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WCT - [COMPETITION OVERHAUL - NEED IDEAS] The Writing Competition Thread


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All right, I wrote this story a few months ago. I know that's against the rules, but I wrote it and did nothing with it, and I want to get some mileage out of it. If you want to disqualify it, that's fine.

Luck

By Jamil Ragland

493,394. Brian repeated the number I his head, breaking it down and adding its parts together to form a new whole. Something with a nice ring to it. He grabbed the receipt from his purchase of a burger and fries and scribbled the number on the back. 493,394. A palindrome. He couldn’t remember where he’d seen it, but it had seized his imagination. Big and symmetrical, perfect for mining lottery numbers. He added the three and the four together. Seven, July, the month Anna was born in, three months before her due date. He examined the numbers he’d formed out of the original. They didn’t have that intangible something he was looking for, but he knew he would coax it out eventually.

“Are you ready to go?” Charlotte asked, walking up beside him. Anna was strapped to her chest in the black carrier that Charlotte’s mother bought for them. I’ll be surprised if I ever see Brian wearing this, she’d remarked at the baby shower.

“Yeah. Yeah, I’m ready,” he said, his eyes still fixed on the receipt. He jammed it into his pocket and took Charlotte’s hand. “Let’s go.” The mall was empty, save for a few bands of preteens that rumbled by. It was Tuesday, a predictably slow night. Charlotte needed invitations, and she didn’t want to contend with college boys looking for conquests and old people complaining that things were cheaper and better quality in their day.

“Wanna try the Hallmark store?” Brian asked.

“That’s upstairs. CVS is right here. They sell invitations too.”

“But Hallmark has better stuff.”

“Brian, I just want to get these invitations and go home. Anna needs her bath.”

“I don’t know why you brought her with us anyway,” he muttered.

“Because I don’t want to bother my mother to watch her, okay? She baby-sits her all day while we’re at work. She doesn’t need us to take her evenings away too.”

“Okay, you’re right, sorry,” Brian raised his hands defensively. His eyes dragged across the Hallmark store to the mall’s package store next door. Even the supposedly upscale whine sellers had lottery machines. Gambling and alcohol were eternally linked.

Charlotte was holding a handful of envelopes, mixing and matching them with three sets of invitations she couldn’t choose between. Anna was sleeping. In the stillness of the store, Brian could hear her breath whistling through her little nose. She was wearing a pink jump suit with matching cap, mittens and booties. She didn’t need a jacket in the unseasonably warm December they were having. The good weather was welcomed by Brian. It meant they didn’t have to be hunkered down in the house, and he could keep showing Anna the world she’d been missing in the hospital.

“Which one?” Charlotte asked, fanning out the three invitations in one hand and four different envelopes in the other.

“The one with the snowman on the front. And the red envelopes.”

“That’s kind of plain. I like the blue envelopes.”

“It’s a Christmas party. Green and red are the colors of the season,” he said.

“What do you think, Anna?” she asked. Anna’s scrunched up expression relaxed a little.

“See, she agrees with me,” he said. Charlotte relented, taking the cards and envelopes Brian chose to the counter. He gasped at the price on the register.

“Sixteen dollars won’t kill us,” she scolded him. “Besides, you chose them.”

Anna was still sleeping after they’d strapped her into her car seat. Brian kept the radio low, even though he knew nothing short of hunger could wake her. Charlotte was staring out of her window. Her obsessive compulsive disorder compelled her to count the streetlights as they passed. He could see her eyes lock on each pole as the orange light spilled into the car.

“How many so far?”

“Forty nine.”

The number rushed back into Brian’s mind. 493,394. It was no coincidence that Charlotte’s number had reminded him of his. Brian didn’t believe in coincidences. He glanced at the dashboard clock. 8:48. They wouldn’t reach home fast enough for him to play at his favorite spot, the gas station nearby. Screw it, the numbers are the same no matter where I play, he thought. “I’m getting off at this next exit.”

“For what?” Charlotte asked in the darkness between street lights.

Brian hesitated. “I need something.”

“I bet you do.”

