Deathmatch 2011 – Round 2

Final Round | Round 6 | Round 5 | Round 4 | Round 3 | Round 2 | Round 1

Braydon Beaulieu vs. Madeline Masters

Field Guide to Kleptoparasitism By Braydon Beaulieu

I stole my neighbour’s newspaper this morning. He has never noticed my compound eyes or mandibles. I click my jaws behind the hedge dividing our yards while he lathers his black Maserati. White suds on black. Like letters shining through white splashes. Or maybe I have it backward. Bastard.

When I skimmed my loot at 6:46 in the morning, I cut out a picture of MAY, Elizabeth Diane (nee Foster) from the obits. It’s in my back pocket. Her photograph smells like a pistachio shell. The rest of the newspaper is in a box in a drawer in the linen closet of my bathroom. My bathroom does not smell like pistachio, but of cinnamon and stale shit. My neighbour’s: Cherries and lavender. His Maserati wavers under cascades of hose water.

Read More | Final Votes: 59%

Floppy Discs By Madeline Masters

Raymond shuffled down the stairs.

“I’m coming, Christ! No one ever comes to anyone’s house anymore, especially not invited,” he thought, which made this occurrence exceptionally uncomfortable for him. He looked through the pane of glass in the door for a long moment. He saw the girl, sure, but was anyone lurking in the bushes, waiting to jump him?

She wasn’t white, and for some reason this made him trust her less. But she was brown, maybe Indian, not a race he associated with home-based crime. Still.

He kept the latch on the door and opened it.

“Hello? Yes? What do you want?”

Read More | Final Votes: 41%


Madeline Masters – 2011/02/14

It’s been quite a week, everyone. A looooong week. This has been a “fight,” but more than that it’s been a great place for people who are passionate about writing to meet and talk, and I’ve really enjoyed that.

I’ve gotten some wonderful feedback and critiques on my work that I can take to the editing table and future projects. Thanks everyone for taking the time to read Floppy Discs and provide thoughtful comments about it.

I can’t say enough thanks to all my friends and family who have been in my corner rooting for me and giving me their support – thank you!

Like we all said in the beginning, it’s an honor just to be chosen to compete in the Deathmatch, and I’m glad for the exposure from Broken Pencil.

I plan on sticking around to read the other stories and see how the rest of the matches play out. It’ll be fun to sit back and watch!

Braydon: I wish you good luck in the next round. You have remained professional and polite through the entire contest, and I appreciate that.

So this crazy seven days is over in less than an hour. Phew! But it has been worth it.

If anybody wants to look me up and talk writing or some such thing, you can find me over on… you know… FB.

Thank you and good night!

Braydon Beaulieu – 2011/02/14

Well, ladies and gents, I’ve got an early day teaching tomorrow morning, so I’m going to hit the hay.

Madeline, I’m really glad I got to read your work. Best of luck in your future writing endeavours!

Thank you to all readers, voters, and commenters. See you all in the Brown/Grammerstorf match!

succincubus – 2011/02/14

Well ladies and gents, the end of this non-contest has been quite a downer. Let’s all band together and make sure the next round of Deathmatch is an action-packed, cut-throat battle to the end between two worthy opponents. Not — this.

Ms. Masters, good luck with the next thing you try. Kicking the crap out of the other guy is obviously not your style, but your story is not bad. Don’t give up. Don’t!

Mr. Beaulieu, good luck in the next round when the time comes. Bet you can’t wait to do this all over again!

See you all when this page is interesting again. Until then, adieu adios auf wiedersehen.

backinthesaddle – 2011/02/14

…from Wikipedia on narcissism:”

  • Flattery towards people who admire and affirm him

Braydon Beaulieu – 2011/02/14

Madeline: Pretty much to achieve the effect you mention: contrast. I like how your rewrite includes a stolen whiskey bottle. I had something similar in an earlier draft, but took it out because I didn’t want him stealing something he was planning on using. It seemed to me more akin to shoplifting, but you pull it off nicely. And that little detail about the “Find a Cure” jar? Gold.

It was definitely a fun exercise, and thanks to st.pierre, Lichty18, succincubus and David Griffin Brown for their commentary about it!

backinthesaddle – 2011/02/14

…except that beaulieu’s “coffee stains” was severely overwritten until the sentences didn’t make sense…

backinthesaddle – 2011/02/14

…fairness…pffffft…you idealistic dweebs are in for a severe punking…you should be joining together to squash ant colony and the association while it’s still in the larval stages…the first mistake was giving beaulieu a free pass to the second round…as it stands, you’ll all be staked spreadeagle on the army ant hill and have no one to blame but yourselves…   ditto for me on lichty’s comments…

Lichty18 – 2011/02/14

Succincubus, my reasoning is as follows: first off if you simply look at the two texts, you see Madeline’s is in large chunks. For me, it was harder to read, thick and trying to get through. I understand they had different sections to work with and so in the rewrite of Floppy Discs there was much more dialogue, thus having more breaks, making it read more smoothly. Madeline often starts her sentences with ‘I’. This gets a little annoying. ‘I’ this and ‘I’ that. I went to the store. Then I walked home. I ate the chips I bought there. You can see how this would be unappealing. It seems like the rewrite for Field Guide is watered down. It loses taste and some interest. For me it was just blah. Nothing special. Floppy Discs was changed for the better. Raymond became more interesting. Back story was added. I liked how in the original he wasn’t much more than an average man and then in the rewrite he became a grumpier, seemingly older man. That may too be average, a grumpy older man, but I find those characters more enjoyable. More detail was added and it was easier to envision the scene folding out.

backinthesaddle – 2011/02/14

…am i the only one fantasizing about strapping on the gloves against eva and going for a third round knockout…on second thought, i’d rather do her lugubrious grammy winning friend who couldn’t afford to travel to LA on the most triumphant day of his life but has the nerve to bring up calling his old girlfriends during their valentines date…and no, dystopic, i didn’t mean it that way…brown, you’er forgiven for going with your middle name in this contest, given that there must be at least a trillion david brown’s…i look forward to your story, it has to be better than these clunkers…you’re a good writer, beaulieu…but a friggin’ haiku?…every poet in the house must have fell asleep on that one…poets are those scatterbrains with short attention spans who can’t bring it all together long enough to make a complete story…Braydon gets a B+ for his homework…Maddy, i’m going to give you C…but only because you incorporated at least one of my suggestions…guess it doesn’t matter now that you’ve given them another reason to hate your writing…thanks for playing ; )

succincubus – 2011/02/14

Ssssshhhh… their ears itch when you talk about them…

David Griffin Brown – 2011/02/14

I’d hate to think the trolls have run out of material…

succincubus – 2011/02/14

Oh, I’m sure now that all’s out in the open no one would dare attempt such a strategy. But I am hoping that your round is a little closer – a little more intense than this one, for my own entertainment.

David Griffin Brown – 2011/02/14


Yeah… thought of that, but you know… transparency, fairness, something, something else.

succincubus – 2011/02/14

David Griffin Brown: Ah, well, that explains why you were concerned about cheating methods. Good to nip these things in the bud before they spread too far. Although I hope posting the name of that naughty website didn’t give anyone any ideas. Let’s hope not. And, uh, good luck to you.

Madeline Masters – 2011/02/14

Oh, goody! That means we get to have more fun together. Only a few more hours to go… bet you can’t wait to see what your opponent looks like…

David Griffin Brown – 2011/02/14


maybe.  and nervous? yeah!

succincubus – 2011/02/14

David Griffin Brown: Well teacher, does that mean they both get an “A”? Also I was wondering, you wouldn’t happen to be the “Brown” who’s competing in the next round, would you?

Lichty18: Didn’t your professor tell you, if you state your opinion, you must also provide a justification? Please share with the class why you think Mr. Beaulieu’s rewrite was better, so we can all enjoy your insight.

Lichty18 – 2011/02/14

I loved reading the rewrites! I thought they provided good insight into the difference of each writer. Personally, I think that Braydon’s rewrite was the better of the two. He brought more to Madeline’s story than she did to his.

mrsbarrymore – 2011/02/14

Mr. Beaulieu’s story is ten pounds in a five pound bag-we won’t make it home with our groceries this day. Ms. Masters story is ten pounds in a ten pound bag-we make it home with our groceries and place them on the shelves and in the frig to enjoy until the next time we need to go shopping.

Madeline Masters – 2011/02/14

It was definitely fun to do!

I like the idea of adding something about other people who come to the door. But I think I would mention trick-or-treaters, maybe have him say, “The only day someone should ring my bell is October 31st.”

Braydon, you definitely made Raymond into more of a grinch! That made him contrast even more with Mridula, esp. in her white skirt. Any particular reason you changed her outfit? Just curious.

emoran – 2011/02/14


David Griffin Brown – 2011/02/14

Yeehaw, that was great guys.  Who knows, maybe one day you’ll go on to coauthor a bestselling high fantasy series.  Or something.


st.pierre – 2011/02/14

Wow. I am so impressed at how you both got into the mindset of the other author and wrote a bit of their story. I think we see more of Raymond’s character in Braydon’s piece with the details (past door encounters, etc) and a better view of Tony in his world in Madeline’s — you did a great job highlighting more and more of klepto-smell-ania with Tony’s reflections on some of the objects. Loved the bottle in the waistband… hilarious!

Braydon Beaulieu – 2011/02/14

Likewise, here’s my homework.



Six knocks on the door. Last time he heard six, he ended up listening to a couple Mormons jabbering on about the restored gospel. He needs to take down that note, put a new one up: DOORBELL OUT OF ORDER, DON’T KNOCK. He swears if it’s those missionaries he’s going to hit one of them with their scriptures. Kid’ll have to scrub blood off the collar of that white shirt, or write home for a new one.

He scratches a dried mosquito carcass off the door, squints through the frosted glass. Well, it’s not a twenty year-old white kid in a suit. He turns the knob’s lock and the deadbolt, opens the door. Lets the chain lock tug tight. It’s a girl, a Middle-Eastern-looking girl in a white skirt, hands behind her back. His eyes dart to the bushes. Back to her.

“Hi,” she says. “Are you Raymond Simone?”

He grunts. Sniffles. “What do you want? Who’re you?”

“Hi,” she says again, smiling. Salesperson smile. She extracts one hand into view, waves. She has long fingers, and about seven rubber bracelets dangling from her wrist. “My name’s Mridula.”

His eye twitches. “I’m sorry. Not interested.”

He starts to close the door but she puts her hand against it, says, “Wait.”

“Listen, whatever you’re selling—”

“I’m not selling anything. I don’t mean to bother you. I brought a gift. Something I made. An art piece.”

He puts his face back between the jamb and the door. “Mardola, or whatever, I’ve got enough art to last me a goddamn lifetime. Honestly. Perks of the business.”

“Mree-DOO-lah. And it’s something I made from something of yours. I think you’ll like it. At least let me show it to you?”

He nods toward her hidden arm. “That it?”

She smiles, pulls out one of those black-and-green cloth bags from the grocery store. The environmentally-friendly ones. He can’t believe they’re charging for plastic now. Five cents a fucking bag. She says, “Want to see?”

He closes the door, slides the chain out of its track. “I can’t believe I’m doing this,” he mutters. He opens the door all the way, pushing two pairs of boots out of the way with it. “Well, come in then. Don’t bother taking off your shoes.”

Madeline Masters – 2011/02/14

OK, I did my homework! Here it is. This is the section from Mom’s bread to leaving the liquor store:


My mother used to bake a new loaf of bread every other day. My brother and I would stare at our distorted reflections in the silent chrome toaster, its insides glowing hot, until it went POP! And made us jump, every time. Warm and buttered, we’d thrust the toasted love into our gaping maws. Mom watched, waiting for our approving nods and moans. Everything we owned smelled like bread. Our clothes, our blankets and pillows – seats in the station wagon.

I replaced the now-missing station wagon yeast and oat smell with a cardboard mint tree. The tree hangs from my 71 ‘Cuda’s rearview mirror. I don’t ask why a tree smells like mint and not pine. They’re both green. The mint tree made its way into my boot top while leaving a truck stop souvenir shop along route 409. A pack of Sour Patch Kids and a Canada Kicks Ass keychain fell into the side pocket of my backpack as I glanced through maps. I gave the Sour Patch Kids to an empty-handed toddler by The Claw vending machine. The keychain is in the cherrywood chest beneath my bed. There are no keys on it.

I follow the queen’s orders and stop at the liquor store. I grip a bottle of Tequila Rose by the neck. I plop it on the counter, add a bottle of lemon vodka. The red-haired wasp at the register doesn’t notice the flask-sized whiskey bottle bulging from the front of my jeans. My boxer waistband has been holding it there since I left the back aisle. They should really keep all the small stuff at the storefront.

I pay the red-haired wasp forty-seven dollars and fifty cents. She gives me back a dime, a nickel, and two pennies. I drop the pennies in a “Find the Cure” jar. The wasp slides a ring from one of her barbs and puts it on the counter, then replaces it with a glob of green hand sanitizer. I tell her she has a mosquito on her arm. When she moves to swat it I tell her it flew up around her head, then slip the ring from the counter. As I wriggle out the door she shouts, “Hey, fucker, wait!” The door slams behind me. I flick the mint tree, and continue on to Angela’s.

Braydon Beaulieu – 2011/02/14


From “Coffee Stain,” previously published in These Are Real People (chapbook):

A dried barnacle clings to sea salt like ship hulls and harbours traces of leftover seafoam in its crust. Cradles the ledge next to sugar and cream and it cusses as they spill from their cups. Creases and folds hold hairs inside follicles carved by crab claws, scuttling in search of safe sands. Double double. Pumpkin spice cappuccino. Semibalanus balanoides. The barnacle brushes fingertips and sends brine through veins up spines and influences a customer into asking, “What’s this?”


For AmyV: “paper mountains, peak v., for John B. Lee,” previously published in echolocation:

having let light try

all the doors, the poet falls

asleep on the train


From “Soda Nocturne,” previously published in Generation:

I stop outside the convenience store’s window and set the Coke on the sill, tuck my Marlboros into the back pocket of my jeans, peel the wrapper from the top half of the chocolate bar. My dad taught me how to peel things in spirals so they reveal themselves dramatically, sort of like ripping off masks and cloaks at the end of a play. I peel everything in spirals, leave little helixes on the kitchen table. The Aero comes as clean as any orange or potato. The chocolate is cheap and delicious, and I devour it to keep it from melting. Licking its remains from my fingers, I leave my spiral masterpiece on the windowsill for someone to appreciate later.


Wayne watches through the glass. I place a cigarette between my lips. I trace his eyes to my father’s lighter as I raise it to my face. The bastard wants my lighter. I pick up my Coke, shoot him the finger, then stalk off down the main street.

I peer into windows at drunken, bearded men hitting on underaged miniskirts. Pigs. It would be so easy to walk into any one of these places and rob it blind. The Tavern has the burliest bartender. I watch him for a while, while I smoke in the moonlight. He’s pretty good with the drinks, flexes his forearms and triceps while he pours. I figure I can give him a good run for his money. I crush my cigarette beneath the ball of my sneaker, leave my half-empty Coke on the windowsill and slip into the bar.

Madeline Masters – 2011/02/14

Here’s the beginning of the story Insecticide:


“I got 217,” Fern said. “What did you get?”

“218. Don’t make me count all over again!”

They sat and counted the smears. Most of them were no longer recognizable as bodies. Most of them were just grey or black streaks with little bits of legs or antennae left in them.

“No, I see what you probably did. You probably counted that one as two,” said Fern, as he pointed with a foreleg at two long, white, consecutive streaks. “But that’s all one guy.”

“One guy? How can you tell?”

“Well, see, look here,” Fern explained, “You’ve got the same little black speckles going through this half of the streak as the next one. And the pattern matches up.”

“Oh, so he skidded?” Dewdrop asked.

“Yeah,” Fern answered. “He was a skidder.”

The two friends bobbed their heads lightly as they stared at the shining chrome bumper. At the sound of dull thuds, most likely footfalls, they instinctively bounded off into the tall grass, off of the burning-hot, black pavement.

The only cool spots left that afternoon were in the shadows of the giant mechanical, metal beasts scattered up and down the black ocean. Fern and Dewdrop knew better than anyone else that these were not things to stay close to for long, once they got moving. Part of the fun of their counting was to do it as quickly as possible. If they heard the animal start to rumble, they immediately retreated to the tall grass. Then they’d watch the rubber-footed beasts roll off into the distance, from the safety of a thistle bloom.


It’s about two friends who witness their friend’s suicide (via jumping in front of a pick-up truck).

Madeline Masters – 2011/02/14

Other writing:

Here’s a section of my short story “The Cabinet,” about cans in a cupboard. The main character is the chronically insecure Red Beets, who is trying to help his friend “Man” (mandarin orange sections) avoid getting made into a fruit salad.


Dawn broke through the cracks in the woodwork of the Cabinet. I knew cooking would start early today, considering the magnitude of the feast about to be prepared. It was Christmas, and since the volume of the voices in the household had grown considerably in the past few days, it was certain that several other hungry mouths were over to join in the festivities.

My aluminum crawled every time I heard the creeeeeeak swish, swish, swish of the saloon-style kitchen door. I guessed a dish like fruit salad would be best served chilled, and would be prepared early. I hoped They would get it over with soon, so I could stop collecting condensation.

At last, the Cabinet door opened. Pineapple Chunks, who had pressed herself against the door in her excitement, nearly tumbled out, risking a dent. Hastily, a Face appeared, swinging side to side as It perused my comrades’ countenances. Its Hand reached out. I held onto my seal, waiting to see whom It was selecting for the next victuals.

