Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Winning Entries from "No one wanted to be here"

Thank you everyone for being so patient! I spent a couple days in Nebraska last week, and didn't have time before I left to get everyone's permission to post their entry.

Since the first of the year, we've been talking about the writing process. This week we're going to wrap that up and talk more about the publishing business. Many of you have asked about self-publishing, which is something I don't have any first hand experience with, so I've invited some self-published novelists to come on the blog and talk to you guys. It'll be an education for both of us. We're also going to talk about traditional publishing, agents, back cover copy, elevator pitches, and much, much more. We'll likely delve into marketing and platform building too, since they're a necessary evil in the life of being a published writer.

Enough prattling. Below are the winning entries from the prompt, "No one wanted to be here."

By Jenna Blake Morris (First and second)

“No one wanted to be here,” she admitted. “Probably nerves.”
“Gwen.” The knife was cold in my hand.
She swept the bangs from my face, all business. “They’ll crown him at the platform—”
“No,” I whispered. “I can’t kill the king.” Panic blossomed within me. The people wouldn’t realize the nation would fail if a king was crowned now.
I’d be condemned. Probably hanged.
“Listen,” Gwen said firmly, lifting my chin. “We’re with you. Together, we’ll save everyone.”
“I guess.”
“Sure we will. Now get going.”
I nodded, dizzy. It was time.
I was the Assassin.
I had one life to end—millions to save.

The judge says:
I love this ending! Although if it were simple narrative, I might say it was “purple prose,” but that it feels so much like the character is justifying his actions, and these are his direct thoughts… it works!
Overall, I really like the scenario and the conflict you’ve established, plus the relationship between the characters, and you’ve written a great hook that would keep me reading. Good stuff!

By Joe Duncko (First)

No one wanted to be here. Even so, I think I desired it the least of all. The last four years of my life, spent climbing up to the top of my class, brought down in an instant. Of course I had to be part that handful of hoodlums that were too slow to make it out the back before the police came in. I stood with my hands to the wall, awkwardly trying to avoid placing my palms on the many portraits that lined the wall. It was as if their smiles mocked me.
The judge says: This is solid from the get-go and GREAT thanks to the last line. That single image perfectly captures the entire scene.

By Courtney Calvert (First)

No one wanted to be here. We’re waiting as long as we can, watching the sea of black disappear through the church doors. Ryan had always run with the wrong crowd, but this came as a shock. A few months ago, she’d turned her life around. She had been a different girl.

The ring of the church bell startles me and I notice we’re alone. It’s time to head inside before Coach comes for us. The team follows me through the doors to our pew. As we file in, I notice a note. I pick it up and freeze as I read:
You're next Rachel Forester.

The judge says: For me, this was like the beginning of an episode of LOST—there’s these mysterious occurrences happening in a place of worship, but why? And who exactly is Coach? If that wasn’t already enough to make you want to turn the page, you end with a humdinger of a hook that makes me feel rather afraid for poor Rachel Forester. If you kept the action paced as well as you did in the beginning, I think you’d have one fantastic novel!

By Faye Rhys (Second)
No one wanted to be here. Not the crowd, nor the convicts. I was a convict.
I stood in line, my hands bound in front of me, awaiting my death. Every time I heard the trap door engage, I shut my eyes down tight, and wished that my hands were free so that I could clap them over my ears. And each time another group of innocents died; still another group was pushed closer to their deaths.
A single gunshot rent the air. The thunder of other firearms reverberated in reply.
A man materialized before me, cutting my bonds. The ropes fell. I was free!

The judge says: This is definitely intriguing, bringing up questions of why the narrator’s a convict, why and who set him/her free—great stuff!

By Rebekah Hart (Second)
No one wanted to be here. I forced myself to kick, to keep afloat. The dark unforgiving waters pulled at my courage. My shipmates' panic was fueling my own. Through the hull I heard muted gunfire and screaming, constant screaming. Floating debris rammed my chin as someone moved towards me. Funny, I didn't feel anything.
“Chase?” my buddy's voice shook.
“It's bad, isn't it?” I hated that I knew the answer. Taking five torpedoes, the Oklahoma couldn't last long.
Nearby drilling made us freeze. If they cut through too slowly, we'd lose our air-pocket and drown. A crack appeared. The water rose.

The judge says: I loved your beginning because it was so inherently visual. I felt like I was right there with these guys in the middle of the chaos, which is exactly where you want your readers to be. I don’t even know these characters, but I’m immediately invested in their survival. Like a great movie, you start with the action…a wise move in setting the stage for an exciting adventure.

By Rye Mason (Third):

No one wanted to be here. Their eyes said it with sparkling tears and low lids stained purple and teal. Not a single girl met the policeman’s gaze when they entered the room.
He told them to stand against the wall, chalked with thick black lines that ran ragged over concrete, and face the camera without blinking and without smiling. Their faces glistened when they composed themselves enough to look up. No one blinked and no one smiled. The camera fired off three shots, white enough to be lightning, and then, just like that, their faces were captured forever for the Milton County Correctional Institute.

The judge says: A group of girls in a correctional facility? I’m intrigued by the unorthodox protagonists and already find myself wondering what they did and why. I also like the unconventional descriptions of the girls’ lids…the purple and teal…that was a great touch

By Carilyn Everett (Third)

No one wanted to be here. This seemingly never-ending transfer of me and the other young men in my company served only to weaken the tyrants in my mind.
I winced as the iron door clanged shut. The sentinels shouted to each other like clockwork in the polished corridor outside. So here we were, in yet another of the dictator's antechambers. A young man near me sighed.
A moment of silence reigned until we heard the sentinels' shuffling. Then the mechanized lock-door swung down over the outside of the iron door and sealed us in. It was all too familiar.

The judge says: What I love about this one is the utter disconnect the character feels. Like, yawn, here we go again. Facing the dictator. Woo. Hoo.

By Ellyn Gibbs (Third)

No one wanted to be here. Not heavy-set Bud Tompkins, not lean, aristocratic Luther Hunt, and definitely not me.
But, as the youngest sheriff in Smithers County, I was obliged to always look intimidating. Even when my little office sizzled with the heated glares of two rivals.
"Glad you c'ud come, gentlemen," I said, linking sweaty hands behind my back. "Set down, an' we'll settle this dispute quick as an eighty-acre claim."
Tompkins grunted, while Hunt sniffed and adjusted his expensive leather vest.
I rubbed my temples and knew that this job was going to be as dirty as a swamped cow.

The judge says: Fabulous setting of scene, excellent voice, and some truly great lines. My only suggestion is to forgo the dialect-spelling in the dialogue. The accent comes through fine through word choice—creative spelling just slows the reader down. Love the character you’ve set up here!

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