He hated when she said that. It was the phrase she used to dismiss him, and she’d mastered the sarcastic delivery of it. She only used it when he spoke about playing the lottery. If we hit this, we’ll be cruising baby, he’d say. I bet we will. This is the number, I can feel it. I bet it is. Their lack of money was an ironic joke they made to each other before Anna was born. Now, it seeped into their conversations, their lovemaking. Anna had a twin named debt, and it grew faster than she did.

“This is the one, Charlotte. I know I’ve said that before. You gotta believe me, just this one more time.”

She sighed. “You’re making me lose count.”

“But baby-“

“Don’t ‘baby’ me! I’m sick of it!” she yelled suddenly. “We live in my mother’s house, your daughter sleeps in the same crib I did when I was a baby, and you’re building castles in your mind with imaginary money. When I ask you what we’re going to do, how we’re going to make it, and you say, ‘Don’t worry’, is this your plan? Is it?”

“What about you?” Brian snapped. “You’re always *****ing about how poor we are, how we rely on your family for everything, and then you go and spend twenty ****ing dollars on invitations. And one dollar for the lottery is too much? It’s your mother’s god**** party, let her buy this ****!”

Charlotte laughed. “So it’s my fault, right? It’s always my fault. It’s not that your ideas are stupid. It’s not that you need to be a ****ing man and take care of your family. No, I spend too much money. Okay, fine. When you move us into our own place, I’ll take what you have to say seriously.”

Brian was quiet. Their arguments always ended the same way, with Charlotte shaming him into silence. He could feel his stomach knotting up into a hot ball of embarrassment. He wanted to shut her up, more than anything. Paying their bills was second to seeing the stunned look on her face when he presented that winning ticket to her. He wouldn’t have to work the register at Stop and Shop ever again. He wouldn’t have to kowtow to Charlotte’s mother anymore. He would tell them all to go to hell, and he and Anna would go anywhere. Charlotte could come if she wanted. He really didn’t care.

“I won’t go to the store then,” he said, merging back into the center lane of the highway. “You don’t like what I’m doing? You figure something out then. This whole thing, you can figure out how to fix it.”

Charlotte spun in her seat towards him. “What whole thing? This family? Our daughter? God, you’re such a ****ing child. You want money without the work. You wanted us to have sex, and now you can’t handle the consequences. No responsibility. None.”

“Like I said, you figure it out,” Brian repeated. The rest of the ride was silent, except for the faint whistling of Anna’s breath.

* * *

“Mmf, what time is it?”

“3:30.”

“Is that Anna crying?”

“Who else would it be?”

“Who’s turn is it to get up?”

“Yours.”

Brian stumbled around the darkened room to Anna’s bassinet. Her eyes, elongated ovals like her mother’s, were shut, but her hands were clenched into tight balls as she cried. She was hungry. Brian sighed. He’d read in one of Charlotte’s baby books that Anna should be sleeping through the night by now. He had to constantly remind himself that although Anna was five months old, she only had the physical development of a baby half her age.

He took her to the kitchen, finding the extra breast milk in the back of the refrigerator. Anna was awake now, screaming as the milk warmed in the microwave. After her bottle, her cries were quieter but just as constant. It was going to be one of those nights where she cried straight through to her next feeding, three hours away. He hoped that Anna didn’t awaken Charlotte’s mother. He could deal with the baby, but not with Charlotte’s mother being “helpful” by telling him that everything he did with his daughter was wrong.

Brian dressed himself and Anna and walked out to the garage. He’d decided to take Anna for a ride, to spare the rest of the house and to test if cars really put children to sleep. By the time he reached the stop sign at the end of the road, she was quiet. When he pulled onto Main Street, he glanced back to find her asleep. He laughed a little, not too surprised that it worked. He drove aimlessly, pleased at how serene it was to be in a car in the early morning hours. And without Charlotte in the passenger seat.