Pineapple was first, just as she had hoped. The time was now. The fruit salad components were being assembled. Maraschino Cherries went next. The Face scowled, then shot down to the bottom shelf, where I huddled next to Man. “Don’t worry yet, friend,” I whispered to him. “Just don’t move.”


emoran – 2011/02/14

did someone just say boon?
sorry guys i’ve been sick for days.    i’m a bit outta the loop.


wow!  i love those images of EW languidly dropping her pages of prose to the floor to be collected later by her assistant and put into order.  it makes me think, “man I need a slave, or an intern, or a slave intern.  do you think I could get them to do my other writing… like my poetry?”


poetry is way harder to write in my opinion.  but that could just be because i am a shitty poet.  i steal from poets all the time.  they are innovative fuckers.  it’s like they are gods lying in their giant towering beds dropping pages of their god words to the floor and i scavenge through their pages to… wait a minute.  i’m a slave to poetry!  fuck you poetry gods.  i’m no slave.  and… and… your books don’t even sell!


i love poetry.  it’s a strange brain that can do it really well.  i always think that writing poetry really well is almost completely removed from writing prose at all–like it is an entirely different language–same words, different syntax.  it blows my mind.


i was hanging out with this guy last night at Rovers Pub on Bloor.  he had convinced himself that he didn’t care that he (indirectly) was nominated for a grammy so he didn’t go to LA.  when he won (yeah, he won) he leapt up into the air and said “every girlfriend that ever dumped me is getting a phone call and man this goes on my resume tonight: GRAMMY WINNER!” and then he got very drunk… which, i think is probably exactly the way Hemingway’s Nobel Prize win probably went down (except he called his asshole-mother that dressed him up like a girl part-time to gloat).  my point: no.  winning BP is not winning the Nobel Prize or even a Grammy (there’s no money and Rhianna will never bogle and grind at the BP literary awards) but winning is winning and you get to say you won something and EVERYBODY loves a winner.  they also hire winners, which is probably more my point.


and seriously, thanks for the compliment to my writing.  boon.  jeeze. gosh. i’m a gonna take that one straight to the bank and deposit it straight into my positive-feelings-for-hard-times savings account.


Braydon Beaulieu – 2011/02/13

Well, Madeline, how about snippets of other work in the morning, and the rewrites in the afternoon? I’m thinking a haiku for AmyV, and a couple paragraphs from two other stories.

I also do the notebook-in-the-pocket thing. It’s incredibly useful for remembering ideas and lines you come up with when you’re busy, and I recommend it to every writer out there who doesn’t already do it. I use these:

Madeline Masters – 2011/02/13

Hi AmyV:

About things I’ve written that weren’t for a contest: I could post a few choice snippets from other stories tomorrow when I have access to my other computer, if you like! I’d be curious to see samples of Braydon’s other fiction, too.

About writing on paper vs. the computer: it depends. I carry a notebook that I jot down random sentences and ideas in when they pop up. Often I’ll start a story in my journal (paper) at home, and then type that up and continue on my computer later.

It’s easier for me to come up with ideas on paper but then carry them out in Word. Typing will always be faster than handwriting. Maybe someday I’ll get one of those talk-and-translate programs. That would be sweet!

AmyV – 2011/02/13

Thanks Braydon for answering my quirky question. The reason I asked is that I’ve been reading a lot of Edith Wharton lately, and what I love about her (and it’s not Ethan Frome) is that the images of her sitting behind a writing desk are all publicity oriented.  Wharton actually wrote all her great classics (and flubs, see above comment regarding Ethan Frome) while nestled amongst the pillows of her bed…and after each handwritten page was completed she would let it fall to the floor whereupon an assistant would later gather them and put them into the correct order.

Perhaps easy wasn’t the word I was exactly looking for, but I’ve found that words come more effortlessly in the prose form then they do in poetry.  Whereas the poem can have so many formats (from rubiyat to paradelle or my personal favorite the haiku) that sometimes the word craft is more laborious.

Braydon Beaulieu – 2011/02/13

AmyV: I write on my computer, personally. But I then print and do my editing on paper.

Another thing you said that I found interesting: “I have never found writing poetry easy.” Should writing ever come easily? Madeline, what do you think of this?

backinthesaddle – 2011/02/13

…yeah, because we contest participants have nothing better to do with our time than pander to your goofy whims, we just love an extra unpaid task like reproducing some unrelated snippet of writing that you’er too lazy to google for yourself…or editing someone else’s hopeless story for fun, as if Maddy’s interest in this landslide will linger one minute beyond midnight on monday…if you want some extra reading, how about running out and buying a copy of that boon to literature and mankind, “Porny Stories”…god you’re a ditz, amy…and you’re right, perry, you’re not involved, at least not anymore, and i’m fine with that, so let them stew in their ignorance…i’m okay with being maddy’s best friend who hasn’t spoken to her in 3 months, or that kid in the back of the writing department who inwardly hates that pompous dickhead beaulieu…but please…don’t lump me in with the two and a half people who work for Broken Pencil…they’ve been insulted enough reading your corny stories…haven’t you figured it out?…this is one of those contests that picks out the worst stories and then makes fools of the so-called writers by making them think they’ve been selected for their merit ; )

AmyV – 2011/02/13

Edit: It would be interesting to see something that wasn’t written with a contest or thesis in mind…sorry! And that is why one shouldn’t write a forum post while talking on the phone.

AmyV – 2011/02/13

Extropian, I hope you’re not correct on that assumption. It would be extremely saddening to think someone like that works for the magazine.

I think the best course of action is to just ignore it.

I, too, would be interested in seeing bits and pieces of other pieces the two of you had written.  Madeline, I understand completely where you’re coming from in regards to poetry.  I was published in my college’s literary magazine for poetry several times and even won an award for it, however, I have never found writing poetry easy or something I find myself writing often.

It would be interesting to see something that you two wrote that was written with a contest (or master thesis) in mind, but rather was something playing in your head that needed to be expressed  on paper.

One thing I’m curious about the writers…do you write out your words on old fashioned paper? Or type them into a computer?

extropian – 2011/02/13

I\’m starting to suspect that backintesaddle is an agent-provocateur for Broken Pencil. They\’ve sent him in to light some police cars on fire, rip apart both stories, and get everyone interested. Either that or he\’s a professional troll that is hooking everyone in with each post and we\’re hand delivering the bait too.

backinthesaddle – 2011/02/13

…i’m not under a bridge, so stop calling me troll…you’re going to hurt my feelings…actually bessie, don’t peek just yet, but i’m texting this from under your bed…how about getting back to the stories…as opposed to eva moran’s flaky punch drunk comments…like why beaulieu uses big words like ommatidia and marmalade…usually it’s laudable to appeal to the reader’s range of senses…but what about “smells like a pistachio shell?”…i haven’t sniffed one of those lately…”smell like cinnamon”…jeez, i’ve never seen that written before…”smelled of hand sanitizer”….”smell like semen”…”smelled like bread”…”smells of halved peaches”…what, is that a different smell than whole peaches?…i presume he purposely uses this repetition to fit with his terse prose…but beaulieu’s persistent use of the verb “smell” also seems lazy and unimaginative…

just me – 2011/02/13

I agree with Mr. Perry. I do not think either of them knows this person. He commented last round. It would be easy to know Madeline’s nickname just by stopping by her facebook wall. The troll annihilated Braydon earlier is this round. I highly doubt someone from his writing department would make such vicious comments about him.
Keeping to the writing seems best. I was just remembering that  Madeline posted a preamble earlier in the week. So would Braydon be open to sharing something small that he he has written? Perhaps a piece of poetry since he has shown interest in it. I know they are both doing rewrites on each other’s stories. So something already written that shows another side of his writing would be interesting. Just a thought.
You are both keeping your cool in the face of very personal attacks. You should both be proud of yourselves.

danielperry – 2011/02/13

Not getting involved, just a caution to the sensible: I would hesitate before suggesting that either Madeline or Braydon is personally affiliated. backinthesaddle commented last round, too.

bessie – 2011/02/13

Isn’t Maddy a common nickname for Madeline?

I thought this comment:

then again, you don’t have the email list for the student association…can you say “SPAM?”

indicates the spaz troll is someone in Braydon’s writing department.

succincubus – 2011/02/13

On Ms. Masters’ last two comments to the troll:

And THAT is how you fight with WORDS!

backinthesaddle – 2011/02/13

…i was only voting for you because i felt sorry for you…despite it’s flaws, beaulieu’s story is better written by a million miles…but don’t worry…you won’t be the only victim that he massacres in this contest…see you around, Maddy ; )

Madeline Masters – 2011/02/13

There’s just one problem, backinthesaddle: you called me Maddy. So I know you’re someone who knows me personally. Which makes me even more disappointed that I have ever been in any way associated with you. You don’t belong here. And if we are friends in the “real world” outside this forum, well, by your comments to my competitor, and other people on this discussion page, I hope we never speak in “real life” again.

Your comments to me are just a poor attempt at self-defense. You’ve turned on me because I rejected you. I wanted to ignore you, because other posters had it right, “Don’t feed the troll.” I said it before, and I am saying it again, no one wants you here. The longer you post, the longer you embarrass yourself.

backinthesaddle – 2011/02/13

…your whole story is unbelievable, Maddy…”no one comes to anyone’s house anymore?”…maybe not to your house…you SHOULD do more showing and less telling…you ARE unable to accept constructive criticism and your over-defensiveness IS a joke…your story is less about how real people react than it is about the funny things running around in your head…Mridula’s concern about rape…hey, your name starts with “M” too, what a coincidence!!…the way you have Raymond trusting brown-skinned people less…that’s just whack…and I don’t think anyone typically associates women with home-based crime at all…why would “stalker” become an issue on a first meeting?…this he arrives at even before he learns she went through his trash…the whole idea about bringing her bad art upstairs to him is implausible as you have told it…to give him first option?…to seek his permission?…more likely she wanted to approach him because she already knew he was a celebrity “DJ”…she doesn’t seem at all surprised when he tells here this…as if anyone would want that eyesore piece of crap…yeah, right, as if she could sell it elsewhere…you don’t seem to have any conept of how hard it is to sell visual art…that’s why it’s still with you in your profile pic…and the voting suggests you’re not particularly adept at selling your story here either…then again, you don’t have the email list for the student association…can you say “SPAM?”…good luck in obscuritydom…LOSER ; )

Madeline Masters – 2011/02/13

backinthesaddle: Your uncouth personal attacks are absolutely inexcusable. Your language is disgusting and base. You are embarrassing yourself by continuing to comment in this forum. Please leave. No one wants you here.

backinthesaddle – 2011/02/12

…good riddance, pussy…it’s a deathmatch, not a church picnic ; )

Capt.Teela_3000 – 2011/02/12

Tyler – 2011/02/12

“As far as your competitors work goes…..well…….my mother told me if I have nothing nice to say then don’t say anything at all.  Keep writing……… or better yet maybe it just isn’t for you….. 🙁  ”

This is not an example of constructive criticism. It is true that I stated that “Field Guide” bored me. I will admit that though my previous post may have not been the most sensitive example of expressing one’s feelings toward the work, it was not an attack on the author or his ability to write. I just did not prefer his story. Either way, I appologize for contributing even the slightest to a less than professional critique.

Repeatedly after visiting this board I have been disappointed by the unprofessional manner in which several contributors have presented their critiques. I wish you all well, but I will not be participating in anymore “discussions” hosted by “Broken Pencil.” In fact, this note is primarily for the creators of “Broken Pencil.” I have a few suggests about how you may attract a more professional audience in the future. Work harder to moderate and discourage immature, mean spirted critiques. Only give each individual one opportunity to vote. One should not be able to vote on the story with out registering for an account on this site. Realize that your audience is responsible for reputation of “Broken Pencil.” Currently, a few of your posters are driving several highly educated, talented, and respected members of the creative community away from your site. It is a shame.

Thank you for your time. Good luck to the contestants.

Tyler – 2011/02/12

Braydon fabulous work!   You destroyed her with this one.  I haven’t read any of the other competition yet but as far as this battle goes you gratefully defeated your opponent. Congrats.  As far as your competitors work goes…..well…….my mother told me if I have nothing nice to say then don’t say anything at all.  Keep writing……… or better yet maybe it just isn’t for you….. 🙁

Capt.Teela_3000 – 2011/02/12

“…is Mridula’s piece art?…only in the sense that an elementary student pasting macaroni, stars and glitter on a picture frame is art…it’s not particularly beautiful, inspiring, or thought provoking…”

By definition, anything that is placed on a  pedestal and labeled art is in fact art. You don’t have to like it, you don’t have to believe it has a deeper meaning, you don’t even have to enjoy looking at it. For example, are we all familiar with “Piss Christ”?

Mridula’s piece is art. She labeled it as art and it is meaningful to her. In the end, art is simple the product of self expression.


Or should I have just ignored the above comment entirely?

Braydon Beaulieu – 2011/02/12

For danielperry, following up on st.pierre‘s question:

Susan Holbrook, Joy is So Exhausting || Poem of choice: “Insert”

Sina Queyras, Lemon Hound || “If Only”

T.S. Eliot, Prufrock and Other Observations || “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock”

Robert Kroetsch, Too Bad: Sketches Toward a Self-Portrait || “Keyed In”

Sylvia Plath, The Colossus || “Departure”

Roger Bell, You Tell Me || “The blow-job funeral”

That last book is less about the poetry itself, though, and more because I helped edit the collection, which was a ridiculously fun experience. I’m a nerd like that.

backinthesaddle – 2011/02/12

…i dunno Maddy, come to think of it…like pitbull owners,  female boxers or guys who foist their sexual identity and academic credentials on us when we didn’t ask, there is something weird and offputting about the remarkable comeback you made yesterday, but which evaporated again today…i’ve got too much invested in Raymond to let you call him a sell-out for putting out resumes and getting a job instead of staying a DJ…often the term is reserved for those who pander to the masses by commercializing their art…not for those who momentarily act on impulse, but are rational enough to quickly discern a more honorable course of conduct, or are practical enough to recognize the limit of their abilities and that not everyone can provide for their families or reach their other aspirations through art…like it’s a character flaw to hold a disdain or feel somehow elevated above the millions of productive people who hold desk jobs and contribute to our society’s proper functioning…is Mridula’s piece art?…only in the sense that an elementary student pasting macaroni, stars and glitter on a picture frame is art…it’s not particularly beautiful, inspiring, or thought provoking…but it’s a learning process and a creative start…your story touches on discrimination, but the distinction you attempt to make between young and old indie artists may also be fraught with unnecessary prejudice…

Madeline Masters – 2011/02/12

st. pierre: Yes, this is a good question.

It’s so hard to be a good poet. And readers are even more judgmental of poetry than of prose, I find. I’ve always avoided poetry because I didn’t want to delude myself into thinking I was really good at it, and also because the audience for it is comparatively small. I’ve written song lyrics for fun (meaning for my eyes only), but that’s the extent of it.

But writing poetry as an exercise in word selection is a great suggestion. I’ve thought about trying this, and now that you put it in my mind again, I will. Thanks again for the thoughtful input!

danielperry – 2011/02/12

Capt. Teela: no worries. My aniel-retentiveness has its limits. 😉

I’ve been following this board quasi-religiously, and I wish I had more to add. Everything I can think to say has been said, and the level of engagement is outstanding. I’m really eager to read to the homework assignments, and more reader comments, and following on st.pierre’s question, I would love to hear both authors speak about any poetry that informs/influences their work.

st.pierre – 2011/02/12

Thank you. I really like the concept that you’re working with.

A lot has been said about your writing style, so I wanted to ask: do you write poetry? I used to exclusively write and read short fiction, but in the past few years have grown to appreciate the level of complexity that poetry can have in such a short space. When I approach a poem, I ask what makes it work; and when I critique and edit, I make sure every line earns its way into the poem. This process has really heightened my awareness of language and how beautiful it can be. Maybe that sounds mushy, but I thought you might consider this approach helpful as you continue to write and edit your own work — and others!

Madeline Masters – 2011/02/12

fluttershy: I didn’t say my background is in playwriting. That was Eva, our moderator.

But thanks to st. pierre for sharing your insights on the title Floppy Discs. It’s clear that you’ve spent some time thinking about the story and the characters, what they represent, and their motivations.

fluttershy – 2011/02/12

Some Thoughts on Floppy Disks Weak opening line. Compare the action in your line to the first line of your opponent. Your line is boring, it doesn\’t entice the reader to continue on. Raymond is exceptionally uncomfortable, he doesn\’t trust Mridula at first meeting her. Mridula didn\’t seem apprehensive. Raymond can\’t lie. He tries not to react to her foreign name. These feelings happen amongst the character, but the only reason I know is because you told me each of these things. They didn\’t develop from the actions they take. You said your background is playwriting. In playwriting actions help define the characters. Subtly is what allows good characters to work on stage. The same is with prose. Yes, in playwriting you can put down: (apprehensively) “What do you want?” In that case you\’re allowing the actor to embody the feeling to the statement. In prose, little emotion is just given outward in such a manner. In Hemingway, simple statements are followed by dialogue that infers meaning. In your story, dialogue can be bland, and any thoughts behind it are explained away. They felt this and that. I\’ll continue later if I have time.

Braydon Beaulieu – 2011/02/12

Madeline: I didn’t find any explicit evidence that those with kleptomania gain sexual satisfaction from stealing, but rather, that the satisfaction they did experience was similar (in terms of brain activity) to sexual stimulation, consuming alcohol, and other addictive behaviours.

Nevertheless, I did factor it into his sexual relationship with Angela. Tony steals more than curtain ties and robin eggs. He steals glances. He steals phrases. He steals away. Angela is his ultimate prize: stealing a heart, or, more tangibly: stealing an actual, physical person. Tony’s psychological imperative to perceive his world as an insect is more pronounced in instances of kleptomania, and this is why when the two of them have sex, Tony’s ultimate act of theft, the language shifts so competely into bug-speak.

