Fans of violent wordsmithery rejoice! The Writer’s Arena has returned. The arena slumbered long and deep, dreaming of all the red ink that would be spilled in 2015. Now it is time to determine the first fallen story.
This week we were seeing double.
No, it wasn’t the six vodka tonics we had at lunch, but an attack of the clones. Our writers had to write a story about a character and their double.
Feels good to be back in the saddle here. Attack of the Clones brings us back into the arena, let’s see what we have going on:
“Dolly” by Rachel Henderson – Well that didn’t take long, first story back and we’re already eating people…
I really liked this story. The way it is told from the boys point of view is great. Right off, we are clued in that this isn’t a normal kid in a normal house. The way he references the kids on TV and their parents is our first clue. As the day wears on and we see just how alone he is we start to wonder.
I thought it was a nice touch that while he talks about how much he enjoys his “freedom” and how he can do anything he wants, when he falls off his bike he is forced to face that alone isn’t always free.
The return of the woman marks where this story really gets weird, maybe too weird. From her outfit, to the child, to the dinner scene, I had absolutely no idea what to make of any of it at first. Some things are cleared up as we go, some things aren’t. I wonder if some of the things that aren’t need to be there at all. That would be my only complaint with this story.
Micah’s anger at being left alone is understandable but comes across here a little too one dimensional. He dislikes the new boy because the woman likes him better and Micah is jealous and he doesn’t even realize it. In a story like this, it almost seems too normal.
The ending here was unexpected even if it may have been very subtly hinted at. It was also deeply disturbing. Thank you.
“Self Reflection” by Joseph Devon – This story had me hooked pretty much from the start. As the man watches the other him travel through the mundane morning rituals that are so familiar to both I started trying to figure out the catch. Which is exactly what our MC is doing.
I love stories that can draw the reader in so quickly and completely. Between the intriguing premise and the simple beauty present in the descriptions of the mundane I could all but feel the newspaper and taste the coffee.
The instant where the two men make eye contact is presented so matter-of-factly that I almost missed it the first time. The tension that builds in those few moments before they speak is fantastic. The mystery only deepens as they exchange info and compare wallet contents.
I enjoyed how they actually sat together and worked on the crosswords for a while before the secret is revealed. Its almost as if the puzzles are a competition and whoever wins is the “real” man.
The ending was good. I’m not sure what I expected, but I’m happy that it wasn’t something more gimmicky than what it turned out to be. The idea of a thought exercise come to life was unique and well executed.
Another fine week in the arena. The time off hasn’t dulled the pens of the competitors, that’s for sure! Happy to have read both stories and as always thankful to have the chance to do so. When it came time to pick who got my vote I really concentrated on which of the stories fulfilled the spirit of the prompt. This week, that story is: “Self Reflection” by Joseph Devon.
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).
The Arena is certainly back with a vengeance this week. The holiday hiatus was nice, especially seeing how a writing contest has inspired creativity in other fields (Editor’s Note: Donald is referring to the awesome fan art that we showcased over the break inspired by Ragnaroach, Illuminating Illuminatis, Blue Swan, and Daisy Daisy. Check ’em out!) (Oooh, Writer’s Arena art contest, anyone?) (Editor’s Note: That last bit about an art contest was from Donald. We know this was confusing. Sorry for all the parentheses).
But I’m here for the stories, and it’s great to be back into the swing of things.
Doppelgangers. There’s such a long tradition of the trope in horror fiction, dating back at least to Edgar Allan Poe’s “William Wilson.” The theme gives a lot of room to explore the darker sides of ourselves or of human nature, or to laugh at our foibles as seen through a fun-house mirror. The stories this week took very different tacks with the prompt. As is my custom, I’m going to make a few comments on each before casting my vote.
“Dolly” by Rachel Henderson – There is a polished surrealism to this story that I really enjoy. The first scenes remind me of a Ray Bradbury tale (perhaps hints of “There Will Come Soft Rains“?), which is about the highest compliment I can pay a short story. What I perhaps like the most about the story is what is left unsaid. The hint that the face in the window is a previous iteration of Micah. The fact that we really don’t know what the woman is doing. The imagery of the dolls in the tea room; are they all dolls, or are some of them previous versions of the child? While the ending is perhaps a little more ambiguous than I would ideally prefer, echoes of this story linger in my soul long after reading. Well done.
“Self Reflection” by Joseph Devon – The prose of this story is so smooth. It really draws the reader in, unsure of where the story is going to lead. There is a delightful Mobius strip twist to the story, the end leading back to the beginning. But in thinking about the story, I feel the title unfortunately is a little too accurate: I feel as if I’m psychically eavesdropping on a moment of a writer’s self-reflection. I didn’t feel much emotional connection to what was going on. I suppose that I was expecting a bit stronger of an epiphany, one that I could also apply to myself.
In the end, there can be only one. I will always cast my vote for the story which made the greatest impact on me as a reader. And for me this week that story was: “Dolly” by Rachel Henderson.
As is tradition around here, the judges never agree on anything. We have another split decision! When this happens, it is all up to you, the audience, to determine a winner. Let’s see how the voting went:
Looks like a landslide victory for Rachel Henderson! Congratulations! You are the winner of the first TWA of 2015.
Our first battle of the year is in the books! Tune in next week when we ponder the fourth dimension.
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