He’d wanted to hurt her earlier in the car. Not physically. He just wanted her to feel something other than contempt for him, to feel what it was like to constantly be second-guessed and doubted. Anna had been a mistake; a beautiful mistake that Brian loved. But she was Charlotte’s mistake, and she tried to pin it on him every chance she got. Brian knew better. He remembered the day that they’d found out she was pregnant. He’d only bought the test to shut her up. After it came back positive, he berated her for hours, accusing her of missing pills, theorizing that her OCD medication had messed with her hormones. By the time they went to sleep, she was in tears and he was hoarse. He regretted that night for months

He regretted it so much that he kept his allegations to himself when Anna was born in July instead of October. Charlotte had done something wrong again, he just knew it. She hadn’t taken her prenatal vitamins everyday. She shouldn’t have kept working. They owed thousands of dollars in medical bills and were essentially homeless because of her, yet she expected the moon and the stars from Brian. He could feel the anger from earlier in the evening returning. It was exhausting him.

The orange glow of a 7-11 sign caught his eye as he turned to go home. 493,394. The number was still in head, the hope. He pulled into the parking lot, past a gas tanker making a delivery. He looked into the back seat. Anna was still sleeping.

“Daddy will be right back.”

Inside the store, a television blared infomercials. A large man with blue eyes and a red baseball cap was standing in front of the lottery machine. The cashier stood behind the register, waiting for the man to make his selection.

“Can I get a play three, 1-2-9, one dollar backup. Play four, 1-2-0-9, one dollar backup,” the man said.

“Looking to retire early from trucking?” Brian asked, grabbing a sheet to fill out his numbers.

“Nah, just playing the daily numbers. I always play around my birthday. Lookin’ for some extra spendin’ money when I go to the casino with the fellas.”

“Happy birthday. Think you’ll win anything?”

The trucker shrugged. “I don’t know. It’s easier to say ‘maybe’, and leave it at that.”

Brian stared at the lottery sheet in front of him. His number morphed into six individual ones. His hand slid across the sheet, bubbling them in. This was it. The chance to fix everything. To prove Charlotte wrong.

“Good luck, pal,” the trucker said, slamming his large hand down on Brian’s shoulder as he walked out. Brian took one last look at his sheet. It felt good, felt right. The wait would be agonizing until that evening, when the drawing would happen. But the wait will be worth it, he assured himself as he handed the cashier his sheet.

As he left the store, he braced himself against the wave of negative thoughts that washed over him every time he played the lottery. More money wasted. Charlotte is right, this is stupid. She was right about everything, everything. She didn’t want to stop using condoms. She told me she wasn’t feeling well back in May. I am a failure, less than a man, less than my daughter deserves. Guilt swelled in his chest when he remembered that he’d told her they were more likely to hit the lottery than she was to get pregnant. He still loved her, no matter how much he’d grown to dislike her over the last year. The truth was, how could he like a woman that put up with a man like him?

It was 4:11 when they pulled back into the driveway. He crept upstairs with Anna and put her back in the bassinet. She would be awake again soon, but he needed those precious minutes of sleep. Charlotte was sprawled out across the bed, her arms on his pillow.

“Where have you been?” she asked without opening her eyes.

Brian sighed. “Nowhere.”

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*eye twitch*

Jaaaaaaaaam... are you trying to make things harder for me? Seriously! Damnit... the letter of the law does say that we're only supposed to write within the competition's submission stage in order to qualify, but the spirit of it is practically that if you wrote it in a single month and didn't touch it since, it wouldn't be giving you an unfair advantage (which is why the rule was put in place). The problem with following the spirit is, obviously, there's no way of knowing when you wrote it and when you stopped modifying it. I prefer following the spirit of the rules, but in this case it's just too prone to abuse.

Unless a majority of submitting authors object, I will have to disqualify it, Jam (You can write something else, though! Please do, I enjoy your pieces!). However, I am making it a priority for myself to review it in earnest, so you will be getting some mileage out of it regardless. You can probably expect it around a week after this submission stage ends, though I make no promises about this deadline; I happen to love the whooshing sound deadlines make when soaring past. :-P

Oh, and for future reference, please try to refrain from commenting on submissions until the voting period for the competition is over! Jam's piece is obviously exempt since it can't qualify for submission, but seeing Neblix's comment made me realize that this particular guideline (not rule, guideline) hasn't been mentioned recently.