Thanks, also, to st.pierre, Lichty18 and succincubus for the thoughtful comments about Field Guide to Kleptoparasitism and Floppy Discs. The three of you seem to be the critical readers every writer worth his/her salt dreams of.

Lichty18 – 2011/02/12

st.pierre, that does make sense. I do agree with you there. I think that we have Braydon’s writing style to thank for that. I know it’s been said so many times and we’re really beating a dead horse here, but the whole thing with Madeline telling us really takes away from the characters. Tony goes through more, covers more time and more things are discovered about him, raising more questions than answers. I really think that if Madeline had given us a little more, we would have more questions to ask about her characters as well…if that makes sense.

succincubus – 2011/02/12

Ms. Masters: No witty comeback for me this morning? Well, I can’t say I’m surprised.

So you designed Floppy Discs for the Broken Pencil audience. That explains why you got this far.

But your story is missing one thing that Mr. Beaulieu’s abounds with, and he said this directly: it’s edgy. Edgy meaning teetering on the line between “provocative” and “purely for shock value.”

In one story, Beaulieu introduces the concepts of:


mental illness




domestic violence


alcoholism, and


Phew! pant, pant, pant…

Whether or not he says anything deep or meaningful about any of these topics, or just throws them in the reader’s faces, well, that’s a debate for the readers to duke out. But Beaulieu has done well at getting their attention.

Ms. Masters, Floppy Discs is probably too tame and too understated for the BP audience, which is at least part of the reason you’ve lagged in votes since the match started.

st.pierre – 2011/02/12

I would have to agree with you. But I think that goes back to the issue of writing style. We can tell that there is depth to the authors’ characters, but we’re given more details to go off of in Braydon’s, which I think makes us wonder about them in a more specific way… if that makes sense.

Lichty18 – 2011/02/12

I like the discussion of the characters deepening. If you don’t love the characters you’re reading about, why even bother to read? You wouldn’t care what happened to them. I think both stories have great characters. Both stories have these unusual and interesting characters who are rather different. Mridula makes art from trash. Tony steels news paper. Why? I think all the characters conjure up a lot of thinking. They are very multi dimensional. I believe that Field Guide’s characters seem to be a little deeper, have a little more hiding beneath the surface. But both sets of characters are very well developed.

st.pierre – 2011/02/12

Madeline, I really enjoyed the resonance that your title, Floppy Discs, has with your story. As you just said, they act as a medium for a discussion of ‘old art’ and ‘new art.’ But also, I noticed someone say that your story was like a character study, and this got me thinking of Raymond and Mridula as floppy discs (no, not just breasts). Parts of them can be erased, or thrown out in Raymond’s case; they can be added onto, etc. I think this is a real strength to your story because you’re commenting on art. Really interesting, and I like it.

Braydon, I was also thinking about your title, which I also like. Let me tell you why. I love how it plays on the idea of a guidebook to the creepy crawlies of our backyards, but also has a special resonance for the reader who is navigating this bug-human world and figuring out how that changes the everyday human stuff. You know? Also, “kleptoparatism” — talk about the best word ever.

Still loving this discussion board…

Madeline Masters – 2011/02/12

OK, answer:

I wrote Floppy Discs specifically for the Deathmatch. I already had the inspiration – the actual floppy discs piece, which can be seen in the background of my bio pic.

I thought BP readers would enjoy discussing whether or not Mridula’s piece would be considered “art.” It raises the question, does something become art because of the intention of the creator, or the perception of the viewer?

I chose the characters of Mridula and Raymond to represent the new and older generations of the indie culture. Or at least, Mridula aspires to be part of the independent culture. Whether or not she succeeds is subjective to the reader and his/her own understanding of what it means to be “indie.”

Raymond is the classic sell-out, as the last few lines of the story point out.

The sexual scene gave me a chance to bring out a number of social issues. Also most of the stories posted on the BP website take on sexuality in some form, so I figured BP readers enjoy exploring sex and reading about atypical sexual encounters.

The “make-out scene” also allowed me to explore and challenge the ideas of attraction – how we sometimes feel drawn to someone not because of their physical appearance (Raymond is not exactly the cultural physical ideal of a man), but because of their intrigue, their mystique, or their exoticism (part of why Raymond is attracted to Mridula).

I considered writing out a full-blown sex scene, but I scaled it back, thinking it was in better taste and more believable for the characters that they get close, but not “go all the way.”

On the whole, what Mridula does, I think, is something we all want to do at some point but are afraid, or we rationalize ourselves out of it. In the preamble, Mridula says, “What’s wrong with reaching out to the people who inspire us?”

So that’s why I submitted Floppy Discs to the Deathmatch.

succincubus – 2011/02/11

Ms. Masters: I was going to say, “Never ask a question you are not yourself prepared to answer,” but I guess that’s not considered “fair play” since you already told us you’ve galavanted off for the evening.

Hope you have a witty retort for me when you come back.

So is everyone going to shrink away to their safe places since both writers have declared their cease-fire for the time being?

We’ve done such a good job carrying on without them thusfar. Let’s not let a little thing like “God is not watching us” get in the way of our fun.

Madeline Masters – 2011/02/11

Braydon: In your research, did you find that kleptomaniacs often get sexual pleasure from stealing? Did you factor that into Tony and Angela’s encounter at all?

I want to answer your second question (or my own question offered back to me), why I chose Floppy Discs for this contest, but I’d like to take some time to formulate my answer. So I’ll hold you all in suspense until I can come back to it.

Right now I, too, need to step away for a bit: I’m getting ready for my drive to Toronto to see that Canadian lover of mine.

Looking forward to getting back to the discussion later!

Braydon Beaulieu – 2011/02/11

just me: Thank you. I agree with that first part of your post. I’m very glad Madeline and I are finally engaging in productive discussion. Hopefully this will model behaviours for other posters and we don’t see the return of the trolls tonight.

Madeline: I can see the narrative essay writer in your work, now that you mention it. Like my comments earlier about how I see a part of myself in Field Guide, this helps me contextualize what you’re trying to do with Floppy Discs. This is definitely a character-based story, written in a narrative-focused style. I see my story as also character-based, but much more focused on language than narration. Another reason our stories differ, stylistically.

Field Guide is actually very different from what most of the things I write, but then again, I don’t have any particular style to which I try to adhere. But where is does fit with everything else I write is that I started with the idea for Tony’s character. I almost always begin with a character, rather than a plot or a pivotal image, for example. Then I think about how to emulate that character’s point of view in my form, and finally, I consider language. So, I started with the idea of kleptomaniac, and then research revealed the phenomenon of kleptoparasitism in ant colonies, which I thought would be cool to use as a characterization device. I then decided that my sentences and imagery should appear fragmentary and unpredictable, and invoke uneasiness, because that reminds me of how bugs move. Does this also help contextualize my story? What are readers’ thoughts on my process?

As to why I chose this particular story for this particular contest: looking back on the Deathmatch contestants of yore, I saw that they were generally edgier than the material many Canadian lit mags publish. This was a good venue to start gaining exposure (if I was accepted) for my thesis. What about you, Madeline, how did you choose Floppy Discs for the Deathmatch?

On that note, I’m out, probably until morning. Have fun discussing, and I look forward to the questions I wake up to!

simone – 2011/02/11

David Griffin Brown, your math is correct. That is also how I calculated it.

just me – 2011/02/11

Just finished reading through all the posts from today. Not much time to comment. Yet I want to say I applaud both writers for engaging with the readers, and with one another. Hats off to you both.

I quite enjoyed the most recent post by rosemarynixon. You stated how I feel, yet with much more eloquence. Your thoughts intrigue me, as I really believe the reader plays such an important role in the interpretation of a story. When I have a bit more time, I want to go back to your post so I can take more away from it.
David Griffin Brown‘s suggestion blew me away. Great idea. I look forward to reading these stories from the other author’s point of view. This will be very interesting indeed.
I am so glad we are back to the writing. I will sit back and enjoy the dialogue.

Madeline Masters – 2011/02/11

Braydon, you said:

Field Guide to Kleptoparasitism shows, perhaps, eccentricity and a fragmentary sense of self in its author (wow, it’s weird to analyze myself like that).

It is weird to self-analyze (I don’t normally say these things about myself out loud either), but yours is a compelling observation that I think will inform the readers’ take of the story.

You also said:

I’m interested to know what Floppy Discs looks like next to your other writing. In what ways do you see this story as cohesive with other stories you’ve written? On the flipside, what sorts of things do you do to differentiate your pieces and challenge your craft?

Great questions.

Most of my recent work is written from a non-human perspective, or is a narrative essay. So Floppy Discs is different in that it’s a story with people as characters who are not me.

It’s similar to my other work because I like to focus on characters: how they interact, how they handle challenging situations, what makes them unique or odd. Meeting new people through stories. That’s what I like.

So Braydon, how does Field Guide stack up to some of your other work? And, why did you choose this story for this particular contest?

Oh, and 300-500 words sounds very do-able. I guess I have homework this weekend!

Braydon Beaulieu – 2011/02/11

Madeline, that’s an awesome exploration of yourself as a writer. I find the following lines particularly interesting:


“Braydon said lots of people say and do things and they have no idea why. This is true. But I’m the opposite kind of person – just about everything I say and do I try to have a reason for it (even if it only makes sense to me). I edit myself before, and then I analyze myself after.

“And this, too, could have something to do with why the styles of our stories are so different.”

You hit the nail on the head. The part of your individuality that may have broken off and evolved into Floppy Discs may well be your self-reflexively exploratory nature, whereas I would say Field Guide to Kleptoparasitism shows, perhaps, eccentricity and a fragmentary sense of self in its author (wow, it’s weird to analyze myself like that).

I’m interested to know what Floppy Discs looks like next to your other writing. In what ways do you see this story as cohesive with other stories you’ve written? On the flipside, what sorts of things do you do to differentiate your pieces and challenge your craft?

And finally, I’m thinking a 300-500 word count for our mini-rewrites. Sound good?

succincubus – 2011/02/11

David Griffin Brown: I kind of want to email you just because I like your address so much.

David Griffin Brown – 2011/02/11


As I said, I have no stake in either contestant winning.  I do, however, want the contest to be fair, and so I didn’t say anything until I was absolutely sure that proxies were being used.

If you want a more detailed explanation, feel free to send me an email so we can get back to discussing the stories here: sippy-cup (a)

Braydon & Madeline

Looking forward to reading the rewrites!!  Glad you both liked the idea =)

Madeline Masters – 2011/02/11

Eva said:

“but some of you seem to really want to know exactly what the characters are thinking and feeling.  why?  i’m curious because i come from such a different place.  i started out in playwriting and everything is action with little explanation… where are you guys coming from and why do you think clarity in character intentionality is essential to these pieces and writing of short fiction in general?”

I took “some of you” to mean the readers. But I’ll say a bit about character intentionality:

I don’t think characters’ actions need always be explained with words, but pushing the line of probability can lose readers and makes them write off a story as “unbelievable.” Their suspension of disbelief is shattered and they lose interest in the story when characters do things that seem completely outside the realm of possibility. That’s the school of thought I’m coming from on this topic.

This comment is more about the authors and not quite as much about the stories:

Braydon said lots of people say and do things and they have no idea why. This is true. But I’m the opposite kind of person – just about everything I say and do I try to have a reason for it (even if it only makes sense to me). I edit myself before, and then I analyze myself after.

And this, too, could have something to do with why the styles of our stories are so different.

That’s what makes this match-up interesting and challenging for the voters and commenters. I’m glad a lot of you are enjoying the banter going on here. When I read the comment, “I am officially addiction to this forum” (not an exact quote), I got a big smile on my face.

Braydon Beaulieu – 2011/02/11

Madeline: Agreed on all counts. This will be an interesting exercise, as writers, to see our own work reworked! Thanks to David Griffin Brown for the idea, and Cat in Antwerp and succincubus for its support.

dystopic: “Bloodchild” has been added to the top of my reading list. Thanks for the recommedation. All of your thoughful criticism has been logged and will undergo serious consideration by myself and my thesis advisor, when the time comes. Cheers, mate!

succincubus – 2011/02/11

David Griffin Brown: So, you’re saying the forum suddenly shifted in Ms. Masters’ favor, and then votes for her also rose. Don’t those two go together like beer and pizza?

But props for the good idea about the story rewrites. I’ll look forward to reading them if/when both authors deliver.

rosemarynixon – 2011/02/11


Just had a moment to pop in.  Reading the comments, I’ve been thinking about us as readers.  Playwriting, as an example, may be all action (and of course dialogue) with little explanation (which is good) but in a well-written piece, the action and dialogue are SIGNIFICANT action and SIGNIFICANT dialogue. The action and dialogue speak, the way body language and voice intonation speak, saying more, often a lot more, than the actual words.   Even the sound of the words resonate the text.  The reader, in order to engage, has to know how to read well – sensing that the writer isn’t just flinging in lines of dialogue or having a character act willy-nilly.  I agree that falls on the reader to look for the meaning behind the action.  But, it’s up to the reader to decide what meaning lies behind the action, but by focusing on the clues, the suggestiveness, the resonance of the lines (when the author is good enough to get that resonance in.) That’s what being a good reader is.


Al Alverez says in his book The Writing Voice, says, “Reading well means opening your ears to the presence behind the words…Reading is as much an art as writing well, and almost as hard to acquire.”


And Guy Davenport, in his essay, “Finding” published in The Geography of the Imagination – says, “Things worth finding are embedded.”  He adds that “the search is the thing, the pleasure of looking.”  That’s partly how I judge if a story is strong.  If the text has a landscape I can search.


Much research has been done on the role of the reader. German critic Wolfgang Iser, in The Act of Reading, A Theory of Aesthetic Response, argues that texts contain gaps or blanks that powerfully affect the reader, who must explain them (to him/herself), connect what they separate, and create in his/her mind aspects of a work that aren’t in the text, but are incited by the text.


A good writer uses language that resonates with suggestiveness. It’s about more than its content.  And good reader, I think, doesn’t respond to the text from the way she/he thinks life should be, but rather from the nuggets embedded between/within the lines of a good story.


A person could site endless stories that are based on or drawn from other stories.  Aritha van Herk’s The Tent Peg draws on the story of Deborah in the Old Testament. Zsuzsi Gartner’s first story in All The Anxious Girls on Earth (forget the title) is a direct playful variation on Pam Houston’s “Cowboys Are My Weakness.”  Braydon’s drawing from The Metamorphosis deepens the resonance for me, making me want to search behind the lines of both the character’s quirkiness and in his dissatisfaction with life.

Madeline Masters – 2011/02/11

As far as rewriting a section of each other’s stories: I think that is a fantastic idea! Now that is what I’m talking about as far as this being a great learning experience that focuses on the two stories.

I can work on that this weekend and post it on Monday. Braydon, how does that sound for you?

Concerning proxy servers and vote stuffing: if anyone is doing this on my behalf, I’m not aware of it. If the system is being abused, I hope it will be stopped somehow so we can continue the match and not have it shut down because of rule infractions. That would be a lose-lose for everyone involved!

dystopic – 2011/02/11

also, on the subject of social networks, i reposted the link to this profile on my accounts, and some of my friends may have done so in turn; some of Madeline’s catch-up may well have to do with that. i don’t think it can be said for certain that people are voting from proxies: it would be that those IP addresses are/were blocked from the very beginning. without some of the web people chiming in, i don’t think we can say for sure. additionally, Braydon received a great deal more critical feedback after the initial period of voting, and that could have influenced how people are voting. at first i didn’t want to vote repeatedly because that very premise strikes me as absurd, but since the rules are the rules, i’ve split my votes about 70/30 in Madeline’s favor (i figure, the only justification for being able to vote multiple times is to show partial support for both authors),

Capt.Teela_3000 – 2011/02/11

“Considering only the time of day the votes were cast, especially after a huge jump in discussion, isn’t enough proof to suspect foul play.

I’ve got my first coffee for the day. Very black. Back to the stories. ”


Well, for starters I agree with you whole heartedly. I would like to add a few thoughts:

1. It would make sense for more votes to be cast in the evening hours. Not everyone is permitted to browse the internet on their work breaks.

2. Perhaps Madeline has supporters who reside in different time zones. 11:00 pm on the East coast, translates to only 8:00 pm on the West.

3. Madeline may have done a little more leg work to get people to look at her work. Self promotion via social media is essential in this day and age, and it works.

4. I have no idea what online proxy voting is, I don’t want to know, and I certainly am not going to waste my time researching it. I definitely don’t know how to find out if one of those websites was utilized. Why does anyone who isn’t in the business of website management?

5. I’d like to repeat that it is time to talk about the stories and only the stories.


dystopic – 2011/02/11

the site keeps periodically stalling on me, and that would seem to indicate some sort of spam shenanigans at work, which is a far greater sham(e) than any trolling.

Braydon: i would refer you first to her short story “Bloodchild.” i spoke hastily when i said that she’d worked with insect-people twice. she went on to continue working with many of the motifs from “Bloodchild” (particularly the kind of visceral disgust many of us feel with respect to insects) in a subsequent triology of novels, now published as a single volume under the title Lilith’s Brood. i spoke hastily because, while the novel series deals with many of the same motifs, the aliens aren’t insect-like.

Cat in Antwerp – 2011/02/11

I love David Griffin Brown’s idea of the two authors re-writing each other’s pieces!  Though I suppose it is quite the request- time consuming for the authors (though so fascinating for the readers who have invested in the two pieces and the discussion). What if each author only did a section of the other’s story?

my first time chiming in, though I have been reading all along. I just couldn’t let this idea go by unseconded 😉

David Griffin Brown – 2011/02/11


I was suspicious.  The forums took a particular turn yesterday, and that coincided with a sudden blast-off for Madeline’s score.  She admitted earlier that her social networking pool was limited, so it didn’t make sense for the score to change that quickly, especially this late in the week.

