how the more he looked at it, and the more he drank, the more he began to see. I only wish it showed up a little more explicitly later.

 

The section of the story during the performance was well done. The nervousness and apprehension about performing in front of a crowd not like his usuals and just performing in general mixed with the comfort of what amounts to falling back into old habits, felt right. I am not, not have I ever been, a performer but this was written in a way that made me understand.

 

The occult flavor that seeps in during the concert and is hammered home during the meeting with the boss didn’t seem to fit in with the way the story was going to me. It added a layer of mystery to the story for sure but I might have liked a more mundane ending. I do like how he finally comes to realize that he really doesn’t need to be the rock star anymore, that he has matured and is ready to take things as they come; I just wish it could have gotten there a little differently.

 

“Flight” by Hannah-Elizabeth – The last time Ms Thompson represented the arena she did her best to ruin sweets for us all with her tales of deadly fungus and candied pancreases so it was with a twinge of trepidation that I began to read this story. I am happy to say that my fears were completely unfounded.

 

The way that this story is told is fantastic. The tone, the word choices, the voice all fit very well with our main character. As with our challenger’s tale, the backstory here is worked in without dumping on us. Given the death of a loved one, it is only natural to be nostalgic and look back on how you met, how you came to be friends.

 

I especially liked the way the actual meeting is told “The day I met Dimitri…the hour I met Dimitri…the minute…the second” To me, it really lends a lot of weight to this event. When our MC meets Dimitiri, it is a big deal to her. So much so, she can tell you exactly what was going on down to the second. This in turn means that losing this man that she has come to depend on is also a big deal.

 

The journey in this story has a few meanings to our heroine. Superficially it is to release the birds and complete that step in Dimitri’s plans, in actuality it has more to do with releasing Dimitri himself. She needs to learn how to let someone go that she cared about and given what we know about her, this might be the very first time she does it.

 

After panic attacks, accidentally discovered voice recordings, and the shocking realization that Dimitri’s favorite bird can’t even fly, Daumier is bewildered and emotionally broken. She stubbornly believes that there was no way Dimitri could have loved Hippy if she didn’t fly. Hippy had no purpose if she couldn’t fly. With Daumier’s physical condition the connections are clear.

 

I absolutely loved the ending of this story. It felt completely real. Daumier is struggling with her feelings about Dimitri’s death and how her world is changed. She feels angry and abandoned all over again. She isn’t in a place to really appreciate the time they had together yet but we get the sense that maybe someday she will. I may be reading too much into it, but the last line of the story is perfect in my mind; “I returned home to feel like a useless, hungry bird, stuck in the snow without the gift of flight” She feels like a useless, hungry, cold, flightless bird without Dimitri. But there is hope because she returned home.

 

This weeks battle was amazing. I feel spoiled that I get to choose from such wonderful stories. Both were fantastic, but one both embraced the prompt more and stayed with me longer.

 

My vote this week goes to “Flight” by Hannah-Elizabeth

 

Donald Jacob Uitvlugt is our second judge this week. Donald strives to write what he calls “haiku fiction,” stories that are small in scope but big on impact. Find out more about haiku fiction here. He welcomes comments at his blog http://haikufiction.blogspot.com or via Twitter @haikufictiondju).

I appreciate all the kind words in the comments this week about the difficulty of being a TWA judge, but it’s really not that bad. All we have to do is read two awesome stories each week and decide which is better. No problem. My wife hardly ever complains about my restless nights wrestling with my decisions. (And trust me — no danger of turning into Simon Cowell here! I don’t think that Rich or Ellie Ann are volunteering for the position either…)

 

Two very strong stories this round, both mythic in their own way. As is my custom, I’m going to make a few comments before moving on to my vote.
“Hey, Little Songbird” –A fascinating retelling of the Orpheus myth. While I was reading it, I kept imagining the main character as played by Bill Nighy along the lines of his character in Love Actually. I even got a Brit Rock vibe off the story. I was very impressed by the atmosphere and the setting, the hints of a masquerade in the Underworld.
Visually, I could have used some more dialogue. (The “shape” of stories is something I’m trying to work more on in my own writing.) The long paragraphs in the first part of the story were a little hard for me to read at first. Perhaps a bit of dialogue with himself, just to vary the paragraph lengths? A very minor quibble with a solid story.

 

“Flight” — This story took us in a very different direction, with a very different sort of mythology and a very different kind of journey. Rather than a re-imaging of a classic myth, I read this story as a new urban myth, a parable of loss and alienation. The emotions are more subtle here, but no less real.
I do wonder whether this story may have been better served by shifting it to the third-person perspective rather than first-person. I think that third-person may have better let the reader draw their own conclusions about the main character’s emotional state(s). (I do want to put my own bias against the first-person pov on the record — I find third-person paradoxically more intimate than first.)
When I read a first-person narrative like this, there’s a part of me that always wonders how the narrator is coloring events by their own perceptions — a suspicion of a self-serving narrative, if I can put it that way. I don’t think that’s what’s going on here, but the point of view choice plants that niggle of a doubt in my mind.
A small criticism of a fine story that well captures some very subtle emotions.

 

In the end I have to vote for the story that had the most emotional impact on me, and for me this week that story is:
“Hey, Little Songbird” by Becca Elizabeth.

 

A tie between judges! This means that we default to what you, our plebian hordes of incredible readers, have to say. Let’s look at how the voting turned out:

 [poll id=”22″]

Well, what do we have here? Could it truly be the first tie in Arena history? This is unprecedented! Hannah and Becca of the Elizabeth persuasion have entered into authorial gridlock. Ladies, please take a bow. Not only did you create one of the best rounds The Writer’s Arena has ever seen, but you split our audience and judges right down the middle. Congratulations on your work!

New rules may have to spawn from this. Perhaps it is time to institute a 500 word flash fiction sudden death victory round? If you have ideas for a tie breaker situation, add them to the comments section.

 


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6 Comments

  1. As a newcomer to the arena, I was wondering if there has ever been a tie or if there was tie-breaking protocol. I was thinking there might be an emergency third judge to break the tie, but 500 word sudden death actually would be pretty awesome. Well done, ladies!

  2. Hey 🙂 Firstly, whoops, sorry we broke the Arena!!

    Massive props to Hannah – this truly was a battle. Not sure what we do next – I’d be honoured to go up against you again.

    Thanks to all the commenters, it’s always good to have such detailed, well thought out feedback. Thanks also to whoever chose my story’s image, it’s perfect!

  3. See!! This is why we need the bear! Perfect tiebreaker.

  4. …we have to wrestle a bear? Do I look like Chuck Norris??

    • Chuck Norris doesn’t wrestle bears. Bears volunteer to be his rugs.

      Definitely like the idea of a sudden death round. “Sudden” being 48 hours? 24?

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