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*eye twitch*

Jaaaaaaaaam... are you trying to make things harder for me? Seriously! Damnit... the letter of the law does say that we're only supposed to write within the competition's submission stage in order to qualify, but the spirit of it is practically that if you wrote it in a single month and didn't touch it since, it wouldn't be giving you an unfair advantage (which is why the rule was put in place). The problem with following the spirit is, obviously, there's no way of knowing when you wrote it and when you stopped modifying it. I prefer following the spirit of the rules, but in this case it's just too prone to abuse.

Unless a majority of submitting authors object, I will have to disqualify it, Jam (You can write something else, though! Please do, I enjoy your pieces!). However, I am making it a priority for myself to review it in earnest, so you will be getting some mileage out of it regardless. You can probably expect it around a week after this submission stage ends, though I make no promises about this deadline; I happen to love the whooshing sound deadlines make when soaring past. :-P

Oh, and for future reference, please try to refrain from commenting on submissions until the voting period for the competition is over! Jam's piece is obviously exempt since it can't qualify for submission, but seeing Neblix's comment made me realize that this particular guideline (not rule, guideline) hasn't been mentioned recently.

So am I in trouble? DX

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Sorry guys, got me a case of the flu (here's to hoping its not the swine variety), + lots of schoolwork, + apathy. I won't be voting for the freeform and from where I'm standing I don't think I'll be able to write a short story. Though I did start something like an allegory, with the main character being a plastic bag...

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Thinker-

This was a room conceived in the minds of the forward-thinking presumers. The walls, still and cold, lined with strands of torqued wire and unfinished concrete molding gently pressed a slow buzz-hum throughout the room. There were various screens of rapidly changing miscellanea displaying to most nothing, except a fierce suspicion that it was all nonsense and posturing. Would those writers from the 20Th Century, those dreamers of misanthropic, tinted-lens views of the digitized future agree? Perhaps.

This was the swiss-watch integration of collective progress, the unheard lament of nature and her beautifully complex simplicity. These thoughts, and others like it, were birthed from the wandering mind of a man.

Inside this den of code-infused mechanica sat a small group of people. In the hazy, splotched light they relaxed, seated upon random un-strewn objects. A makeshift table linked them in ways no computer could ever process.

"Trip Aces", and a low, tense annoyance was displayed. As empty pop-caps were collected and makeshift money was redistributed, the thinker among them surrendered a quick beam of data to the winners credit card. This was honesty, fairness in its prime state. This, was a kept promise, worth? Unmeasurable. As the men started to chatter, the thinker rose.

"Ey, ray" The winner called, gesturing towards the thinker. This was not his name.

"We all saw the email. What're you gonna do?"

Synapses fired, answers were conceived, judged, and discarded until this personification of the 21'st century arrived at a response, calculated and cold.

"Simple, friend," He was not his friend. The thinker smiled, and from the winners savings account a sum of money was beamed to a waiting credit card. This, was practical - Clever. This was necessity, a prime example; Worth? Unmeasurable. As surely as this room siphoned, processed, calculated and directed the data from an uncountable number of events, places, phones, homes, minds, The Thinker would allow his infinitely calculated intentions their inevitable escape.

"I'm going to kill them all."

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  • 2 weeks later...

... It's October already, isn't it?

FFS, I hate college when it gets like this. I haven't had a chance to breathe, let alone write... Completely lost track of time.

Well, there's only been 3 entries so far for this competition, so there's an automatic 1 week extension for anyone still considering submitting! Please, let's get some more participation here... I don't want to see this competition fall apart under my watch!

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I'm drowning in an ocean of french and french history.

i really had misplaced apathy like 3 weeks ago... kinda sad what we take for granted.

i have a short story about a grocery bag............. but unfortunately, i also have this french presentation to finish for tomorrow, and another french presentation to start and finish for next thursday. so i won't really have time.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Aaaaand naturally, I get so caught up with work that I forget to update the competition status. Real quick:

Long story short (ba-dum-tsh!), we're in the voting period. Really we've been in the voting period since the 9th, but since I'm such a disorganized person I forgot to mention it. So voting's open until the end of the month. Please vote!