And by the way, if it matters at all, I don’t know either contestant.

succincubus – 2011/02/11

David Griffin Brown: Now seriously, I’m just curious, but why were you on

David Griffin Brown – 2011/02/11



Last night I tested the 180 or so proxy servers on, and nearly all of them had cast a vote.  What can I say, I’m unemployed.

Math makes me queasy, but I assume the reason Floppy Disks didn’t hit 70% is because some faithful friends of Braydon were voting in earnest to keep him afloat.

And while I was watching the numbers spin, the percentage was changing by 0.02 with each vote.  Maybe someone with mad calculator skillz can step in and correct me, but it seems like…

Floppy Discs was around 35% yesterday, and increased to 51% by this morning

-it takes 5 votes to change 0.1%

-thus 50 votes to change 1%

-15% x 50 = 750 votes

-and that doesn’t consider votes for Braydon

succincubus – 2011/02/11

Good to be back!

Where Ms. Moran unfortunately feels like she has a hangover but had none of the fun, I had the fun and am paying for it legitimately. Enough about me.

I wrote my first post to give a kick this discussion in the pants. The kick was felt. Great comments have been made.

But nobody likes a troll. And nobody likes accusations of cheating, if they’re unfounded.

Do we have evidence to support cheating? If not, then all mention of it should end right there.

Is there proof of cheating? Then bring it to light so we can get back to real, blood and guts writer-to-writer pummeling.

As for the hours that Ms. Masters gained her lead: Lots of people are awake and clackity clacking away on their computers into the wee hours. Especially eccentric creative types who would love this forum.

It’s clear that Beaulieu’s supporters are awake and voting vigorously during the daylight hours. Lucky them for having normal operating schedules. Not everyone has that luxury.

Considering only the time of day the votes were cast, especially after a huge jump in discussion, isn’t enough proof to suspect foul play.

I’ve got my first coffee for the day. Very black. Back to the stories.

Braydon Beaulieu – 2011/02/11

First and foremost, I am so proud of most of my supporters, who understand that just because it’s called the Deathmatch doesn’t give a person license to forget who she or he is and act like a colossal ass-hat. I salute you.

Thank you to Roxy, emoran, simone, AmyV, BPeleshok and CanadaAway for addressing the issue of proxy voting. I find CanadaAway‘s simile of it being like however-many people beating down one chap to be particularly poignant. Here’s hoping addressing the issue publicly will put an end to the midnight use of and its affiliates.

Okay, to the stories! Again, dystopic, thanks for the commentary. Great eye for subtext. I haven’t read Octavia Butler, but will. Which book would you recommend?

And thanks to Eva for posing a cool discussion question: “Where are you guys coming from and why do you think clarity in character intentionality is essential to these pieces and writing of short fiction in general?” In response, I would say that I was approaching character intentionality with a rather cynical mind when writing Field Guide to Kleptoparasitism. The story, if I remember correctly, was a reaction against the narrative poetry I’d been reading, in which every decision and thought was explained to death. I wanted to write something in which not only would I not explain things, but things would sometimes seem inexplicable. I realized the gamble I was taking for readership, as some readers, like dystopic, don’t find incomprehensible characters to their taste in short fiction. In my experience, people do not always display (or even have) clear-cut intentions for the things they say and do. Personally, I don’t understand a single person I know. I strove to mimic that reality. I look forward to reading Madeline‘s take on Eva‘s question.

Also to dystopic: Interesting. My sister just voted and it made a difference of 0.02%, which would suggest that it takes fifty net votes to make a 1% difference, and my numbers dropped by a full 10% last night. Maybe the math is weird.

And David Griffin Brown: That, my friend, is a wicked idea. I’d be up for it. Madeline, what do you think? Could be fun!

David Griffin Brown – 2011/02/11

It seems like Madeline’s fans appreciate her story’s emotional substance, while her critics take issue with the writing style/omnicient narration.

Braydon’s story has been praised for the writing style, and criticized for its lack of tangible sentiment.

What a perfect pairing!

I know everyone has jobs and lives and friends and such, but I think it would be an awesome exercise if Braydon and Madeline rewrote each other’s stories as per their own style.  Or even just a paragraph from each.

Has anyone ever done something like that in a class/workshop?

dystopic – 2011/02/11

PS: i just voted again and swayed things by only 0.11%, which would seem to indicate a total closer to 800-900 votes, so i retract my mathematical deductions, but i will say that if there were 500 votes last night, they couldn’t have all been for Madeine or she would have a much stronger lead.

dystopic – 2011/02/11

Eva, your comments about the homophobic slander were hilarious. my ascribed effeminacy is news to me; i’m a card-carrying feminist to be sure, but others typically consider me quite cisgendered (even when they don’t know the technical term).

simone and others making the accusations of “cheating,” how have you determined that 500 votes were cast in 3 hours? when i voted yesterday, it raised Madeline’s standing by 0.25%. that would indicate that only 400 or so votes had been cast by that point, a bit more than 40% of them in her favor. if 500 votes had been cast in her favor overnight, she should stand at nearly 70%, but that isn’t the case.

on the subject of character motivation: i don’t think the point is to soapbox about a right or wrong way to write (writing conventions are little more than historical majority opinions). but the authors deserve to know their readers’ reactions, honestly, at this point in the revision process. it’s their authorial preogative to pick which responses matter to them, but i see no reason to dilute my reaction for mere obeisance to the precious-unique-snowflake individualsm of north american pop culture. i didn’t come to debate other critics on individual tastes with universalizing rhetoric.

that said, the only character whose motivations truly perplexed me was Angela, and that may well have had as much to do with her introduction at the end of the narrative arc. i don’t need (nor would i trust) characters to explicitly articulate their motivations, but if i wanted to be baffled by incomprehensible individuals, id’ go see one of Eva’s or Beckett’s plays.

(that was meant as a joke, Eva; i’ve no idea if your plays are anything like Beckett’s, but i love his work and attempted to balance my joke with a bit of flattery; i hope it was well-received).

finally, i believe it’s utterly selfish to belabor the point that interpretation is up to the reader. of course it is. but that hardly means the author can’t attempt to exert control over the meaning of his or her text, and decide when they’re satisfied with their attempt at either ambiguity or certainty.

BPeleshok – 2011/02/11

I decided not to comment on the board initially because I felt as if the stories should just speak for themselves, and that sometimes commentary has the potential to sway the votes one way or another. However, I think the massive change in voting percentage needs to be addressed. Given the hour wait that users must endure, it’s highly suspect to see such a large jump in Floppy Disc’s rank.

I think Mr. Beaulieu and Ms. Masters have created two amazing pieces of work, and it’s unfortunate that someone has chosen to (possibly) abuse web proxies. The short stories should be able to stand on their own. Just my two cents.

AmyV – 2011/02/11

Emoran — Hooray for bringing the stories back in.  I agree with you, I like the ambiguity of the characters.  I’m perfectly happy not knowing every reason for doing the things they do.  I think once you do start scrutinizing every sentence under a microscope it loses the magic. Perhaps if the stories were allowed to be stretched out into a novella more explanation could be given – but, truly I don’t see the need for the authors to give a reason for their behavior. In daily life, do you stop and think “Oh, why did I decide to say/do/wear/eat/etc that?”

As a reader, I would rather see the author just go with it then try to explain their reasoning in the fiction. Oftentimes such explanations mid-read come off as rather awkward.

In Floppy Discs, I didn’t stop and ask OK why is Mridula going through someone’s trash and then why if she is so concerned with rapists did she approach a total stranger’s door and knock. I labeled her as quirky and kept reading.

And in Field Guide, I totally got the whole ring thing followed by the angry sex.  In my imagination, I saw it more as half hearted fists banging on Tony’s chest not real violent anger.

I’m a firm believer in using one’s imagination while reading.  I like when authors leave a character’s physical description vague so I can imagine the character the way I want to without anyone else’s preconceived notions.

In regards to proxy voting.  I witnessed this last night first hand. I was battling an odd bout of insomnia and was up to 4 a.m. and like someone watching a car accident kept finding myself watching the discussion board.  Assuming a lot of people were also awake at that time it was amazing to see the huge leap in % votes.

emoran – 2011/02/11

first off, i want to apologize for my spelling mistakes.  i don’t know what is going on this morning.  i am not even going to try to correct them because everytime i do i just make more.  it’s like i’m drunk, without the fun.  anyway, you’ll just have to muddle through my typo gibberish.


well, people do bring their friends to a streetfight and it usual ends up with groups of people fighting and lots of hospital visitors and many many many morning regrets… but, yes, my point was let’s stop the unfair play now (if that is happening).


i think your stories are great and i want your readership (and the readership of BP) to increase not diminish.


CanadaAway – 2011/02/11

Thank you, emoran, for addressing the issue of proxy voting. Following your boxing methaphor proxy voting is like getting a dozen people to beat up one guy. Or, in this case, 500+ people, because that’s how many votes were tallied last night. Even on the street thats not a good fight.

Anyone interested in exposing this gang violence against a real fighter might think about checking out  next time there is a surge and see what happens when you try and vote from one of the IP addresses. Like last night you will see that they have already been used.

If this keeps up then to me the death match is dead. I won’t follow it any more.

simone – 2011/02/11

I have been monitoring this match since the absolutely beginning. Over the course of the last three days, I have noticed something a little odd.

Throughout the hours of 11:00 pm and 2:00 am, one contestant has received an unbelievable number of votes. Last night alone, between these hours, they received approximately 500 votes. Knowing that one person can vote once per hour, this would mean that at least 166 people were needed to vote once every one of those three hours. Nearly impossible one would say.

The votes during the day have been steadily increasing in other contestant’s favour; however, over night, they were overtaken by the fishy votes during the previously stated hours.

Is it possible that there is something else going on here rather than a fair, clean match?   This match should be strictly based on who’s piece of writing is better, and I do believe this match has quickly diverted from it…

emoran – 2011/02/11

let’s get back to commenting on the writing.  maybe we could start off with something about characters’ intentions and its importance in writing.  i personally take an approach that lays most of the responsibility on the reader; i.e.; it is up to the reader to decide what meaning lies behind an action.  i was not troubled by the ambiguity of Angela’s reaction.  just like i am not troubled by Madeline’s characters suddenly making out or the female character’s seemingly conflicting thoughts at the end of the story.  but some of you seem to really want to know exactly what the characters are thinking and feeling.  why?  i’m curious because i come from such a different place.  i started out in playwriting and everything is action with little explanation… where are you guys coming from and why do you think clarity in character intentionality is essential to these pieces and writing of short fiction in general?


i had to retype that because it was not clear the first time.



emoran – 2011/02/11

“let’s let it ride out fair and square guys.”  when i say guys here i am not referring directly to Madeline and Braydon but to everyone using the site and voting.



Madeline Masters – 2011/02/11

Good morning everyone,

Well, a lot has changed since the last time I came to comment. I am glad to see that there’s even more legitimate, constructive criticism being put up here on both sides of the board.

However I also want to say, I started this match telling everyone I wanted a good clean fight, so I am disappointed at reading the personal attacks that have been posted about both writers and readers. I hope we can bring this discussion back around and keep it lively, but also appropriate.

Thank you to everyone who has given me real and helpful comments to improve Floppy Discs, and thank you to the readers who have found merit in the story.

dystopic said Floppy Discs “strikes me a character study.” You got it. And I plan on sitting down with your commentary  by my side when I go for my next round of edits on this story.

Lichty18, Daniel Perry, and Capt. Teela – can I fourth your motion to focus the discourse on comparing these two stories to each other?

Thanks again everyone for taking the time to read Floppy Discs and giving it some real thought.

emoran – 2011/02/11

woah!  hey sorry guys.  i don’t know why that posted twice.



emoran – 2011/02/11

ok dudes.  i am being asked if i care about proxy serves spamming to raise votes and gay slander.


gay slander:  holy molly!  i didn’t realize all gay men were effeminate.  this guy clearly knows his stuff about being gay because his insights were so insightful in their insightfulliness into the gayness of the gays who are obviously always living in the pink flower tower of gaydom and he was not reductive at all and i am sure that all gay men out there reading this site really have learned a lot from reading his comments about how to behave GAY.  phew!  now they know.
i really didn’t want to address his comment because i don’t think it deserves air-time.  we were having a great discussion about the writing.  so please, let’s get back to that.


as for spamming to generate more votes… listen, i box, and when i watch boxing between two experts like Manny Pacquaio and, say, Miguel Cotto i want to see a good clean fight.  but on the street, in a street fight… a few head butts, stepping on someone’s toes, dipping your hands in plaster of paris before beating someone’s head in… well… that’s an exciting street fight.

Braydon.  Madeline.  you guys are so street.  and i like the close race.

but i’d also like to see these stories fight it up through the ranks into a championship fight that’s clean.  so… now that it’s really close… let’s let it ride out fair and square guys.


those are my two cents on those subjects.


let’s get back to commenting on the writing.  maybe we could start off with something about characters intentions and its importance in writing.  i personally take an approach that lays most of the responsibility on the reader; i.e.; it is up to the reader to decide what meaning lies behind an action.  i was not troubled by the ambiguity of Angels’ reaction.  just like i am not troubled by Madeline’s characters not suddenly making out or the female character’s seemingly conflicting thoughts at the end of the story.  but some of you seem to really want to know exactly what the characters are thinking and feeling.  why?  i’m curious because i come from such a different place.  i started out in playwriting and everything is action with little explanation… where are you guys coming from and why do you think clarity in character intentionality is essential to these pieces and writing of short fiction in general?





ok dudes.  i am being asked if i care about proxy serves spamming to raise votes and gay slander.


gay slander:  holy molly!  i didn’t realize all gay men were effeminate.  this guy clearly knows his stuff about being gay because his insights were so insightful in their insightfulliness into the gayness of the gays who are obviously always living in the pink flower tower of gaydom and he was not reductive at all and i am sure that all gay men out there reading this site really have learned a lot from reading his comments about how to behave GAY.  phew!  now they know.
i really didn’t want to address his comment because i don’t think it deserves air-time.  we were having a great discussion about the writing.  so please, let’s get back to that.


as for spamming to generate more votes… listen, i box, and when i watch boxing between two experts like Manny Pacquaio and, say, Miguel Cotto i want to see a good clean fight.  but on the street, in a street fight… a few head butts, stepping on someone’s toes, dipping your hands in plaster of paris before beating someone’s head in… well… that’s an exciting street fight.

Braydon.  Madeline.  you guys are so street.  and i like the close race.

but i’d also like to see these stories fight it up through the ranks into a championship fight that’s clean.  so… now that it’s really close… let’s let it ride out fair and square guys.


those are my two cents on those subjects.


let’s get back to commenting on the writing.  maybe we could start off with something about characters intentions and its importance in writing.  i personally take an approach that lays most of the responsibility on the reader; i.e.; it is up to the reader to decide what meaning lies behind an action.  i was not troubled by the ambiguity of Angels’ reaction.  just like i am not troubled by Madeline’s characters not suddenly making out or the female character’s seemingly conflicting thoughts at the end of the story.  but some of you seem to really want to know exactly what the characters are thinking and feeling.  why?  i’m curious because i come from such a different place.  i started out in playwriting and everything is action with little explanation… where are you guys coming from and why do you think clarity in character intentionality is essential to these pieces and writing of short fiction in general?





Capt.Teela_3000 – 2011/02/11


*Oops, I won’t cut the “d” off your name again, sorry. 😉

Capt.Teela_3000 – 2011/02/11

anielperry – 2011/02/11

“…the much more important comparison is between the two Death Match stories… both of which I like, for different reasons.”

Well said. At this point it would be interesting to hear additional and sincere opinions about why the particular stories speak to you. Writing style and adjective use are only tools used to deliver the message. The truth is, both stories are worthy of recognition or they wouldn’t be here. The winner will be selected based on which story (not which writing style) touches or inspires the most people on an intellectual and emotional level.

dystopic – 2011/02/11

dear backinthesaddle,

“i’m sorry but” is no apology at all. that you take my confidence and education as outrage tells me how fragile your little Victorian male ego really is, and somehow i doubt you’ve ever really been sorry for anything. but make no mistake; you are sorry.

just me,

honesty can be a bit sappy, but it’s courageous in its own way. cheers!

danielperry – 2011/02/11

Lichty18, I’m with you. The Kafka stuff is fun (to those of us who care), and I can’t say I didn’t play a part in beating it to death, but you’re right: the much more important comparison is between the two Death Match stories… both of which I like, for different reasons.

emoran – 2011/02/11

WOW!  way to come out from under undergog!


i have to say that whatever happens this has been one of the most interesting and itelligent discussions i’ve seen on Deathmatch.  congrats guys!  your stories are provocative.



Braydon Beaulieu – 2011/02/11

To Roxy: Thank you for noticing, too. Please add me to Facebook. I’d like to chat about this.

Roxy – 2011/02/11

Dear Spammer: I am onto your game. And if you keep this up, I will blow the whistle, and you could very well get your friend disqualified.

Lichty18 – 2011/02/11

First, I’m just curious when this turned from talking about the stories to bitching each other out? It seems that we’re lashing out at each other rather than lashing out at the stories. Anyways….I think comparing Field Guide to other stories outside of these two is rather useless and a waste of typing. I think we could all go on about how so many stories are similar to others. Unless it’s completely and utterly direct, I think it should be ignored. I think that we should instead focus on comparing the two at hand. That being said, I’m continually wondering how people don’t see the lack of detail, depth and interesting language in Floppy Discs. A short story is just that, short. I believe that since these are short stories, there should be focus on putting more into less. By this I mean using one sentence to say more. Floppy Discs seems to be very clean cut and almost, in my opinion, dull with the wording. Field Guide puts a lot into a little. This is very well done in this case. You get more out of the story, frankly because there is more there.

