Labor Day decided to throw the arena into chaos. Judgement on a Tuesday? What is this madness? We sincerely apologize for the delays that this week is facing. Due to the upcoming tournament our schedules have been tweaked, set on fire, chopped to bits, and finally spread as mulch. Great things to come, but first, judgement.
It doesn’t matter if its jewels, gold, or battle plans, heists have a way of intriguing people. It’s a way to focus on bad people being very competent at their jobs and making us cheer for them. We want the bad guys to rip off the evil bank. We want the rebels to escape with the schematics. Either way, we see determined people using guile and skill to pull off amazing capers. Our authors were tasked to write such a heist, and boy did they ever go in different directions.
Tony Southcotte went after the ice in “Antwerp Bound.”
Alicia Aringdale took us to a different time in “A Stolen Heart.”
Let’s see what our judges have to say.
Who doesn’t like a heist story? The planning, the action, the obligatory twist? Some of my favorite books and movies are centered on the theft of some valuable or another. What did our authors try to get their greedy little hands on this week? Let’s take a look:
“A Stolen Heart” by Alicia Aringdale – I liked the setting chosen for this story, it reminds me of a Three Musketeer story. Lords and priests and fighting from horseback had me hooked from the beginning.
I enjoyed the dynamic between Remy and Eleanor. He makes a half-hearted attempt to tell us that the gold is his main motivation, but it is clear from the start that he wants her to be happy, even if that means kidnapping a prince and being an outlaw for the rest of his life.
The action of the ambush doesn’t disappoint. They drawing off of the guards, the ambush within the ambush, the binding of the prince, it all adds up to a nice little see saw of power and we really aren’t sure how it’s going to end until it actually ends.
If there was a part of the story that I didn’t like, it is only the length of it. I wanted more. The arena is cruel in many ways, and many times it is by denying us a longer tale. The climax, especially, could have been drawn out to allow the reader to savor the multiple motivations and machinations that are playing out. Not that I don’t like it how it is, I just imagine how much more it could be given another thousand words or so.
“Antwerp Bound” by Tony Southcotte – I enjoyed the way that this story opens up mid-heist. It really sets the stage for what kind of world our story is set against, what skills the characters have, and what level of heist we can expect.
I liked the banter between Briggs and Jamie, they easiness they have with each other tells us a lot about their history.
I liked the angle of having their jobs given to them by someone they had no information on. The way that even after months (years?) of working for the bald man, Briggs and Jamie are still speculating on who he really is. The conspiracy by diamond mining companies was a nice touch.
The climactic caper was well done. I was actually surprised by the bald man’s double cross. Briggs fall felt right, as did Jamie’s rampage after. That she stole from the people who stole what she was there to steal felt so much like a caper movie, that back and forth exchange.
I had a couple issues with this story and they really weren’t big. One was the odd details we got through the story. MMA moves were named that mean little to anyone outside of the sport and that could have easily been replaced by a short description. The story of the previous diamond theft (insurance fraud?) was a little out of place as well and I’m not sure we needed it.
Still a good story and one more like I was expecting from the “Heist” prompt.
This week our authors conceived of two wildly different capers but both managed to nail the prompt squarely. The two stories each contained all the hallmarks of a great heist story: banter, bravado, twists, and of course loot. It wouldn’t be The Writer’s Arena if it wasn’t a tough choice, and this week was no exception. In the end I had to vote for the story that I thought was a little more well done, one that felt a little more polished. That story is “A Stolen Heart” by Alicia Aringdale.
Donald Jacob Uitvlugt is our second judge this week. On top of being the current TWA Champion, 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 think that a lot of the thrill from reading a heist story comes from vicarious pleasure. None of us would ever do something so wicked as rob a bank, but for the span of the story we sure can think it’s fun to pull it off. Another delightful prompt for the Arena.
Let’s see how the combatants dealt with the idea. A few brief words on the two stories before I move on to my vote.
“A Stolen Heart” – I’m not entirely sure what I was expecting when I saw this week’s prompt, but this story was definitely a surprise to me. I like it when authors take the prompt in surprising directions. My wife and I recently watched The Man in the Iron Mask, and this story definitely had a Dumas-esque action-adventure feel to it.
There are some things I might quibble about (e.g., would a shot from a musket ball really take out a wooden carriage wheel?) but the story was a load of fun throughout. A very, very strong entry.
“Antwerp Bound” – This I think was a little more what I was expecting when I read the prompt. It has many of the classic tropes of a caper story, though writ in a smaller scale: There’s the beautiful and competent woman. Thrilling action scenes demonstrating the cleverness of the criminals. The addictive nature of the crimes: the criminals need one last score. There’s the betrayal at the end. The classic tropes were there, but executed with Tony’s usual panache.
Unfortunately, I don’t think the story sticks the dismount for my tastes. Mr. Bald’s betrayal seems inevitable, but I really wish we could have known more as to why he did what he did. The action of the final scenes is a little bit muddy in my head (though that might just be me). A clearer endgame and a little more focus on developing Mr. Bald as a character would have made this a much stronger story.
So the heists have been pulled. Two strong entries. The only thing left is to cast my vote. In the end, I have to vote for the story I enjoyed just that little bit more. This week I’m voting for
“A Stolen Heart” by Alicia Aringdale.
There you have it folks! Alicia Aringdale has taken the judge’s vote and is victorious. Let’s see if the audience agrees.
Indeed she did! Alicia has won all three phases of The Writer’s Arena and is our champion for the 87th battle! Congratulations Alicia!
We will be back tomorrow with more stories and information about the second Writer’s Arena Tournament.