Paradiso by Straziante

Aura Weapon by neblix

Thinker by Random Hajile

Vote now! Voting open until November 1st!

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  • 2 weeks later...

C'mon people... so I messed up a round, that doesn't mean you all have to disappear! Vote already!

In other news, I had to write a piece of fiction for one of my classes. The class reviewed it today. Let's just say that not only was their comments unfair toward my piece in general, they were downright insulting toward both my work and creative writing in general. There's something to be said about a Creative Writing class that can't accept any actual creative writing beyond what their preconceived notions and biases have them believe. For fuck's sake, it wasn't even far out in left field, either!

Needless to say, I'm still fuming. Maybe I'll let you guys look at it once I'm done cleaning it up.

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C'mon people... so I messed up a round, that doesn't mean you all have to disappear! Vote already!

In other news, I had to write a piece of fiction for one of my classes. The class reviewed it today. Let's just say that not only was their comments unfair toward my piece in general, they were downright insulting toward both my work and creative writing in general. There's something to be said about a Creative Writing class that can't accept any actual creative writing beyond what their preconceived notions and biases have them believe. For fuck's sake, it wasn't even far out in left field, either!

Needless to say, I'm still fuming. Maybe I'll let you guys look at it once I'm done cleaning it up.

That stinks. I think it's often a matter of ego... maybe they felt threatened by your creativity. That isn't to say their ideas aren't valid... I remember Imagery's short critique of my first submission to this competition. I was kind of taken aback by what he had said about a stream of consciousness work I whipped up, but in all fairness, he had good reasons to criticize my work. I'm not trying to say I'm infallible or anything, but that I understand, or at least can understand by extension.

Voting... I will try. I think. Maybe. just not this week, I've a million things going on and I should not even be posting here (but it's the only thing that I can focus long enough on doing...).

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Ego? No, I think it was sheer ignorance, willful or otherwise, that was the root cause of it. But either way, I'm not complaining about the actual critiques I received during the session. I've taken them to heart and plan on heavily revising the story to make it better (it helps that I already knew it wasn't written very well in the first place). But out of the half-hour it was being reviewed, maybe five minutes contained any actual critique that pertained to my story. The rest was just willful bashing of the genre and some of the completely legitimate and creatively acceptable choices I made in the story. That's what has me so angry.

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Oh, what to do, what to do...

Aside from myself, there's been no votes. I'm sad. Disappointed, even. I guess I can only blame myself for not keeping things organized these past two competitions, but still...

I think I'll call the Short Story competition from July as done and tally the few votes that I've gotten. As for the Freeform competition... We'll see. I think I'll just nullify this round and let everyone resubmit their pieces in the next round they're qualified for. Some input on this would be nice, of course.

But do not fear, I refuse to let this competition die! This month is Poetry month!

THE NOVEMBER 2009 POETRY COMPETITION HAS BEGUN!

I'll see about getting notifications out sometime in the next day or two.

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I got high school and robotics club and kung fu and parkour and philosophy club.

My free time just went from really high to really low.

I usually reserve three hours a day for playing vid games, so my OCR Writing Competition time is almost insignificantly small.

So, I apologize.:tomatoface::tomatoface::tomatoface:

P.S. I just turned 14 on Monday!!!

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Well, it took forever, but

THE (FREEFORM) RESULTS ARE (FINALLY) IN!

1st Place: .rogerG by SoulinEther

Runners-Up: The Unknown by HalcyonSpirit, and The Mind's Prison by wouldntyouliketoknow

Here's the vote spread:

.rogerG by SoulinEther - 5

The Unknown by HalcyonSpirit - 3

The Mind's Prison by wouldntyouliketoknow - 3

Way of the Samurai by Zipp - 2

7 lbs. by TheHands - 2

All-in-all, not a bad batch of entries. I just wish more people had voted.

As for the September competition, everyone who entered will be allowed to resubmit their entry, unmodified, in the next qualifying round.

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