AmyV – 2011/02/11

Backinthesaddle … I really should hope that you’re more than a man than me.  Considering I’m a girl and all. Unless you know many guys named Amy? Comprehension wasn’t your strong point, obviously.

OK. I’m done feeding the troll….</snarkiness to anything non-story related>

backinthesaddle – 2011/02/11

…amy, i’m much too modest to expand upon my literary achievements or the B grade creative writing contest’s i’ve won, i prefer to let the merit of my criticism stand on it’s own and if you won’t accept the accuracy of my honest opinion, i feel sorry for your substandard level of comprehension and analysis…but i will say that frankly, i’m more of a man than you’ll ever be…i didn’t bring up the issue of homosexuality, dystopic did and if you find my analogies pertaining to the common practices of this vocal subculture to be disgusting, i feel sorry for your boyfriend too…some of my best friends aren’t gay, but your take has more to do with your own overblown outrage (probably diguising your  personal prejudice) and tight assedness than a misperception of homophobia any rational person would not make…i can see my remarks are harming madeline, she’s up to 48% from 42 earlier this evening…my writing skills are immaterial…it’s braydon beaulieu who hasn’t perfected his story-telling ability, steals all-too-familiar metaphors from famous authors, and hasn’t got the ability to self-censor a bad idea as evidenced by the enormous, bull-headed but skilful effort he is wasting on a story that is doomed from the start…all young writers do this and hopefully learn from their mistakes…no smily face for you…

just me – 2011/02/10

dystopic- Can I just say, all the writing stuff aside, that I cannot go to sleep until I tell you how courageous I think you are. My heart breaks for what has been said to you. I don’t know you but somehow I wish I did. I get the feeling you have great support in your life. You have great strength of character. I just wanted you to know that. Simple and sappy as it may be. xx

dystopic – 2011/02/10

homophobic slander. that’s cute. too bad you still can’t write. are you even out of high school? any halfwit can preen about a canonical writer (one wonders if the pages of your editions are stuck together at this point), but frankly Octavia Butler did the insect-as-person thing better than either of them. twice.

Braydon, i certainly wouldn’t advise anything so heavy-handed as “I hated him because he was a cockaroach.” you do subtlety well and should stick to it.

regarding setting, i did say what i disliked came from the seemingly haphazard way that some particulars were suited to insects while others were to humans. you could also go in the opposite direction and make the setting mostly bizarre. in a longer format it might work, but for a short story i do think i’d continue to find myself unsure of what is insectoid and what is humanoid, and you don’t really have space to continually show what’s what this to the reader.

as for the end sequence, you’re right that Tony not forcing himself on Angela; maybe it’s really nothing more complex than wanting a little more insight into their relationship. it’s it purely sexual? is she out to piss off her parents? to what extent are they using each other, and to what extent are they emotionally inevested in each other? is she just drunk? maybe a little more description and a bit of Tony’s thoughts on why she acts the way she does would be enough to put that sense out of my mind.

anyway i think i’ll be shoving off to bed. good luck, and happy trolling to the trolls.

st.pierre – 2011/02/10

It’s official. I’m addicted to this discussion board.

In terms of the questions/issues Braydon and dystopic raised, I would agree that to kick the suburban vibe up a knotch, you might want to just cut back a tad on the insect descriptions of the house. Some of them are very lovely and work well on multiple levels. But as always, it’s the author’s personal choice where to cut, etc. In terms of the ending and Angela’s motivation, I personally enjoy the ambiguity surrounding her character, especially with the few lines of strong, clipped dialogue that we get from her. Again, my personal preference is an ambiguous ending that is satisfactory on a basic level (Tony returns to stealing — humorous and anticlimatic, as someone previously mentioned) but provokes us to re-read and reflect on the evidence given to us throughout the story about why the characters act in a certain way. Perhaps, exploring more/rethinking etc. what you, Braydon, intend to be Angela’s motivations will help round out the ending in your own mind. And from there, you can consider minute reshaping/editing. I’d encourage you to do this anyway, but as you’ve said it’s part of a larger work, perhaps you already have. As you know, part of workshopping and discussion creative writing is listening to readers’ interpretations so that you can better understand what you need to include and exclude from your story 🙂 Kudos to you and Madeline for hearing us all out.

AmyV – 2011/02/10

And what do you have to back up your credibility, backinthesaddle? Personally, I’d love to see some of your essays from your school days…I’m sure there’s enough red ink on them just begging for a capital letter here and there.

Wait, let me attempt to soften the blow with a well armed ; )

And frankly your homophobic comments are disgusting…they have absolutely NOTHING to do with either story, so please refrain from making them.

If I was Madeline, I’m not quite sure I’d want you in my corner…because honestly I see you harming her chances more than anything.

I also fail to see how he swiped Kafka’s idea.  Stop comparing apples to oranges, and your argument is getting winded and frankly boring.

And while I know I’m setting myself up for a personal attack from you…please save yourself the effort, I’ll do it for you : amyv you suck…why defend idiot for taking kafka idea..blah…blah…you suck…blah blah….”

just me – 2011/02/10

I think the only person here who besmirched master’s character here was myself. It was an honest response to something she posted. I don’t think it makes her a bad person if it is true. If it is not true she has my heartfelt apology. Every other person here has addressed her writing, not attacked her a personal level. They have been respectful and helpful to her. No one has tried to undermine her writing or called her names.
I honestly just wanted to vote and not post. Yet the personal attacks drew me in. There’s just no need for this kind of thing in here. Debate the writing, don’t attack the people. If Mr. Beaulieu is choosing to let the readers discover his story on their own that is his decision to make.
I feel that since I did step in the arena that I should voice my thoughts on each story. I’ll make it brief since it is late and quite honestly I am quite tired.
I would say I am coming from a more mainstream view than most here. I enjoy canlit, classics, pop culture but I also enjoy light reads. This speaks more to it being a time in my life where I’d rather quiet my thoughts at the end of the day than stir them back up. I think the type of literature we read can vary depending on what is going on in our personal lives at any given moment. I also think we all go into a novel or story with a specific goal or expectation. Whether it is to enlighten us, move us, relax us or challenge us. What you expect to get out of it can sometimes impact the way you perceive it. You may read it at another time and have a whole different take on it.
I did not expect to like Mr. Beaulieu’s story when I began reading. Others have pointed out it is a bit weird. I agree that it is. Yet I found myself drawn into it. His imagination and imagery is quite amazing. Yes you have to suspend reality. I do not think that is such a bad thing. On a basic level I liked it. I also really enjoyed that if you get the ending and the meaning of the obit it all becomes clear. The ending is what drives it home for me. If you have not made the connection yet, please read it again. Horrifying and strange, possibly deranged but sometimes that is what makes the characters pop off the paper.
The opposite was true for me with Ms. Masters. I fully expected to love it when I started reading. She is a talented, wise writer. Yet for me it fell flat. I did not feel drawn in but somehow pushed. I did not want to like the characters or feel the need to see the male redeem himself. The comment on her race felt out of place for me. Maybe had I known why he distrusted her based on race. Was there something that made him go there, something in his past that made that pop into his head? The idea of the attraction is plausible yet I did not feel it. The story is good in my opinion. Yet I did not connect at all with the characters. It lacked heart for me. Ms. Masters is skilled though, don’t get me wrong. There is a strength there that can polished beyond measure.
It was a great job by both. I think the response here is proof of that. People believe in these authors. They will both go far in their careers. I also think most of the dialogue here is a joy to behold. Even some of the heated ones. It shows the measure of a good writer is a good reader.

dystopic – 2011/02/10

but you still can’t write.

backinthesaddle – 2011/02/10

…what’s not to get…kafka writes metaphor about man as insect…beaulieu writes metaphor about man as insect…braydon swiped the idea and botched the job…get in the conversation extropia, it was beaulieu who brought up the fact that he was playing with the idea of class…and could you clarify whether you are published or gay, because it’s extremely pertinent to puff yourself up and flaunt your feminine side to establish your credibility…what i personally find rivetting is dystopic’s anal retentive monologue on colon’s and semi-colon’s, capitalization and italics…i think i gagged harder reading that than 95% of dystopic’s partners ; )

Braydon Beaulieu – 2011/02/10

To dystopic: Trust me, I’ve received much worse edits in my time. I’m glad that you’re being constructive and backing up your claims, and thank you (and havesomehats) for your witty commentary on, well, the commentary.

Your comments are highly engaged and very constructive. I’m really intrigued by the idea of Tony displaying discrimination against other species of bug. While this isn’t necessarily tied to human skin pigment (I’ve never heard the WASP acronym, but should consider it now that it’s been brought to my attention), it is definitely interesting if his disposition toward Wayne, for example, is predicated on his perception of the neighbour as a cockroach, rather than on anything Wayne has ever said and/or done. I’ll have to think about this, but be advised that it’s not my writing style to explain these things. When this is published as part of my short story collection, I won’t write, “I hated him because he was a cockroach,” but rather attempt to show this attitude through dialogue and action.

While I’m unsure about stripping Tony’s environment of insectoid qualities (what do other readers think about this?), I believe you have a valid point in stating that the “suburban-ness,” if I may use that term, could be more pronouced, could seem more deliberate. As to your comments on the ending, the scene is not intended to be a forced-sex scene. I was very explicit in stating that she pulls him back onto the bed, that she makes that decision. Not that there’s nothing wrong with Tony and Angela’s sexual relationship (given the implied age difference), but “no means no” doesn’t necessarily apply in this case. What are your thoughts on these responses?

To backinthesaddle: My apologies. I wasn’t aware that your tirade was meant to induce discussion, and given your most recent post, I’m still not sure you’re interested in legitimate conversation, given your blatant denial that an actual discussion I’m having with a reader (who didn’t vote for me, I might add), is, in fact, happening. Here’s a response to a couple of your edits.

1. Robin eggs are blue. The same shade of blue is the colour of the ommatidia of several beetle species.

2. Given AmyV, danielperry and exptropian‘s comments about the plotline/insect type/socio-cultural agenda of Kafka’s The Metamorphosis, I would suggest striking up a conversation with them about the similarities his work actually has with Field Guide.

3. Oh, right. I totally forgot everyone who goes to church is 100% moral. My bad.

4. Maybe the hymn book should smell like chocolate? I like the idea of chocolate. Maybe I’ll go with chocolate instead.

bessie – 2011/02/10

I could lulz all night at these ultra tough internet thugs.

AmyV – 2011/02/10

Thank you DanielPerry 🙂 Put like that I can see the comparison more easily. I’ll admit, it’s been a good ten or so years since reading “The Metamorphosis” – and I kind of want to re-read it now.  I appreciate your taking the time to explain your view (and no worries! unless I’m called a name or something I don’t take opinions as a personal attack).

I can see the influence better now, but I’m not sure I’d agree with others stating that it’s a downright “Kafka wannabe.”

As a reader I think we oftentimes take for granted the amount of work that goes into writing.  So, to offshoot the negativity I want to applaud both Madeline and Braydon for writing interesting stories that have gotten a lot of people to thinking.  I believe it was Nathaniel Hawthorne who said “Easy reading is damn hard writing”….so I can only imagine what sort of writing is involved in engaging, thought producing reading.


extropian – 2011/02/10

As one of Braydon\’s toadies I feel obliged to respond to this last comment. I also know that you\’re not supposed to feed the trolls (especially after midnight!) but this one is too much. Try not to critique a story on how you think it should be written. Rather, work with what\’s actually on the page. If you want to write about race, class, and other social issues then by all means do that. I\’ve been having lot\’s of fun reading these posts, but there\’s no need to be personal here. You obviously have many axes to grind. This is not the place. Put that anger in a story. Make all the people taking creative writing programs realize how misguided they really are. We are waiting.

danielperry – 2011/02/10

(In my last sentence, “these two stories” = Braydon’s and Madeline’s. Sorry, that was vague.)

dystopic – 2011/02/10


first, i’m a gay, and frankly more of a man than you’ll ever be.

second, you’re pathetic. if you’re going to insult writers, you could at least try writing at a high school level when you do it. i don’t even consider this point an insult so much as a logical deduction: it’s like using a stick figure to insult Michelangelo, or in this case one of his apprentices. in any case, you’re clearly out-classed.

finally, if you were the sort of writer (or person) anyone gave half a shit about, you’d understand the concept of cooperation.

PS: i’m published, fuckwad.

danielperry – 2011/02/10

It’s been a while since I read Metamorphosis, I admit. Please correct me if I “misremember” it, undergrad’s disappearing in the rearview… AmyV,  I come in peace. I write a lot below, but it’s not to batter you, it’s an attempt to answer your question, from my point of view, as someone who sees the Kafka in Braydon’s story.

We don’t start with an actual transformation in Braydon’s work. But in Kafka’s story, though we see a lot of Gregor Samsa adapting to his new state, in a sense, the transformation is over by the end of the first-sentence speech act that makes man into insect. A lot of the story does have to do with coming to terms with the new body, but also, the new position in society. Also, keep in mind that Gregor Samsa turns back in the end. You’ll see in a minute where I’m going with this.

Braydon’s character, Tony, has staked out a position in society – seemingly by choice – that has made him into the psychological and moral equivalent of a parasitical insect. A difference is that the “change” (metaphorical) may not be a random curse so much as a consequence. Tony’s already transformed, psychologically, and  the author reinforces this by repeatedly invoking insect-like imagery to describe the physical actions and state of such a man. (To my mind, Tony’s never actually a bug.) His proposal to Angela is where I would contend Tony changes (fleetingly, psychologically, metaphorically) back into a man.

Kafka told the story of, physically, man to bug and back, and there was a real “Thank God I’m back” sense to it once the social implications had been thoroughly depicted. Braydon tells the story of, psychologically, bug to man and back. When Tony’s hopes with Angela are dashed, he steals again, and when the story ends, the social implications fill the silence.

I’ll grant that some of the comparison exists on the surface level, but I think it’s deeper than “they’re both bugs.” Braydon’s story is not exactly like Metamorphosis, but I think there’s at least some basis for an argument that it’s an inversion of Kafka’s classic, post-modern repetition with difference…

Which gives me a theory as to why these two stories are head-to-head, come to think of it…

backinthesaddle – 2011/02/10

…self superior beaulieu along with his backslapping bandwagon junkies stoops to besmirch master’s character in a shameful gang bang and then frizzle like ants under a magnifying glass when someone steps in to turn it back on them…like some coward politico he ignores anything except suckup comments from his squeamish toadie sidekicks and presses on…having the self-centred gall to imagine that someone might be remotely interest to help him mend this crippled pointless story with respect to class differences…what aren’t you trying to accomplish in this pilfered-already-been-done-idea-from-kafka work-in-progress?…and dystopia takes the bait because in real life she’s probably not used to being asked for advice, flattered, but misguided in assuming beaulieu actually cares one whit about anything she says except grooming accolades that boost his smug ego and garner another vote…hey beaulieu, you could start by illustrating more than one class, showing at least one as being superior, presumingly the enlightened, kind, gentle, meaning-filled lives that have-nots lead…if you were playing with another idea, you even left that one unfinished and unsatisfying, but thanks for pointing out what you were thinking, because nobody else picked it up….another clue that beaulieu is little more than and unpolished rookie writer/ ivory tower academic with an over-inflated ego…

just me – 2011/02/10


Name calling, I should be so hurt.

Take your own advice. Scroll down. At any point did I say you you did not offer criticism? I just pointed out that some of it was not constructive. So be careful slinging stones.

Telling someone to crumple their paper is not mature nor helpful.It was childish and mean spirited. It offers nothing to the discussion and does nothing to help the writer polish his work. I was under the impression that was what this forum was for.
Mr. Beaulieu has responded to lots of readers. I think his decision not to reply to you thus far speaks volumes.
There is an ending. Just because you as a reader are struggling to find it, don’t blame the writer.  Those who want to understand the ending will get to it on their own without Mr. Beaulieu leading them by the hand, while those who wish to diminish his work will take the easy way out.

dystopic – 2011/02/10

Braydon, i’m glad you were receptive; after i hit “add comment” i was worried i might have been insenstive in the way i couched some of the critique. but moving on.

i think you can address both of the major criticisms i offered by focusing on the first: that is, flesh out the setting and its peoples a little more thoroughly. i had difficulty building and maintaining a clear visual of the characters, particularly dress and anatomy. i also wasn’t sure if all the characters were or were supposed to be the same ‘species’ of insect. this uncertainty stood out especially when Tony goes to the liquor store and you describe the woman working there as a “wasp lady.” i wondered if you were trying to pun on the acronym, WASP (white anglo-saxon protestant – but i don’t honestly know if that phrase is used in Canada or if it’s more specific to the states).

i felt like there was a great deal of tension between the banal and the bizarre, but it was unpleasant because of haphazard distribution. for example, at first you describe Tony’s homeas a nest, but then it’s filled with trivial human objects, and more importantly the way he seems familiar with the space comes across more like the way a humanoid would relate to a suburban home.

i think in your place, i would not extend the insect metaphor to their material surroundings-make the physical world they inhabit totally mundane (the pickling fetish in particular was more distracting than anything). i think it would help to foreground the role of the suburbs in your setting and story (that’s not to say you can skimp on the description; if anything you might need to foreground the suburbanness of their environment even more).

also, if you intended to for the woman in the convience store to parallel a racial minority, i would run with that. if not, i advise you to run with it. the suburbs are inextricably tied to class stratification which in turns falls along lines of race and ethnicity in most societies. that doesn’t mean you automatically have to include a coequal subtext of race, but i don’t think a good writer can ignore it either. something i might consider would be making “parasite” (Wayne’s comment at his stolen newspaper) a racial slur against the liquor-store woman’s racial or ethnic group (it needn’t correlate to a real-life racial or ethnic group; the main thing is to foreground Tony’s perception of her difference).

when Tony sees her, he might recall his earlier exchange with Wayne, dwelling again on how he’s such an adept liar that Wayne would be more likely to suspect this anonymous ‘parasite’ than he, and that in turn would transition very effectively to the theft of the ring. you could further emphasize their class disparity by subsequently having the woman notice her ring had gone missing. what might be a simple and mildly thrilling theft for Tony could be the only thing this woman has to give her daughter on her wedding day, or some such. that might even alleviate a little of the discomfort i felt at the end, when Tony fails to grasp that no means no–not much, though.

it’s a very different note on which to end the story. in my rulebook, no means no means no, and anything less than strict adherence to that is just wrong. of course it does happen, but it’s an elephant in the room; i can’t ignore it or get past it so as to return to thoughtful reflection on the suburban motif. it wasn’t obvious to me why she demanded he leave when he gave her the ring. does she know he’s a klepto? did she take it as a marriage proposal? maybe a better way to handle that scene would be for her to reject the gift as too modest and simple for her, and instead of trying to kick him out she insults his masculinity in some way. again, a violation of ‘no means no’ is not something to include lightly.

hopefully those thoughts are sufficiently clear; i lack the stamina to proof my comments, or even spellcheck them.


i do however have the stamina to address to the quarelsome children commenting in here: your pedestrian bickering is unbecoming of the craft of writing and ultimately indicative of your small imaginations, but i nevertheless wish you the best of luck with the desk jobs you’ll inevitably take.

havesomehats – 2011/02/10

You should all be ashamed of yourselves. Reviewers are the lowest form of writers,  anonomous ones on the internet doubly so.  To qoute Burroughs “Be just and if you can’t be just, be arbitrary.” So It seems Madeleine takes it by having less vowels in her name.

