Thursday, June 18, 2009

Fiction Friday - This Week's Winner and Prompt VIII

So last week I grumbled about how much stronger the entries are getting every week, and how that makes it a lot harder for me to choose a winner.

This week I'm going to confess that it's also making it tougher on you.

This week's entries were, again, very good. Each of them were well written and each had an interesting twist. Each was told from a single POV. Each was "voicey," a term meaning that the personality of the narrator or protagonist comes across very clearly from the words and grammatical structures he or she chooses (I'll blog more about that next week, because it's probably the greatest single thing that separates good fiction from great fiction.)

So, I wound up making my choice based on something called "sympathy." This isn't the sympathy that makes you send cards to sick friends or flowers to a funeral. It's a literary term that decribes the quality that causes readers to want to keep reading about a character. Many times it's because of the character's positive characteristics: courage, humor, honesty, generosity.

Other times, though, a character can be pretty thoroughly nasty, but there's still something compelling about him: Hannibal Lecter comes to mind.

Nick Hornby's Jess, in A Long Way Down, a VERY angry adolescent, has to be one of the least compassion-generating characters I've ever met. At one point in the book she reveals some personal information that engenders our first glimmer of understanding for what makes her so angry/rude/rebellious. But the instant the reader feel a surge of compassion toward her, she turns on the him, snarling, "You can just take your sympathy and shove it up your saggy old arse." I remember actually recoiling as I read this line. And yet, she's such a strong, well-drawn character that I found myself reading on, hoping she'd get past her current circumstances.

Anyway, the "winning" personality of the protagonist secured this week's win for Sandra Leigh.

Love Hurts

You never meant this to happen. You wanted him to notice you, that's all. You loved the way he moved, adored his voice - and longed for the touch of his hand.

He walked in and tossed his newspaper down. It bounced off a table and crashed to the floor. As he went to pick it up, you grabbed it. He bent down. You stood up. You and he collided, painfully.

Now he's looking at you.

He sighs, pats your aching head. “Okay, girl,” he says, “Drop it.”

Happy at last, you drop it.

It's a dog's life.

Next week's prompt: We had differing agendas.

(To see the rules, go here.)


  1. now that summer is here, perhaps I can get in on this action!

  2. I like it.

    I enjoy reading the posts, even if I don't join in on the contests.

  3. Nice win, Sandra! This is fun, isn't it?

    My sympathy goes to Jeff's character. I felt sorry for him because I know how difficult it can be sometimes to get a girl to like ya!

  4. Jeanne, I really liked how you described sympathy in this context.

    Love Renee xoxo

  5. The Heat of Battle

    We had differing agendas. Our blades clanging and flashing in the light, I noticed he was staying close to the traditional moves. I was feinting with the old school approach, but I was going to throw a curveball every damn chance I got. The heat and pressure was getting to us both, I had seen him make at least a dozen missteps. Seeing the cracks in his attack I knew I had to press my advantage, use his weaknesses, and solidify my position.

    Only one of us could be the new Iron Chef.

  6. Sandra is a great person. Congrats to her on her win!

  7. This was a very cool first time visit. I must check out this contest you have.

  8. Yay Sandra! *smiling*. . .

    I love what you say here about character/voice - so true. If I do not feel compelled to read about a character, then I probably will close the book: "Character is everything..." that about says it for me. When I write, it's all about the character and everything else will work itself out.

    I've never been by here, so I'm going to read a bit before I get back to blog walking!

  9. oh! PS - Sandra is a gifted writer and a beautiful soul - so glad she won!

  10. Congrats Sandra-- & a very engaging tale. These short fictions are an intriguing form.

  11. This is not my forte, but I love reading the winning entries and learning a little more about writing from you Jeanne :)

  12. okay , now that was a great story.

  13. We had differing agendas.

    I lived a good life, being educated, eating both apple and humble pie over the years. See, humor did not escape me in my death.

    Differing agendas, indeed.
    For mine was to move on to a more heavenly plane, meet the creator, sit by his side. My new master would be far less than God, with more arrogance and inherent foil than God himself might invent.

    On the stormy night we met, he asked me my name. I couldn’t speak.
    I pointed to him, silently asking, ” Who are you?”

    “Victor Frankenstein”, he replied.

  14. People Change

    We had differing agendas. I wanted marriage. Bill was all about the moment. He dumped me last year. I was devastated.

    Now, he whispers in my ear. "Hey, baby. "

    "Go away."

    "Don't be mean, baby. You know I love you. I was stupid to let you go. Come on. I've changed. Give me another chance.”

    His voice is velvety. I remember how I felt when he kissed me, when I couldn't think of anyone but him.

    But that was last year. He's not the only one who's changed.

    “Bye, Billy,” I smile.

    So little time, so many men.

  15. Now I can say thank you to Jeanne and to everybody who's said nice things to me today. It feels like my birthday.

  16. Betrayal

    We had differing agendas. You wanted to be a free-spirit; making no commitments, going where and when you pleased. I did everything I could to win you over; bribing, cajoling, threatening. Nothing seemed to make an impression.

    I was infuriated by the stench of your lies. How many times had you assured me there was nothing going on? How many times had I believed your empty promises; that you loved me, that you would come to me when your need grew too great, that it would never happen again.

    “What’s that smell?”

    “Daddy, me no need use potty!”

    Microsoft says that's 99 words.

  17. We had differing agendas.

    We were alone – often. Dark rooms, quiet whispers. My every private thought I shared with you, even when it was more than I could bear.

    I told you of my regret. I told you how much I feared what God would do to me because of my selfish actions. You told me you understood, and that God would continue to love me no matter where my heart led me. I never loved you more than at that moment.

    The guilt is overwhelming. I must make this right.

    “Forgive me Father, for I have sinned. With you.”

  18. We had differing agendas. I was the older brother, a bit more studious; Jack was the social butterfly, always out for a good time.

    As young kids we loved the water, and became top swimmers on the Ball State swim team. I was driven to succeed. But not Jack – he eventually got the shaft from the coach for missing practice. It was really hard on him.

    Finally an enormous opportunity came up. “Let’s go Jack!” On cue I swam faster than ever… yes, I made it! I’m in! Jack? Hurry, it could be twins!

  19. Master, a question from Grasshopper...

    What are your thoughts or rules regarding the use of existing fictional characters, real people, or historical places and events when writing "fiction"? For example, would it be valid to concoct a story where Huck Finn and I go fishing in Hawaii on Dec 7, 1941?


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