Wow! I am so thankful you all joined in the fun this week! What a ride! And I'm super thankful for our judge who stayed up late to read them all and get her decisions to me before the holiday craziness began. We had two latecomers this round, but the judge was gracious enough to comment on those as well. Thank you for sharing. Have a wonderful and blessed Thanksgiving Day with your families and loved ones (or if you're not in the USA, have a great day anyway!). Go read any stories you missed here. Now let's read what the judge had to say:
I was so excited to see where this particular first line would take you, and you did not disappoint! Obviously, I geared it toward the idea of a high school setting, which some of you embraced, and some pulled me worlds outside of my parameters, and I respectfully incline my head in awe. Each of your stories was a delight to read, and I truly enjoyed them. Thanks so much for making my job of picking a winner so hard! You all win! High fives all around! (Looks over shoulder at Alissa). Never mind. I suppose I'll have to come up with a top two. Here we go:
Oh, such a story of remorse, or lack thereof. I can feel the spiraling despair in this one, the lack of emotion, because to feel is pain.
It wasn't specifically stated, but I wondered if the man in the bar next to Kayleigh was her conscience. Casual mentions of his immortality, how he has been there with her from the start, his disapproval from the beginning, his affinity for bourbon that helps to drown out his dissatisfaction.
I loved the dark tone of this, the mystery. It didn't matter so much who the people she killed were, David, Alex, as the fact that she did the killings, and we get wrapped up in the hopelessness of it all. As the last line says, “What else was there?”
The conscience, as I'll label him, gets shoved to the back burner, and Kayleigh welcomes the darkness with all the hopelessness of despair.
What a story of grace! Or G.R.A.C.E., as the case may be. I enjoyed the journey in this story from one end to the other. The concept of her spiky hair that kept everyone out was brilliant; and Mr. Spitzel broke through that wall. I love how the narrative throws the reader off-balance with the expectation that Miss Rangin (pardon me, Miss Isabelle Rangin) would be angry at his intrusive desk-carving, but instead, her eyes fill with tears at the love so obviously just for her (I'm a romantic at heart; how could I not love this?).
Those final few sentences are rife with gorgeous imagery: “Her eyes softened and filled like cups of warm joy.” Also, “Miss Isabelle Rangin literally danced in the school cafeteria on top of tables and on top of the world.” What a beautiful picture!
Chills! What a well-put-together story! A modern-day take of Snow White and the wicked queen who looks with all shades of jealousy into the mirror and asks, Mirror, Mirror, on the wall, who is the fairest of us all? Lindsay, Kayleigh, Lindsay is the fairest of us all, and don't you forget it.
I love the character building of both Kayleigh and Lindsay—so much in so few words. When I reached the end, I felt like I had just finished a novel. I particularly loved Kayleigh's dilemma—how to get a reaction out of Lindsay, because Lindsay was neutral. She was Switzerland. Great description, and fitting title to go with it.
This piece grabbed my emotions. I couldn't believe how angry I was at a fictional character when the last line pulls out all the stops on Kayleigh's character. Wicked girl! May the odds be never in your favor!!
Boom! From the first line to the last line, I was hooked, and that's saying a lot because normally I don't get hooked on science fiction (just ask my husband, who begged me without success to love Ender's Game).
And it helped that the first line and the last line were the same, and they were the same in a completely non-gratuitous manner. It fit like a puzzle piece! So when I read the last line, I thought, there is no other line that could go there.
I was floored by the worlds/colonies/universes that were brought into this story; so much depth covered in only 500 words (or 498 as the case may be). I loved how well the special challenge wove seamlessly into the text, like another puzzle piece. This whole thing just flowed really well.
It's like I just fell asleep and woke up in the best world ever!! I enjoyed the appearance of myriads of my favorite mythical creatures (or are they mythical??), and contorted into fits of giggles over the lines: “'You can only die once,' said someone cheerfully. 'Not me!'” said the phoenix.
I love the mystery of the chalk line. What's on the other side, why Kayleigh can't come back, what magic holds her there, and what is “the other side” doing to her? The narrative introduced a lot of questions that didn't necessarily get answered, but I felt like that wasn't the main thrust of the story.
The connection at the end is what really stuck with me—the transformation into the same kind of creature as the narrator struck me at once as horrible and fantastic, terrifying and surreal. That final line at the end put a period on the end of a emotion-riddled piece. Loved it.
Ooh, the ultimate double revenge story. I was reeled in immediately, reading with horrified fascination as Amelia did the unthinkable—took her sister's boyfriend for herself, took him with no good purpose but for the sake of revenge. The end grew darker and darker, and then, whump, the twist.
Wow! What a gripping voice. It pulled me in and wouldn't let me go. I wondered what the dark deed was that “that Jezebel” did.
I love the snapshots of close-up images that wove through the story. The flies that buzzed behind the holes in the screen, Ron's Adam's apple bobbing beneath his too-blonde beard. Excellent setting. I could feel the heat (temperature and other). Great job!
Okay, I know this one came in later than the close of the competition, but I loved it so much, I had to stick it in here. The tongue-in-cheek tone was at once hilarious and connective. I immediately was there, at the prom, watching the ogre kiss the sister, who, yuck, had snot-green eyes.
In true Beauty and the Beast style, instead of speaking in the vocal tones of a boulder tied to a stick (that line made me laugh out loud), his voice is tempered steel. His eyes are less snot-green and more moss-colored. I read the unraveling of the narrator's preconceived notions in that one line: “My sister—I miss her, too.”
Beautiful. And that's not a word usually tagged with ogre stories. I loved this. LOVED it.
A brilliant tone in this one! It left me giggling after it was all read through, and I had to go through it at least twice more to get the full effect (and the laughs). The use of creative, exaggerated imagery kept my attention. I particularly loved the breakdown of Kayleigh's tears: 30 parts water, 50 parts salt, and 20 parts genetic material. And then later, 40 parts Mary Kay Foundation Number Five, 20 parts salt, 30 parts water, and 10 parts genetic material.
And if I were any better with chem/phys, I could tell you exactly what that means. As usual, I have no clue, but I totally enjoyed the concept.
I loved how well the special elements were woven into the story, particularly, the "kiss of Virgin's blush rouge." So creative! Way to break down the parameters of the box! I love it!
Special Challenge Champion:
You portrayed the high school setting for which I was looking, and then you took it the extra mile with Kayleigh's obsession-turned-horrible-secret. The elements were woven in seamlessly; I had to search hard to find all of them, but they were there! Great job including those!
Finish That Thought #2-21 Grand Champion:
Flawlessly written, incredible world-building; I still can't get over how much I loved the frame of the story with the repeated first and last line. Kudos, sir, you may have just converted me into a sci-fi fan. Almost. I might try to read Ender's Game again sometime in the next fifty years. Unless you yourself have a book or two out? ;)