AmyV – 2011/02/10

I truly don’t understand all the comments being made comparing Braydon to Franz Kafka.  Aside from the insect connection from “The Metamorphosis.”  Gregor, from Kafka’s novella, awakes to find himself transformed and then leads to describe him discovering his new body.  Whereas, Tony is who he is.  He does not find himself in a new body. He does not find himself going through any sort of metamorphosis.  Does this mean anyone who writes a story about vampires is trying to be Bram Stoker? Or anyone endeavoring to write a mystery is in actuality a poor imitation of Edgar Allen Poe?

Kafka has been regarded as one of the greatest writers of the 20th century….so I guess a comparison to him isn’t too bad.

But, if the only comparison to Kafka is in fact the insectoid quality….then it’s a weak argument.

backinthesaddle – 2011/02/10

…@just me…you could use a little anger management yourself, you wouldn’t be so quick to react blindly…scroll down, stooge…i gave my criticism, but both you and beaulieu chose to ignore it rather than address the points i raised because you can’t defend or more probably choose to gloss over the glaring and unsatisfying weaknesses in Field Day…your passive aggressive attack against the messenger and beaulieu’s decision not to respond are an example of the inability to accept criticism that beaulieu is so quick to decry in his opponent…

blackbird – 2011/02/10

Madeline Masters’ story appears simpler than it is because of its clarity and fine, true detail; marks of truly good writing.

I’m sorry, but Braydon is a Kafka wannabe who overwrites his antennae.

st.pierre – 2011/02/10

Oooo, good observation. The first time I read Braydon’s story, I thought he was being unique with describing the human body in anatomical terms. Regardless, I’ll just amend what I said before: it’s not essential to the reader that s/he know what kind of insect the characters are — or even if they are insects. Describing the woman at the counter as a “red-haired wasp” was lovely on both an insect and a human level.

extropian – 2011/02/10

Oh my, this is certainly a Canadian writing contest! Things are heated in the comment section, but it\’s not really that bad. This contest would be boring if we all stuck to polite discourse or friendly exchangs of viewpoints. People should be scathing with their reviews if its truly how they feel. I think we have room for constructive criticism and tirades. Of course, you leave yourself open to being picked apart if you can\’t back up your opinon on these stories. But there\’s some good points being made here, especially to keep criticisms on the stories and not on the commentators or the authors. I\’d like to restate my take on these stories. Braydon\’s story gets my vote for two reasons: quality of prose, originality, and narration. As I stated earlier, his writing is lively, full of unique metaphors and imagery, and perhaps most imporantly, unpredictable. As much as we don\’t like to admit it sometimes, short stories and \”Canadian Literature\” can be just as formulaic as genre fiction such as romance novels and thrillers. The narrative sequence may not have a traditional structure, but this is the 21st century right? Certainly the Kafka comparison is unavoidable, but I think this prose is quite distinct from Kafka and Braydon\’s done something original with invoking the insect world in a story (I\’m not convinced that the narrator is literally a bug though, am I alone in that?) My main criticism of Madelein\’s story is that her prose to have multiple layers, it\’s mostly functional ad designed to solely move the story foward. And as a huge fan of Raymond Carver, this isn\’t always a problem. But I think a premise like this needed more depth to the sentences. In terms of narration, Braydon\’s is more succesful because every sentence builds up and defines a unique character that remains a mystery even upon rereading the story. Madeline\’s narrator is problematic for me because it drifs between third person limited and omnicient and I can\’t see a reason for this. Perhaps I\’m missing something though. Alright, that\’s enough for now. I should really work on my own writing…

just me – 2011/02/10

I would love to add that I personally would love to see Ms. Masters and Mr. Beaulieu come together here and have a hearty (civil,i might add) conversation about their stories. To defend any weakness or issues that the readers have pointed out. I think that would make most of us happy and feel their passion for their work.
@ backinthesaddle the anger and discontent is appalling and makes it hard to take anything you say seriously. If you roll out the troll trolley you should should be prepared for the parade. Maybe you should have left it in the barn. Perhaps with your attitude.

AmyV – 2011/02/10

Backinthesaddle — well, clearly we know who your “chump” is.

It’s always nice to see the forum trolls come out to play.

Just Me — I couldn’t have said it better myself!

just me – 2011/02/10

@ backinthesaddle

Wow. There are classes for anger management and impulse control. This is a forum that should be reserved for people with constructive criticism. Not weak, hate-filled dialogue with no backbone. You do not know these authors personally, do you? Or maybe you do, and that’s why you are overly aggressive. From what I see here quite a lot of Ms. Masters supporters seem a bit upset she’s not doing well. Therefore they are lashing out in a personal vendetta against Mr. Beaulieu. Rather childish if you ask me. Critique the work, not the person. Which is exactly what Mr. Beaulieu and his fan base has done. They’ve kept it work-based, never personal. All I can gather is that Ms. Master”s fans are following her lead. I mean, anyone who tries to garner sympathy by accusing someone else of having too many friends seems to lack the maturity required to be in a profession like this. While she has said she did not mean it that way, I find that hard to believe. Clearly she is a strong writer who knows how to spin a tale, or she would not be in this competition. In the first post Ms. Masters asked to keep it clean. Well, Mr. Beaulieu has done that, as have all his supportors and fans. Can Ms. Masters say the same  Your fans are a reflection upon you. I’d say Mr. Beaulieu has proven he’s the clear winner when it comes to class.

succincubus – 2011/02/10

I was about to escape this glowing screen for some Thirsty Thursday fun – but I just had to say these parting words:

It’s a Deathmatch. Not a hackey circle. While I prefer comments that zing home with some real poignancy about the prose, people are supposed to be fired up.

Oh, and thanks Mr. Breaulieu for joining us! Stick around for a while.

Have fun with the intellectual debate, lads and ladies. It’s been fun ruffling your feathers.

backinthesaddle – 2011/02/10

…yeah, it’s “hate when it’s directed against your chump…then you give us a sarcastic whoopteedo and expect to duck aside to zone out on some woeful out of date musical genre…satisfied with beaulieu’s effort?…sound’s like you’re easily satisfied…

AmyV – 2011/02/10

succincubus — sorry! I was nannying tonight and was dealing with a four year old who has an aversion to sleep so I came off crankier than I really was.  But, are you sure you don’t want the crit lit book? It comes complete with handwritten notes in the margin along the lines of: For the love of God will this class ever end? Truly, the discourse on this site is bringing back PTSD from said lit theory class 😉

Bessie — when you put it like that….it does seem rather suspicious. I’m going to remain optimistic and assume both authors are busy doing day to day things such as work/school/sleep etc.

st.pierre – 2011/02/10

First, what’s with all the hate? Everyone needs to put on some reggae and chill.

Second, although I found the concept and the characters of Madeline’s story very unique, I don’t understand how you can say the characters have changed by the end of the story — other than they almost had sex with each other. (Let me just clarify, a good story doesn’t need a character to change necessarily.) That said, I believe something needs to change for the reader. We’re just simply told that Mridula’s view of her art will include a picture of Raymond — but as readers, we don’t feel that change ourselves. I think that “Floppy Discs” has a lot going for it; after all, coming up with a unique concept/angle for a short story is sometimes the hardest part. I enjoyed the racial and sexual issues that were introduced and would have liked to see those explored more. By the end, do we really feel that they matter? (Raymond needs to jerk off — whoop-dee-do. That’s a given.) This is important because they are real strengths to the story. I just didn’t feel like Madeline’s story was self-contained. As was said before, it needed more. Whereas I’m satisfied with what’s given me in Braydon’s.

And now for some reggae…

backinthesaddle – 2011/02/10

…i’d recommend you just crumple it up and start over with your own idea and a story with an ending ; )

Braydon Beaulieu – 2011/02/10

Absolutely phenomenal insights by dystopic. I appreciate the constructive feedback. These are genuinely things I can discuss and think about in terms of my story. I’m interested specifically in your critique of how Field Guide addresses class issues, because they are a theme about which I was thinking when writing this story. You have clearly read this with a critical eye and I ask you: What sorts of edits would you recommend in terms of class-based subtexts in the story?

succincubus – 2011/02/10

Whooooa, AmyV, pull back those horses a little. No need to throw the Lit book at me. You said, “this” technique, when talking about Beaulieu’s story. I didn’t know what technique you meant, so I asked.

You meant narrative technique? Ok great, thanks for answering my question.

After all, this ain’t about you and me. It’s about the authors, wherever they are.

Capt.Teela_3000 – 2011/02/10

My apologies for capitalizing my position title frank lee. However, the fact that you don’t know what a story artist is, does not speak well of your knowledge base either. A story artist’s job is to depict a screen play with visuals and to improve upon it. There are great films which deserve as much praise as literary works.

That is beside the point however. We are here to vote for which story is the most compelling, well designed, and worthy of being published. My vote is still for Floppy Discs. My vote will still be for Floppy Discs on the last hour of voting.

Enjoy the spirited discourse everyone!

dystopic – 2011/02/10

i have read both stories twice now, and to summarize i feel like the strengths of one are the weaknesses of the other.

Mr. Beaulieu, your sense of style in prose is strong and well-developed. both your lexicon and syntax is varied and natural without being pretentious or hackneyed. the pacing and cadence are well-matched to the events of the story and narrator’s reflections, and his inner monologue doesn’t feel overly rehearsed.

however, while you manage a successful hook early with the insectoid bodies or body features, you do not answer the vast majority of questions this raised for me. you can’t wade in the genres of irrealism; you need to dive in. are the people in your story essentially macroscopic insects, or are they entymorphized humans? do they wear clothes? is an insectoid’s Maserati structurally identical to an anthropod’s? et cetera, et cetera. unanswered questions like these irritated me through the entire reading and ultimately kept my suspension of disbelief broken.

but by the end that was inconsequential. i felt the characters were basically self-similar: ostensibly white (insofar as insects are raced), middle-class suburbanites whose concerns and motivations don’t move past their own neurotic melodramas. i felt as if they could have walked off the set of The Hills or Jersey Shore, into insect costumes and your story. i felt your portrayal of Angela was as little more than that of a vessel for striaght-male sexuality, and in that respect the story, more even than the protagonist, came off as flatly chavinistic and sexist.

i considered the possibility that you were attempting to decenter middle-class white men by the use of insectoid bodies–something like Horace Miner’s “Body Ritual Among The Nacirema”–but i just didn’t detect any evidence that you meant for your story to be satyric, ironic or in any way ‘meta,’ as the kids these days like to say, but with no foil or pivot, that’s not an obvious (or even subtle) connection. similarly i didn’t get a sense that your goal was to indicate humans generally are detestable and disgusting: insects don’t disgust everyone, but more importantly humanity is diverse while your characters are one-dimensional. i felt intensely dissatisfied at being drawn into what was either a vaguely critical narrative about vacuous suburbanites or otherwise a story about how a privileged white man who projects all his own ego onto everyone he sees. neither possibility was terribly compelling, and well-crafted prose and witticism only take you so far.


Ms. Masters, your work struck me a character study. i found your characters extremely fascinating, albeit somewhat odd. i like that Raymond comes off as prejudicially mistrustful right away. similarly i get the sense that Mridula is perhaps a little naive and maybe not the best judge of character. i get the sense she wouldn’t have made any advances if she’d known him better, and similarly that he would have gone ahead and cheated on his wife if he’d known that she’s bisexual. it was an interestingly playful juxtaposition.

my strongest response was wanting more. normally that’s a good thing, and certainly when i say it here it’s partly to compliment. however i think (as other seem to) that your word economy and writing style aren’t what they could be. i think you could have fit a good deal more information into the space you used, and that would have enhanced the sense of climax (without climax, har har) at the end of the piece.

i felt most of the time you rely on simple words and sentence structures. such a style can be employed well, but i don’t feel that was the case in your story. short words and short sentences can contribute to a sense of hurriedness or panic, but without variation it made me feel rushed through the entire piece, like it was over before it really started. as a place to start, i would suggest trying to use semicolons and colons more often. while we’re on the subject of grammar, i would discourage you from using all capitals to add emphasis; embolden or italicize the word or phrase instead. also, you really don’t need to put characters’ thoughts in italics and quotation marks; one or the other will suffice; i prefer italics myself (the “s/he said” is also not typically necessary when you use italics, if the reader can infer to whom the thought belongs from context).

in other instances the use of simple words is just unsatisfying. for example when you described how Mridula’s “…teeth contrasted with her brown skin and even darker brown lips,” i winced a little. English is a playground of adjectives, and you’re firmly planted on the first rung of the slide. when i’m not sure how to describe a color i have in mind, i march myself over to wikipedia’s list of colors at, which is organized first as an alphabetical list and then near the end shows groups of similar shade (blacks, blues, brows, etc.). it’s terribly useful.

you might notice in that list that some of the names of colors wouldn’t really work as adjectives, but that brings us to the wonder of metaphor. i think i detected only two similes in your story, and they weren’t incredibly imaginative. metaphors are wonderful because they can communicate multiple layers of meaning with only a few words. generally i felt the piece was bereft of literary devices, and you could have employed some foreshadowing and/or dramatic irony to interesting effect. these are all examples of what i mean when i say that your style could use development

i voted for Ms. Masters’ story because i feel she would benefit more from the recognition. her writing lacks practice; to be perfectly frank, i think Mr. Beaulieu’s lacks life experience.

AmyV – 2011/02/10


succincubus – 2011/02/10[Ok, AmyV, that’s absolutely wonderful. What technique are you talking about exactly, just so we’re all “on the same page?”  ]

Really? You want me to define them? It might be easier to find a text on short stories emphasizing narrative technique. Or read some. Might I suggest some oldies but goodies: “A Rose for Emily” by Faulkner or “The Turning of the Screw” by Henry James.

If you realllllly want, I can mail you my old Lit Crit textbook which is gathering dust on my bookshelf.

What is wonderful about the short story is that there is no right or wrong format.  It’s left to the personal discretion of the author.

I do not know either author personally, so all I’m defending is the story.  Both were interesting reads. However, my biggest gripe with “Floppy Discs” is that it was predictable and lacking in the simplest thing: the adjective.  I found myself bored most of the time, and the only time I saw any real passion coming from Madeline was when she was describing Mridula’s physical form.

Frank Lee….I couldn’t agree more. Just because there is no flashing sign (or rubber dong) that spells out clearly what Tony is feeling doesn’t mean you can’t figure it out based on the context.

succincubus – 2011/02/10

WHOOSH! Wow I felt that fireball fly past, backinthesaddle. Do I have any eyebrows left?

But you know what is getting under my skin right now, more than anything? These authors are totally absent from their own discussion board. We’re fighting all their battles for them. Meanwhile sweet-as-saccharine Ms. Masters and “I’m a graduate student” Beaulieu just sit back and click on their computer screens every hour. Boo.

bessie – 2011/02/10

okay so

1) madeline asked for more discussion,

2) people offered madeline constructive feedback,

3) it was’t well received,

4) she got super defensive,

5) and then all these people show up attacking the other story and the author.


backinthesaddle – 2011/02/10

…beaulieu comes off from his comments like a smug know-it all….his insect references supposedly illustrate his wit and cleverness, but a lot of them are weak, become tiresome and sometimes unsuitable or just for show…the “egg” rolls inside like a beetle eye?…do beetles have white eyes… describing the store cashier as a “red-haired wasp” also seems weak and out of nowhere…”i leave her in a sweaty web”…what does even mean…some of the description is forced…a “monochrome obituary”?…describing an egg as an “ovoid”?…a hymn book that smells like a turnip?…really?…Angela stretch’s credulity as a one in a mllion teenager…she’s sexually interested in her dad’s middle aged friends?…if he’s not middle aged, there is no explanation how he came to live in such an affluent neighborhood…much less credible when it becomes clear she already has a boyfriend…she drains (a bottle?) of tequila?…if not a bottle, when did he find the opprtunity to pour the glass?…is this really how most teenage girls would react when presented with a gift from her lover?…the theft of the ring strains credulity…he did it in plain view of the cashier, isn’t the first thing most women would do is put their ring back on…she doesn’t rember one second later that she set the ring on the counter, the ant makes a getaway without any fuss being raised or pursuit?… even Angela’s Dad come off as incredible, he goes to church, but has a bondage fetish and can’t manage to hide this from his daughter?…and church seems like the last place the ant would be with all his immorality, but that is where he purportedly meets Angela…if Angela is shuffling through her clothes, how does she find the obit notice?…does paper fall that easily from a pocket…everything points to a fairly casual relationship, how is it that Angela is so easily able to call him on a lie about having a sister, wouldn’t she more likely frame it as a question…and why does she react so strongly…do most people run to the bathroom when confronted by someone else’s lie to retch…or did she just have too much tequila…it definitely seems you are playing with an idea, but not a very tight one, nor particularly novel, Kafka already did this one, but at least he give us a metamorphosis…you take us nowhere with your “story”…

frank lee – 2011/02/10

I don’t know what a Story Artist is (apart from an incorrect use of captalization), but…. seriously?

