TWA Tournament Round 5 – A Picture is Worth… – JUDGEMENT!

TWA 58 battle card-01Greetings readers, well-wishers, and internet bots. The fall chill grows colder every night, and the pumpkin spice everything is poised to strike the arena concourse. That said, the literary hammer has been dropped in this contest and it is time to see who will be moving on to the finals of The Writer’s Arena Tournament.

In this round a picture is worth several thousand words. We were dragged into some dark places through the lenses of our author’s creations. These fascinating stories took these frozen moments in time and made them into incredible narratives. Let’s take a look at the stories.

Joseph Devon spied on our future with “Visible Image.”

Donald Jacob Uitvlugt told a story in stills with “Snapshots.”

Let’s see what our 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:

Another tournament battle means another set of incredible stories to read. I, as always, am grateful I get to read them! This week the arena flipped an old saying on its head and asked out authors to write a couple thousand words about a picture, or a camera. Let’s see how they handled it:

 

“Snapshots” by Donald Jacob Uitvlugt – I am not sure how to even talk about this story. First off, I have to say, “Wow.” I was blown away by the approach this story took to the prompt.

 

I love how we are given pieces of the story in each photo. The economy of the descriptions worked fantastically to both show us what to focus on and add just a touch of mystery to the story.

 

I was surprised at how much each character was able to be fleshed out in such short parts. We really get a feel for how Mr Tobin acts towards not just his family but the world in general. We see how much Mrs Tobin acts like a stereotypical battered wife but also how the way she acts towards Nicholas changes throughout. I really enjoyed the progression of all the characters actually. Nick’s descent and fall, The love turned to fear & hate from his sister and mother. Wonderful.

 

The Ken and Barbie scenes worked well in a couple of ways to me. They provided a way to show how Nicholas was planning and pretending before acting out (maybe, there is some interpretation to be made here) and they also serve as a way for his mother and sister to see what he is doing, to reveal his secret.

 

The supernatural aspect that gets added at the end was just the frosting on a delicious cake. It had to be there to allow us some closure on Nicholas’ story otherwise the story would have held up on its own.

 

Probably the best part of the story is how it is open to personal interpretation for the details. Two people could fill in the gaps in completely different ways and it would still be a great story.

 

“Visible Image” by Joseph Devon – It seems both authors decided to go with supernatural cameras this week. Not too surprising given the history of our site, but still a bit of a surprise.

 

Mr Devon is not known for his horror stories but after reading this one I wonder if he shouldn’t write more in that genre. This is Hitchcock, this is The Twilight Zone, this is instilling terror without violence, this is fantastic.

 

This story seems to fall along the “greedy guy gets what’s coming to him” plotline for me, but in a new and inventive way.

 

The vault was done wonderfully. I may have just been slow, but I didn’t catch on that “Don’t touch” meant the camera until it was too late. If I was that salvage guy, I would have been in trouble also. That slow realization that there wasn’t a missing treasure or a (normally) insane person but that the camera was being imprisoned there was wonderful.

 

The way that the camera works was great also. Starting off with random photos that seem normal and then progressing to shots that were not physically possible was incredible. The idea that he is being stalked by the camera or by some otherworldly being who is using the camera to communicate with him floored me.

 

The constant reappearance of the camera was perfect too. It added just another level of torment to his plight. Especially at the end, when he knows he can’t get rid of it but can’t stop trying. In the last scene he drops the camera, then in the next line rearranges it around his neck to pull his legs in closer. Wonderfully written.

 

 

This is one of those weeks where I wish I could abstain from voting. Especially during the tournament. Both of these stories, both of these authors deserve to win and move on. Unfortunately, now more than ever, I need to choose only one. This week I give my vote to the story that elevated the prompt the most and showed us something new. That is “Snapshots” by Donald Jacob Uitvlugt

 

Danyelle (aka D.M. Slate) resides in Colorado, where she’s lived for most of her life. She attended college at the University of Northern Colorado completing a business degree, and now works as a financial analyst.

