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Writing Challenge: October 2010: Submissions and Prompt

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Hello everyone!

Welcome back to the writing challenge after last month’s little break while I sorted out a few things and decided where best to go with the challenge series. This month I am combining poetry and prose and you are free to decide which you would prefer to write. If you are feeling brave I will also permit you to enter one piece of poetry and one piece of prose. The prompt is the same for both. Submissions should remain anonymous, so please, as ever, can you PM you entry to me and I will post it as soon as possible. Please take note of the new rules below.

Also, this month I would like to introduce you to my panel of “judges”.

Deonblaster - Our resident scientist and Teacher in training, and, I hope, a fair and honest judge of your work.

Telm - A long-term lurker. Telm’s been lurking around these parts for longer than I have! On top of that, she thinks everyone needs love and cuddling and is a final year Psychology with Computing student.

[UsernameUnknown] - My flatmate and languages teacher in Training. The one person I could probably count on to teach me a new word everyday and to be as finicky about grammar as I am.

At the end of the month I will be asking these three to provide their feedback and comments on your submissions and also asking them who they feel best deserves the awards we have always offered in these challenges - Best Literary and Most Creative.


Rules

1. Only submissions can be posted in this submissions thread, this is not for discussion.

2. The discussion thread is for that, discussion about the challenge pieces submitted. It is not for you to talk about what you ate for breakfast or whether the sky is powder blue or navy today. Off topic comments will simply be deleted and you’ll lose your post count.

3. Constructive comments only please. I expect you all to play nicely and respect the bravery that it takes to submit work into the public domain. Unhelpful comments, personal insults etc. will simply be deleted.

4. Please try to keep your submission within the suggested word count, this is for several reasons. Firstly it helps you practice writing succinctly, a skill you will need throughout life and secondly, if you have read my collection of creative writing tips you will see Orwell’s rules suggesting that “if it is possible to cut a word out, always out.” Also, by keeping submissions all to a similar length they will be more comparable.

5. Read your work before you submit it! I cannot stress this enough, do try and take some pride in your work. If your effort is evident then people will be much more receptive to it.

6. Submissions will be accepted up to the end of October 28th (Approx 10pm BST I expect but don’t hold me to that exactly, I do have a life outside of here.) After this time the submissions thread will close. The discussion thread however will remain open until a point at which I deem it has run its course. 

7. Entries MUST be submitted with an age range, the age bands are as follows: Below 13, 13-16, 17-19, 20+. If your submission does not contain your age band I will not post it. This is to ensure that the “judges” can assess your work fairly.

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This month’s prompt is as follows:

“Thank you for calling.”


Suggested word count for prose: 400-600 words.

Poetry can be of any style and length, just be reasonable, I’m not sure I have ever seen a 600+ word poem.

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*bump* =D

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Usually we don’t permit languages other than English on this forum, however, I’m bending the rules for the sake of literature and because it’s simple enough for me to believe the translations. I’ll get [UsernameUnknown] to confirm.

Submission A
Author: Caprichosa

Age range: 17-19

A Losing Battle Against the Sun

I lift the receiver to my ear.
“Hello? This is David.”
“Hola, mi vida.”
I breathe hoarsely.
“Hola.”

I can hear the smile on her face forming in the silence.

“¿Estás solo?”
The roll of her tongue against her ‘S’s reminds me of the smooth scent of orange blossoms and peppers in her kitchen. I could never understand how she could tolerate the amount of spice that she put into every dish.
Are you alone?

“¿Para tí? Claro que sí.”
She laughs at the way my accent fumbles over the syllables. When we first met, she asked me if I were English. I remember the way the light illuminated each subtle curve of her hair, making her black onyx locks look like the flames of Hell in the Spanish noon. No, I told her, I am an American.
For you? Of course.

“Te echo de menos.”

The whine in her voice is like that of the Labrador puppy I bought her for her birthday. She had dressed it with a scarlet ribbon around its small head, taken pictures of it on my lap as it groaned. I haven’t heard much of it lately; I think she may have killed it.
I miss you.

“Yo sé. Las noches son más largos, los días más cortos sin tu sonrisa.”
I remember her eyes, made of a fiery shade of amber. It is a sin to have such beautiful eyes, to have such perfect pupils. When I stared into those eyes I always had an overwhelming desire that she eat me. I wanted her to consume me like the demon I knew she was, to end my tortured ecstasy. Even now that I am back home and a world a way, I still find the idea compelling.
I know. The nights are so much longer, the days so much shorter without your smile.

“Estoy fria en estas noches de verano. No tengo nadie al lado de mí.”
The nights were always so hot there. I found it hard to hold her without burning in the heat. She always told me she was cold though, that she needed my arms around her. I recall one night laying beside her while she was asleep, wondering if laying with Satan himself would have been cooler.
I’m cold on these summer nights. I have no-one by my side.

There is a noise from outside.

“Ella está aquí.”
“Puta.”

I smile for a moment as the last drops of the Spanish summer evaporate into reality. Then the door opens, and the smile melts into my face to be carefully guarded for another time.

“Thank you for calling, but I’m just not interested right now.”
I hang up the phone.
“A telemarketer?”
She takes off her black heels and places them next to the boots I like to wear on rainy days.
“Yes, they seem to be calling a lot lately.”

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Thankyou very much to our sole entrant this month! Needless to say you are our winner =D.

I will still be asking our panel of judges to give you some proper feedback over the next few days.

Well done again and thank you!