“a story must have beginning, middle and end, and that a change must clearly take place in life of at least one of the characters.”

First of all, I don’t know Braydon, so don’t think that I’m defending him.  Also, I enjoyed the piece when I first read it, without knowing that it was part of a larger work.

Field Guide most certainly has a beginning, middle, and end.  While the series of events that Tony moves through do not constitute a typical plot, it is not just random jibberish.  We start with an introduction to the character, followed by a closer look at his theiving habits, and then conclude with a climactic insight into his desires/emotional state.

I suspect the obit has something to do with Tony’s lonliness, and why he twice said Elizabeth was his sister.  He is clearly longing for something: belonging, love, something.  And so he offers Angela the ring, only to be rejected.  Braydon doesn’t come right out and whack us with a rubber dong that says “AND TONY WAS VERY SAD BY ANGELA’S REACTION,” but the effect on the character is there for us to feel.

As per AmyV’s comment, there are definitely great and very influential works that do not rely on a traditional plot format.  But then again you might not encounter them if you’re only reading Dean Koontz.  Ulysses is a great example, and I would also point to One Hundred Years of Solitude, which is a bit more accessible, and which was famously described as “the first piece of literature since the Book of Genesis that should be required reading for the entire human race.”  Imagine that!  And without a Hollywood-style plot structure!

succincubus – 2011/02/10

Elliotj said: “and then the story in turn dismisses itself.” And this is — a good thing? You liked it. Ok, thanks for that.

Lichty18 said: “It seems that Mridula and Raymond are driven by sexual desires and not much else.”

Two comments on that:

First, who isn’t?

Second, and Tony and Angela aren’t?

But wait, you just got done saying it was weird that Raymond would want to bang a stranger who came to his door. So were the characters’ motivations throughout the story purely sexual? Seems like not.

elliottj – 2011/02/10

Not really understanding the hate on the story structure of “Field Guide.” It begins with the protagonist’s thievery/lying, introduces his romantic interest, and concludes with his romantic interest (possibly) discovering his thievery, and definitely his lying. There is, as I mentioned before, at least one place where I would segue more carefully between scenes — I think because the action is mostly internal, Braydon, you may want to take a careful look at when your story moves from inside/out — but the story follows a linear chronology. It is not as straightforward as “Floppy Discs” — it’s not one scene — but it is continuous.

What is maybe bothering some others is that the ending seems anticlimactic (Angela calls out his lie, but it doesn’t go anywhere, and it seems to end abruptly).

Personally, I thought that was an interesting stylistic move: the form suiting the content of their relationship. He’s making it out to be more than it is, trying harder than he should, and she just slaps him, screws him, and reinforces the meaninglessness of their relationship. Similarly, the story builds up his compulsive stealing and lying, and Angela then deconstructs it by both seeing through it and utterly dismissing it, and then the story in turn dismisses itself. I thought that was neat.

Capt.Teela_3000 – 2011/02/10

AmyV, I still feel that his story lacks proper structure and more importantly substance. It was simply not a pleasure to read for me. The first time I attempted to read it I was bored and had to return to it later. The writing style is awkward and choppy. Quite frankly, I find the writing style to be a distraction not a strength. This is not an insult to the author. It is an opinion of the work itself.

Floppy Discs does not begin with “once upon a time” or conclude with a happy ending either. It begins with body language, clear setting and natural, attention grabbing dialogue. It ends with two characters feeling mixed emotions including guilt, curiosity, acceptance desire and frustration. They have changed.

Lichty18 – 2011/02/10

Capt.Teela_3000, I don’t believe that Floppy Discs was completely impossible, it is probable. But to say that the incident is common to everyday life? I don’t know about you, I don’t find myself seriously contemplating one night stands with people knocking on my door every day. Perhaps I’m just unlucky. As for relating to the characters in this situation, it just seems rather generic to relate to people with romantic and sexual dilemmas, even if they do deal with cultural differences as well. Field Guide has characters with depth and dimension. They make you wonder why the hell they are doing what they are. What drives Tony? Why is Angela doing the things she does? It seems to me that Raymond and Mridula are driven by sexual desires and not much else. There could be other things there, but not nearly as much as I see with the characters in Field Guide. I have to say, that to the beginning, middle, end aspect, I agree with AmyV. Just because it doesn’t jump out, grab you and shake your shoulders doesn’t mean the structure isn’t there.

succincubus – 2011/02/10

Ok, AmyV, that’s absolutely wonderful. What technique are you talking about exactly, just so we’re all “on the same page?”

AmyV – 2011/02/10

Capt.Teela_3000 — are we sure we read the same story? “Field Guide…” most definitely has a beginning, middle, and end. It might not be as clear cut as starting at ‘Once upon a time’ and finishing with “and they lived happily ever after” but there is definitely structure to it.  Yes, it might be part of a larger project but if I did not know that I would be happy with how it started and ended. There are countless short stories written by well-known authors who use this technique.  One only has to read “Ulysses” by James Joyce to realize that a great story can have a mind of its own.


Capt.Teela_3000 – 2011/02/10

“But for all the praise he’s getting, I just don’t see how this is a “story.” It crashes around from one thing to the next and the only thing that holds it together is this obit. It bothers me that we all know this short story is actually part of a larger work and we’re giving it allowances for that. The story needs to be self-contained. Most of us will never read the whole work. So why should say it’s okay if things don’t make sense, or we’re left with a “what the f—” feeling, just because it’s part of a whole? That for me loses points for this story.”

Precisely. Every ounce of training I have received as a Story Artist, and all of my experience working with writers, has shown that a story must have beginning, middle and end, and that a change must clearly take place in life of at least one of the characters. Exciting imagery is just a collection of thoughts with out this basic structure in place. “Kleptoparasitosm” is lacking this structure. “Floppy Discs” is clearly a story, and a compelling one.



succincubus – 2011/02/10

OK, I think we’ve thoroughly beaten to death the “show vs. tell” idea with Ms. Masters’ story. If we’re going to continue bashing it, can we at least pick a different aspect of it to criticize? This is getting redundant.

I’m not going to tell you who I voted for. And I do agree with extropian that the set-up for this contest is flawed. But the contestants knew what this would be going in, so they sort of set themselves up for this, didn’t they? It’s part popularity contest and part literary battle. That’s just how it is. Deal with it.

As for Mr. Beaulieu’s story, well, okay. He’s very creative for working with bug creatures and all the mixed metaphors of bugs and how humans are disgusting creatures no better than the insects we detest. Points for that.

But for all the praise he’s getting, I just don’t see how this is a “story.” It crashes around from one thing to the next and the only thing that holds it together is this obit. It bothers me that we all know this short story is actually part of a larger work and we’re giving it allowances for that. The story needs to be self-contained. Most of us will never read the whole work. So why should say it’s okay if things don’t make sense, or we’re left with a “what the f—” feeling, just because it’s part of a whole? That for me loses points for this story.

Capt.Teela_3000 – 2011/02/10

Lichty18: Your commentary misrepresents portions from my critique in an attempt to support a weak statement.  I did find “Floppy Discs” to be immensely engaging and plausible because I identified with the concept of being attracted to someone with a personality quite different from my own. Crazier scenarios occur everyday.  Adultery, fornication, found art, and  dumpster diving are in fact fairly common. More importantly, the unique quality of this one night stand (that failed to actually occur) is what makes this story an interesting concept.

Lichty18 – 2011/02/10


I found it interesting that Capt.Teela_3000 said, “I found Floppy Discsto be immensely engaging and plausible,” and, ” these issues seem common to everyday life.”
You know, I don’t know how many times I find myself going through someone else’s trash, making art out of it, returning that art to a complete stranger then almost having sex with that person. If I had a nickel for every time this happens…


2cents – 2011/02/10

Madeline, I think the concept for your story is wonderful and your characters are lovely. I would love, however, to see it written without the jumps in perspective between each character. I think we have a bit too much access to each character’s thoughts, which is perhaps what is spurring the “show don’t tell” comments. I think you could scale back on the narrator’s omniscience and just give us the characters’ actions and dialogue, which are the more original, surprising parts of the story (ie: telling the reader Raymond is confused and suspicious doesn’t do anything for me. I’d rather see those emotions in his action and dialogue).

That being said, I voted for Braydon’s story because–for me–the writing was cleaner and its narration was better-handled.

frank lee – 2011/02/10

I LOL’d.

Lichty18 – 2011/02/10

I found it interesting that Capt.Teela_3000 said, “I found Floppy Discs to be immensely engaging and plausible,” and, ” these issues seem common to everyday life.”

You know, I don’t know how many times I find myself going through someone else’s trash, making art out of it, returning that art to a complete stranger then almost having sex with that person. If I had a nickel for every time this happens…

Capt.Teela_3000 – 2011/02/10

“Floppy Discs” celebrates the differences of two characters while bringing the unlikely pair together to share an experience (if only for a few moments). Their separate lives are enriched by accepting and taking interest in one another. Also, as a creative who spent many years in a romantic relationship in which opposites did indeed attract, I found “Floppy Discs” to be immensely engaging and plausible.

Immediately upon reading the first line, the audience visualizes the disinterested body language of a male character and develops a concept about his setting. By line two, we know his personalty. He is at least disagreeable and possibly ornery. In just a few more lines we understand that he is also paranoid and racist. Yet simultaneously, we are eagerly waiting to discover who is at the door. When the visitor is revealed to us (Mridula), her personality is a delightful contrast to Raymond’s. I enjoy the honest, straightforward introduction to these characters. Understanding their seemingly incompatible personalities immediately is an essential introduction to a story of this nature.
 While the style of writing is clear and honest, it is also bursting with beautiful, illustrative imagery. Also, in the following line, Mridula’s recognition of Raymond’s emotion is presented to us in an undeniably creative way.”It’s – a piece of art I made, from something of yours…” She was still smiling, but the word STALKER quickly scrawled itself on his inner eye. The flags began to flap in a tempestuous breeze.”
Through out this cheeky prose, little surprises are revealed to us a long the way about each character. Raymond is married. Mridula has a girlfriend. Just before the story’s end, we learn that this incident was not the first time she crossed the line of romantic decency. This final truth keeps us thinking about her after we have finished reading. Will she tell her girlfriend? Will someone buy this piece? What about Raymond’s wife? When boiled down to their simplest form, these issues seem common to everyday life. The realistic, sensitive, emotional backbone of this story is precisely what makes the reader identify with the characters. When a unique day like this occurs in one’s life, one never forgets it. One is never the same.
“Kleptoparasitism” is obviously the work of an educated individual, but does not offer believable characters with genuine emotion. The protagonist is even introduced to the audience by detailing aspects of his physical appearance first (as opposed to his emotional state). Yet initially, most of the action is dependent on the character’s internal thoughts about what appears to have already happened (this is unclear). The intended edgy or weird subject matter feels a bit forced. It does not offer a necessary element to the plot or to the characters. While entertaining, the characters remain unchanged and fail to engage in truly meaningful  activities which would inspire one to reader further. There are a great deal of interesting smells, sights and sounds presented for the reader’s enjoyment however. The author is attempting to think out of the box and is off to a good start with this piece. If it is indeed part of a large work, that would increase it’s merit.

My vote is for “Floppy Discs.” I wish the best of luck to both contestants in all they do!

extropian – 2011/02/10

First off, let me say that I entered this contest so I\’m jealous of both writers. Also, I\’m in the same program as Braydon and we share the same office. In all honesty, I logged on with the intention of voting for his story either way. But I read both stories carefully and ended up throwing my lot in with Braydon. My decision ultimately rested on the quality of prose found in \”A Field Guide to Kleptoparasitism.\” I actually prefer the characters and premise of Madeline\’s story to Braydon\’s. However, line by line, Braydon\’s writing hits harder (sorry for the boxing metaphors, but c\’mon it\’s relevant!). I also must say that I think the voting for this contest is flawed. You should only be able to vote once a day (I think voting once is ideal, but I\’ll compromise) and I\’d recommend not including the counter because this will inevitably influence people\’s decisions. I\’ll end with one final thought: the discussion board on this page is amazing. I really should be working on my thesis but I can\’t stop reading these comments. Best of luck to both of you.

rosemarynixon – 2011/02/10


Madeleine, I’m not sure I understand your point about the end being open to interpretation.  How that would help the story. What is wonderful about short stories is that every line is there for a reason.  So your reader must be expected to surmise either that Mridula takes her art seriously or that she doesn’t.  And there is nothing I see in the story to tell me she thinks her art is not good.  Much that implies she feels good about it:

– M. says “happily” (though a weak adverb, does indicate she is pleased): I saved them.  I kept thinking I should make something with them, so – here they are!” The exclamation mark also indicates the intensity of her happiness.  Furthermore,  says it was fun to make, and that her decisions were “aesthetic.”  That she made attempts to do it right – trying not to cluster the same colour.  She says she’d be happy to keep art.  Each of these sentences indicate to the reader that she takes what the art seriously.  So if Mridula has more than one reason for wanting to sell the art at the end of the story, it seems to me to be an unprepared-for ending.

AmyV – 2011/02/10

Braydon‘s story gets my vote. What I love about it is that from the very first sentence it makes me want to keep reading.  A thesis advisor once told me that like first impressions, the opening paragraph needs to get the reader’s attention.  And this is true with Braydon’s tale. It makes me want to keep reading to find out why Tony feels the need to steal the paper and why his neighbor’s haven’t noticed that he’s a little bit different.  From this very first paragraph I can see myself envisioning this scene from daily life. I can almost hear the sound of the hose rinsing off Wayne’s Maserati and almost hear the clicking of Tony’s mandibles.

” A Field Guide to Kleptoparasitism” is a pleasure to read…I disagree with HannahB‘s comment about it being “too weird for the sake of being weird.”  Like any good fiction, it asks us to suspend our disbelief…but never does it throw in anything too weird that doesn’t fit with the tone.  I would think that for something to be “too weird for the sake of being weird” you would need to have Tony observe, suddenly out of the blue, that a zeppelin flew overhead with a million tiny fishes swimming in it’s wake. Now that would be weird for the sake of being weird.

Madeline‘s story is an interesting read as well, but as I read it I almost felt like it was anticlimactic. I was left wanting towards the end.  Oddly enough I felt this story was more surreal. I just couldn’t picture in my head a scenario such as this happening.  Granted there were no bug people and therefore should seem more realistic, but I found myself relating more with the characters of Tony and Angela then I found myself relating to the characters of Mridula and Raymond. And unlike Braydon’s story, I was having difficulty finding myself in this story world.  It felt like “Floppy Discs” was outlined out and as others have mentioned, it went from point A to point B – it got the job done. But I would have liked to have had a little embellishment.

Again, I liked both stories…but felt that Braydon’s was the better tale spun.


Madeline Masters – 2011/02/10

Frank Lee: I have not disregarded anything aboutrosemarynixon’s latest post. I did say that I appreciate she sees potential in my piece. A few commenters have questioned the “show vs. tell” in my story, so up to this point I’ve addressed that issue in general.

However, some of rosemarynixon’s observations do depend on her interpretation of the story. She wrote:

By precious, I’m referring to lines like “Now when she hung her art on the wall, she’d think of the forbidden, passionate moment she had shared with the odd skinny man who’d given up his art for practicality.”  Her earnest belief that her art is good.


Where does this line say definitively that Mridula thinks the art is good? The next line in the story says that it is time for her to sell her first piece. It is possible for Mridula to have more than one reason for wanting to sell the piece, therefore, this part of the story is open to interpretation.


galexandra – 2011/02/10

I would like to elaborate more on elliotj’s comments regarding showing rather than telling in Ms. Master’s piece. Even if the narrator is allowed access to the character’s thoughts, there should still be an original, creative way of portraying those thoughts. After all, you are a writer. Don’t forget, in an 3rd person omniscent point-of-view, every thought and action is still being filtered through a narrator who has their own persona. Raymond may not compare his emotions to rising cupcakes in the oven, but this story isn’t in first person. Raymond isn’t directly telling US that HE feels this way, the narrator is. The problem here is that the narrator doesn’t have a distinct voice and if you feel that it doesn’t make sense to show his thoughts in this way, perhaps the story should have been written in first person.

Another example of telling is when Raymond opens the front door and Mridula is described as “bright and friendly”. Was she smiling? Was her voice purposely high pitched? How can you show us that she is “bright and friendly” using actions? Also, since this observation is from Raymond’s point-of-view you could use the way he interprets her actions to portray his character as well.

Also, in regards to the 3rd person omniscent, if we are allowed to witness the characters’ thoughts, why doesn’t Raymond ever consider the fact that he’s married before he reveals it to Mridula through dialogue. I would assume that this is a thought that would cross his mind as his sexual attraction grows for Mridula. What is the purpose of not disclosing this to the reader? As of now, it merely acts as a “surprise” tactic to make the story more interesting when its just arbritrary and without motive.