D.M. Slate’s first sci-fi horror novella was released in 2009, followed by dark fiction novels in 2010 and 2012. In 2013 Slate produced her first audio-story.  The following year her second audio-story won the Wicked Woman Writer’s Challenge hosted by HorrorAddicts.net, earning her the title of 2014’s Most Wicked Woman Writer.

Additional information can be found at www.dm-slate.com

Cameras have the ability to capture a single moment in time and preserve that, forever.  Often times those are images that conjure deep emotional reactions.  This week the authors were both equipped with cameras as their battle tool, and I’m eager to see the heinous photos that develop from their efforts.

 

“Visible Image” by Joseph Devon – I was drawn into this story right from the get-go.  The anticipation of finding out what is hidden inside this steel room sets the pace well.  When Henry finally gets the door to open, only to find an empty room, I can understand his disappointment with the situation.  I was surprised by his lack of concern about the don’t touch warning on the walls, as he seemed to scoop up the only tangible items in the room and take them – without giving it a second thought.  The pictures of the previous house owners had me curious about their demise, and after reading it through to the end, I never felt like I got closure on that part of the storyline.

Once Henry is back at the hotel the character of the camera begins to come through, as it taunts him with photos taken from skewed perspectives and unrealistic heights.  The logical part of Henry’s brain tells him that the camera is malfunctioning, but the fact that the strap keeps ending up around his neck – no matter where he places the camera – creates a feeling of paranoia and dread.  This worked well for me as I would probably be freaking out about this creepy camera, too, in much the same way that Henry does.

I liked Henry’s emotional reactions to the photos as the story developed.  At first there was curiosity and impatience as the photos were ejected from the camera and the images slowly came to life.  Then came the feeling of hesitance and impending doom, which led to fear and paranoia every time a photo was ejected.  By the end, Henry didn’t even bother to look at the pictures.  Knowing that the camera was indestructible, and it had now “attached” itself to his neck, there was no escaping its relentless picture taking.

Henry’s descent into madness was quick and painfully beautiful.  Well done, Mr. Devon.

 

“Snapshots” by Donald Jacob Uitvlugt – The creative format of Snapshots drew me to it, right away.  The title says it all – in this story the reader is shown a series of snapshots taken over time.  And as the old cliché goes, a picture is worth a thousand words.

The story begins with an introduction to the Tobin family at Christmas time. Within just a few photos the personalities of both mother and father start to come across strong.  Mr. Tobin’s abuse is evident, and a dark side of Nicholas comes out as he re-creates scenarios with the dolls and small dead animals.  Then, Mr. Tobin dies.  I’m following the story at this point, and I’m drawn in and curious about the cause of his death.

By the time his sister finds the shoebox of photos it’s evident that Nicholas is dangerous, and/or delusional.  The use of the double exposures and the light/dark spots that appear in certain snapshots has me wondering if Nicholas is crazy, or if he can really see the spirit of his father encouraging him to do these horrible things.  Although I like the format of the story, I wish that there was more information from the perspective of the characters to help me follow the storyline better in this section.

Through the acts of exhuming the father’s corpse, killing the entire family, and burning the house to the ground – it leads me to believe that this is the end to the story, the closure that Nicholas needed.

But then, Nicholas is murdered.  And so is the detective… as the unburned camera sat on his desk.  Great plot twist, Mr. Uitvlugt.

 

This week the authors brought two very different stories based upon the same piece of equipment, a camera.  Yet in both stories the camera became more like a character rather than a piece of equipment.  The storytelling styles were very different in this battle, and in the end, I had to go with the one that drew me in and moved forward at a faster pace.  My vote this week is for Visible Image by Joseph Devon.

It looks like we have a split decision. That means that it comes down to your votes. Let’s see who won.

Donald Jacob Uitvlugt is the winner! Congratulations Donald. You are the going to be part of the first Writer’s Arena Championship! Amazing work.

Be sure to tune in tomorrow as David Webb takes on Arena denizen Tony Southcotte. By the end of next week, we will be in the championship round.

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