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Dear Caprichosa

Congratulations on winning! :P

I enjoyed reading your piece; it’s always good to see some Spanish in the mainstream :) There were two tiny mistakes I found with the Spanish - a missing accent on fría, and adjective agreement “las noches son más largAS” not largos - but that’s all. It seems a little churlish to mention them, but once you start letting the little things slip, it only gets worse!

Good points
As far as the actual plot of your story goes, I feel it was quite deftly done. It can be hard to make what’s essentially an exchange of dialogue interesting. I liked the way you split it into paragraphs, as though every thing she says evokes a different memory or thought.
For a short piece, you managed to convey a lot of character history without it feeling like an information overload. It’s clear these characters have encountered each other before, and know each other well enough for one to buy the other a puppy!
I like the hints of something sinister, that this woman may be dangerous, or more than she appears. That she may have killed the puppy is somewhat alarming, but as a statement with no further explanation it works well to jar the reader.

the flames of Hell
I think she may have killed it.
a fiery shade
It is a sin
I wanted her to consume me like the demon I knew she was
laying with Satan

All these phrases work well together to give the impression that this woman is demonic in some way, or if nothing else certainly a temptress. I don’t want to sound patronising, but when I was 17-19 I couldn’t keep a consistent theme for imagery, so well done for that. It really helps build the mood of the piece.
Your characterisation is really good – Telm and I had a brief discussion over what gender you were as an author because you get David’s voice very well and we thought you might be male. Then we did a little investigating and discovered you were just awesome at male characterisation.

Things to think about
This is something that personally I am OK with, but as an objective reviewer I have to play devil’s advocate a little. The way the paragraphs are sandwiched with Spanish at the top and the translation at the end is fine if you speak Spanish, but if you don’t some of the flow is lost because people will either flick up and down through paragraphs to see what the Spanish means, or just ignore the Spanish because they can’t read it and then the conversation and the memories get out of sync.

“laying beside her while she was asleep, wondering if laying with Satan himself”

Unless you are a giant chicken, if you want to talk about yourself using an –ing ending, you mean lying not laying. Laying is what hens do. If David lays eggs with Satan, and if he has a “laying eggs by sleeping women” fetish, fine, but I assume you mean lying.

The only other thing that bothered me slightly was the ending. It didn’t completely make sense to me, in that there seemed a totally random line of description about the woman who interrupts the phone call taking her shoes off. It seemed a little rushed. It was like you’d worked so hard on the rest and then said to yourself “ah, all the hard part is done, I’ll just finish it quickly”. Telm and I had a discussion about this too and she said it worked fine and she could see that it was juxtaposition between the heat of Spain and the raininess of reality, but it didn’t work for me.  Even just adding other sentence to show the relationship between David and this woman would highlight the subterfuge or his deception. For example:

“A telemarketer?”
She takes off her black heels and places them next to the boots I like to wear on rainy days, before coming over to kiss my cheek in greeting. I open my arms to her.
“Yes, they seem to be calling a lot lately.”

That would have finished things off nicely, with the impression that this David guy is a bit of a slimeball, and leaves the reader feeling a little unsettled thinking about poor fictional David’s fictional wife/girlfriend. Just my opinion, as I said, Telm was fine with it.

Over all it’s a great short piece – a lot seems to happen in a compact space but it doesn’t feel crowded or like you tried to jam too much in. Finally, even though most people won’t understand it, I believe swearing even in a foreign language is still disapproved of on these boards. You know what I mean.

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Thanks so much, UsernameUnknown, I really appreciate the time you took to try and help me improve.

I’m flattered (right word choice?) that you thought I was a boy, I didn’t realize I was that good at being manly. However, I wonder if I should be worried that I am being investigated. ;) I like writing in a male voice since it usually has a little more backbone to it than my feminine narrators. I have a tendency to make all my women sound very needy, clingy and emotional if I have the chance, and I hate the way that sounds with a passion.

I’m also quite glad that you speak Spanish and were able to fix some of my mistakes. I’ve been trying to incorporate it into my stories to try and get a little better at it (12 years of studying this language and still terrible at it). And yes, I suppose I am probably not supposed to swear, even if it’s in Spanish.

The lay/lie thing has always confused me, both sound equally correct to me. I can never decide which I should use.

Anywho, thanks so much again :)

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Lay/lie

If you’re using “-ing”, you need lying.

I was laying on the bed = I was laying eggs on the bed.

We were laying together = we were laying eggs together.

BUT if you’re using the normal past tense, perfect tense, reported actions, passive voice, you CAN use lay.

“He lay looking at the stars for hours” is fine.

I think the problem comes with “lie” also meaning “telling untruths” because the past participles are different.

e.g. “I lied on the bed” = I told a lie on the bed. For this you would say LAY as the past participle of lie as in “lie down”.

Don’t be fooled by the children’s prayer “As I lay me down to sleep (I pray the Lord my soul to keep)”. In this case you are the object of the sentence as well as the subject so its the same as saying “As I lay [the book] down”.

I hope this makes sense and isn’t too full of jargon and grammatical terms!

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Wow… you sound like my english teacher…
which is good, because I hate people who have lots of grammatical errors.. (no offense to those who do… *winces*) It just annoys me so much when people are writing like that, and I know that they cannot help it or are just lazy and are taking shortcuts like leaving the apostrophe out of don’t but it just annoys me!!
By the way, I totally forgot about all this!! I would have entered if I had remembered!!! :(
@unknown - love the sig!!

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I think the November prompt is still open if that’s any use to you.

Every day at my school placement they tell me I should switch to the English department. Don’t know if that’s a good thing ...

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if you want to improve your grammar, follow http://royalediting.com/usage-tips-of-passive-voice and check some cases of passive voice using!