Ms. Masters, I must say though, your contributions to the discussion board aren’t establishing your ethos as a professional writer.

frank lee – 2011/02/10

Madeline, I think you should give more serious consideration to rosemarynixon’s response.  What she is describing is not opinion so much as convention — that which distinguishes powerful prose from an amateurish draft.

It’s a skill to be able see your own work from an objective perspective, and most people only learn this skill through workshopping a piece over and over.  At first it’s brutal, because it feels like an attack on your person, as it’s hard to not emotionally and intellectually identify with your creation.  But when you can finally let go and really listen to what your readers are telling you, your work will improve dramatically.

HannahB – 2011/02/10

Both great stories! Madeline’s gets my vote, as it was both clever, and relatable. The other story was interesting, but a bit too “weird for the sake of weird” for my taste.

Madeline Masters – 2011/02/10

Braydon, about your last comment: no, thank God, I haven’t!

I wasn’t discrediting rosemarynixon’s comments. I didn’t even address her directly in my post. I appreciate that she sees potential in my work. And, a lot of her comments are opinion and her own interpretation, which is why I offered my own interpretation.

Regardless of that, I’m just glad to see you engaging in the discussion. I understand you’re probably busy with work and school and things and don’t have a lot of time to comment, so thanks for dropping in when you can.

Braydon Beaulieu – 2011/02/10

Bingo. Knew it would happen. I didn’t even have to explain away my characters’ motivations, the readers are doing it for me. Huge thank you to David Griffin Brown and st.pierre for stepping up to the plate and knocking it out of the park.

To st.pierre‘s edit: Wow! Thank you. It’s interesting to see the details you overlook when you know your story so well. Excellent observation.

Now, there is a question that arises from reading this morning’s comments. I’m wondering why Madeline asked rosemarynixon for edits for Floppy Discs if she wasn’t interested in considering those edits, but rather, gaining an opportunity to defend her story against criticisms. This seems rather counterproductive, but maybe this is a bias on my part, based on the emphasis on taking and giving constructive criticism in UWindsor’s Creative Writing program. As to Madeline‘s comment, “I find it hard to believe that a “woman” (insect) would start pummeling a guy she just had sex with,” well, obviously she hasn’t had the kind of sex some of us have had.

Madeline Masters – 2011/02/10

One thing I want to address, before anything else, is the use of an omniscient narrator in Floppy Discs. The narrator in this story goes between Raymond and Mridula, while also setting the scene. This is the definition of an omniscient narrator.

Here’s an example. We start with Raymond’s dialogue and consciousness…

“You know what? It’s okay. I’ll leave the door open,” Ray offered. He decided their mutual distrust was a sign they should trust each other. Mridula hesitated.


Then, Mridula speaks and we enter her mind for a bit…

“Yeah, sure. I’ll come in.”

She followed him through the doorway into the split-level late 20th century 3-bedroom home just blocks from High Park. She wondered how much this place cost and if she’d ever be able to afford living in a house rather than an apartment – not even a condo – that was above the 10th floor. Raymond pulled the door closed, but not until it latched.


Then the narrator sets the scene for the reader…

They sat on the couch. Mridula held the large something covered in a black trash bag in her lap, since the coffee table was scattered with glasses, tissues, and coins.


It works sort of like a movie camera, with close shots when the characters are speaking and we are inside their minds, and wide shots that show us the scene and the characters’ actions. If the story is read in this way, the stream of consciousness of the characters, and the inner, private thoughts that make these characters real, are more apparent.

elliotj pointed out these lines to illustrate “show” vs. “tell:”

“Wow, that’s – interesting,” he said. His words did not sound as flattering as he intended them to be. He really liked it, but he wasn’t sure if it was because of the piece itself or because he was seeing an old friend whose obituary he’d already read in the news.


We’re inside Raymond’s head at this moment, which I think the last bit clearly illustrates. Also, we just came off a bit of his dialogue. So for me as a writer, it doesn’t make sense for Raymond, in his mind, to be comparing his feelings to warm socks in winter or rising cupcakes (although I do like thinking about cupcakes!).

I can see elliotj‘s point that Floppy Discs could maybe use more similes, but at that particular spot it wouldn’t make sense.

Thanks again to everyone for the constructive criticism. While I don’t agree with all of the comments (what fun would that be?), it is helpful to learn how different people react to one story.

Looking forward to another day of battle!

rosemarynixon – 2011/02/10

Hi Madeleine,

A quick response to yesterday’s questions.  By showing instead of telling, I mean lines like “Okay, he murmured.  Now he was really confused.”  Confusion looks different on every human being.  I want to SEE Raymond’s confusion like a movie rolling.  Only then will Raymond become a more complex character that I want to continue to follow.  It makes me think of Alan Lightman, scientist and novelist who said, Why do so many kids hate Science?  Because they know the answer to the osmosis experiment before they do it.  They want to discover, not just verify what they’ve already been told.  There are parallels in writing. It isn’t interesting to a reader to be “told” things.  If we watch a film, no voice says, He is angry.  Instead we watch the character’s body language, shift in speech patterns, action…

Expositional asides – “He tried not to react visibly to her foreign-sounding name.”  Every aspect of writing topples over into the next aspect of writing – this is, in a way, also “telliing instead of showing.”  But you need to work so much harder as the writer, go so much deeper, be a lot more visual in order to not only show him trying now to react visibly, but also finding a way to indicate without explanation that it is her name that he is reacting to.  How would this take place in real life? What does he DO to quickly cover up his faux pas?  The reader will put the bits together but s/he will be doing the discovering and will therefore want to stay within the story’s pages.

One thing I meant to mention was the point of view shifts.  Any story can do anything as long as the writer finds a way to do it well.  Rules can be broken and usually are in the most powerful stories.  But jumping from one point of view to the other throughout the story with no intent or building logic behind it, looks more amateur.  I think of Margaret Atwood’s The Resplendent Quetzel (sp?) where you get the first half of the story from the woman’s pov.  Then an abrupt shift to the husband’s pov.  But oh what shifts of reality, what changes of perception begin to layer with this second take.  Raymond and Mridula don’t build in complexity for me.  It is simply easier to switch point of view here, but not more powerful.

When I said the characters didn’t feel believable enough, I meant I watched, but I wasn’t engaged  in what they were engaging in.  If a character in whose mind the reader resides is attracted to someone, I should literally feel the attraction.  If the character is embarrased, I need to blush in embarrassment at the situation too.  Here I felt “told about” situations, but your language in this draft didn’t make me experience it firsthand.  The characters do things, but there seems little significance to their dialogue or action or even thoughts. Neither of them is attractive which I think is a plus in the story, though the heavy breasts are predictable.  There isn’t a building resonance of attraction – even if the attraction is simply what they stand for to each other.  The reader needs to feel the person grow on him/her just like the character does. There seem to be inconsistancies.  The Mridula who is sexual with this stranger wouldn’t likely mind if he’s married. “God, you’re married, that’s really serious.  It was good of you to stop when you did.” That moral sentence seems to not come from her, but from the writer as there is no motivation for it in what the reader has seen so far of her.

By precious, I’m referring to lines like “Now when she hung her art on the wall, she’d think of the forbidden, passionate moment she had shared with the odd skinny man who’d given up his art for practicality.”  Her earnest belief that her art is good. First, I had no sense her art was good,  I felt more awkward for her for thinking it was.  And Raymond doesn’t seem to be a guy who can get himself up off the couch (something I actually find interesting about his character), let alone be someone who has seriously given up art.  So it felt to me that it was playing with ideas that the story didn’t create/live up to.

I really wondered about the use of race in this story.  I simply didn’t follow the reader’s implied significance in making her brown, except to make him racist, because he “This made him trust her less.”  Which makes me dislike Raymond more, which in turn makes me trust him less, and his art less…which is not where I sense the writer was trying to go.

So when I say the characters for me felt pushed into actions, they seemed to never really lift off the page as living breathing complex people. I sense the writer making them speak, be sexual for a bit, but there are holes, leaving them to one-dimensional when the reader is interested in what would make people like this tick.

Every story takes draft after draft after draft to perfect.  My comments are for this draft only.  Tightening the language and giving more thought to the motivations and complexities of these two would, I think, make a much stronger story in the next draft.  An ending has to carry the weight of the story and your last line seems such a summing up, and a summing up of something that I don’t think carries the story’s weight.

It is, in the end, no matter how defamiliarized our storyline, the language, the diction and syntax and rhythms of speech etc etc that make a story powerful or not.  Any plot we think of can turn itself into a weak story or build itself into a powerful one, depending on the process, the our tools for creating/revealing (not “telling” it.)

Probably won’t be able to pop in here much more but I hope this helps to clarify my initial comments.

Madeline Masters – 2011/02/10

Good Morning Everyone!

Wow, what a happy surprise for me to wake up and see my numbers have improved! Thank you so much to everyone who’s voted so far. I greatly appreciate your support. And let’s get talking about these stories – the conversations are truly the best part of this experience for me, and hopefully for you all, too.

David Griffin Brown – 2011/02/09

Re: Why does Angela hit Tony?

I thought this little mystery was one of the best parts of the story, and definitely the biggest insight into Angela’s character.

My impression was that Angela didn’t like the implication of Tony offering her the ring, like they have a prior aggreement that their encounters are for nothing more than drunken sex.  And a few lines later she mentions her boyfriend, as if to reinforce the emotional boundary.

A ring is taking things too far, even if Tony couldn’t see the significance.  Or maybe he could, and this was his odd way of letting Angela know that he feels something more than a sexual attachment to her.

st.pierre – 2011/02/09


I have so enjoyed reading the hefty literary discussion that’s been going on here. Both stories are wonderfully quirky and use absurd, or shall I say, abnormal details, which are refreshing – at least for me (I love weird).

In regards to the question about Angela’s drunken violence, I interpreted it as a physical reaction to the ring and what it might imply, at least to her. Someone mentioned the line about Tony wondering how Angela sees him – there’s a suggestion there that she might be using him for sex. Speaking from personal experience, I caught the bouquet at a wedding once and quickly pushed it into someone else’s hands. And that was me sober. Now, that might inform my reading in a way that differs from others. Also, perhaps the Merchant of Venice reference has something to do with this? There’s a bit about a ring in that play… hmmmm. Particular reason it was mentioned?

One thing I was wondering, Braydon, was similar to jelliot about the references to ants. I was under the impression that your main characters were ants. I don’t think it matters if the reader knows what kind of insects they are, but just be aware of the possible confusion when you refer to ants elsewhere. And lastly, are Angela and Tony in her dad’s bedroom? I believe you mention that he looks at ‘her’ desk… why would it be in there? Or have they roamed all over the house during their sexual escapade?

elliottj – 2011/02/09

Hey Madeline:

Can’t speak for everyone (their mileage may vary) but there’s a difference between showing and telling IN narration. Let’s look at your example.

“His words did not sound as flattering as he intended them to be. He really liked it…”

How did his words sound? What was that sound in comparison to how flattering he intended them to be? Were they meant to be as flattering as a Hallmark card or a first date’s awkward compliment on your bad haircut? As a reader, I crave imagery and detail — the things that show me exactly what’s happening in a narrative, rather than transcribing for me.

And — he really liked it. Again, telling us he liked it. Why not a bodily reaction; what does he look like when he likes something? How does he emote it? Or even — how did he feel, really; what is the sensation of like to him? Like watching a cupcake rising in an oven? Like putting on his favourite pair of socks on a cold day? Maybe my examples are wacky, but this, too, can be shown.

That, and the dialogue at some points should speak for itself (i.e. it should indicate to some extent the emotions/reactions of the characters so that the narrator doesn’t have to). We should be able to tell by the dialogue — the way it’s phrased, the way others respond to it — what sense one character is trying to convey to another, and to some degree how successful they’re being. Narration is a great space for thoughts, actions (and bodily reactions), images. But in all things, specificity. That’s where I think you can go forward with your piece.

Again, mileage for others may vary.

Madeline Masters – 2011/02/09

It seems some readers are grouping narration in with show vs. tell, unless I’m thinking of the wrong examples. How about here:

“His words did not sound as flattering as he intended them to be. He really liked it, but he wasn’t sure if it was because of the piece itself or because he was seeing an old friend whose obituary he’d already read in the news.”

Are readers interpreting this as being told how the characters feel? In a story where it’s already been established that the narration goes in and out of the minds of the two characters, is this really “telling,” or is it giving the reader Raymond’s perspective without putting it in quotation marks or italics?

Braydon, you said you don’t want to explain your characters to me. This disappoints me somewhat – it’s hard to engage in discussion with you if you don’t want to reveal anything new or respond fully to comments.

You also asked if it matters why Angela hits Tony, and you implied she’s drunk, isn’t that enough? Readers have told me my characters are not believable because there’s no reason for their actions.

Well, I find it hard to believe that a “woman” (insect) would start pummeling a guy she just had sex with, over something that as far as the reader knows, she has no reason to be upset about. Her sudden shift in emotions is jarring and unexplained, and therefore hard to believe. So yes, to me, there needs to be at least some indication of why she would have this reaction. Otherwise it’s violence for the sake of violence.


Braydon Beaulieu – 2011/02/09


Well, Eva, it looks like you and I share at least one literary interest. “In the room the women come and go,/ Talking of Michelangelo.” I think you’re on the right track with the quote you referenced; we are never really contained within just our own works, we are textually linked to everything we’ve read, and everything those authors have read, and so on and so forth. This is at once a limitation and a liberation, as a writer.

In response to Madeline, I’m not going to explain my characters, because I want my piece to speak for itself in that regard. However, I will say that character motivation (primarily based on fear and/or desire) is a device I am playing with and twisting in Field Guide. Does it matter why she hits him? She is, after all, drunk. The question that I do find intriguing is: If this isn’t working, how can I improve it without telling my reader how to interpret the character?

This is what I think rosemarynixon, elliottj, and frank lee mean when they provide their respective “show, don’t tell” edits for Floppy Discs. We never actually see the manifestations of these characters’ emotions, physical embodied reactions, sensory details. We’re simply told how the characters are feeling, what they’re thinking, instead of being shown, and allowed to feel those emotions ourselves in any substantial way. For example, in a sad story where we’re told to be sad, the depth of the emotion is akin to this: [ 🙁 ], when in a story that evokes sadness through imagery, bodily representations, and language, the sadness goes much deeper. These are the stories we remember. This is the type of thing I don’t get from the awkwardness and unfulfilled desires in Madeline’s story, because I, as a reader, haven’t been allowed to reach that emotionality on my own. I’ve been led to it by the hand.

frank lee – 2011/02/09


I highly recommend Plath’s The Bell Jar as an example of the eloquent, feminine prose you alluded to, that still manages to show without telling.

Madeline Masters – 2011/02/09

To Frank Lee:

Thank you for the constructive criticism. About the name – what can I say, my mother loves me. My sister and I have been called “Masters of the Universe” on several occasions. You can’t complain about that!

As for your comments, this is good stuff. Let’s go point by point:

My use of adjectives and adverbs. I’ll agree, I’m a little more old-school in this respect. The new trend is for the narrator and the characters to make statements and let the reader piece together how the characters feel based on their actions. I notice this is much more common with male writers than female writers, let’s take for example, Ernest Hemingway (stark and clean, I love his style) vs. George Eliot (I don’t think I need to say George was a woman but I will just for clarity’s sake), who was endlessly descriptive and could use a bit of editing down, if you’re asking me. I do try not to over explain my characters, in trying to avoid this “feminine” writing style, but I also don’t like to leave my readers in the dark. So perhaps I need to work on this balance.

In Field Guide, I’m completely left in the dark on some of the character’s actions. I wonder if this is because I’m missing something or because this piece is part of a larger work. For example, why does Angela suddenly turn violent at the end of the story? I’ve read the ending a few times and still don’t know why she does this. But maybe it would make sense if I knew Angela and Tony better. Or is the point that her rage is pointless? I don’t know.

You mentioned I spend most of my time getting from A to B. Again, I think this is me being “old-school,” and perhaps “old-school” just doesn’t fly on this Indie writing scene. From my understanding of a good story, there should be a plot, a beginning, a middle, and an end. In Floppy Discs, a situation is introduced, the characters explore the situation, and then they resolve it, leading to the ending. Along the way we learn more about each character through the details included, the dialogue, and the body language. It’s a standard plot structure, but is that bad?

In Field Guide, there isn’t a solid beginning, middle, end progression. And that’s okay. It’s great, in fact. It’s an avante garde style. But it also leaves the reader a bit less satisfied in the end, I think. Is this story really self-contained?

Well, that’s enough from me for now. Phew! I’ll be back to address a few other readers’ points later tonight.

Madeline Masters – 2011/02/09

Wow, I go away to buy one wedding dress, and look at what all has happened! The discussion board has really come alive- this is wonderful.

First, when I read some of the comments about what I said this morning concerning fan base, I felt terrible. I did not at all mean that people were blindly voting for Braydon’s story simply because they know him. If anything it is a criticism of myself that I haven’t been doing a better job staying connected with like-minded people.

I knew when I entered this contest that having to “hype” my own story and drum up votes would be part of the competition and it is an important skill for a writer, especially a freelancer, to have. So, being in this contest has taught me two really important things:

1. I need to spend more time talking to other writers and people who appreciate good writing, (now’s a great time to start!) and,

2. I need to pay more attention to my friends!

Already since this week has started I’ve reconnected with a few folks I’d lost touched with and that in itself has made being in this deathmatch worthwhile.

Braydon, I apologize if you took my comment as a personal attack. I didn’t mean it that way. I’m sure you feel very lucky and grateful to have people supporting you, including many readers here at BP who were previously unfamiliar with your work.

Ok, I hope I’ve cleared that up. Now if possible I’d like to talk about the stories some more!

emoran – 2011/02/09


i am not aware of the technical term that has been given to the concept but i am pretty sure that you are alluding to the ideas expressed in this quotation from elliot:  every experience is a paradox in that it means to be absolute, and yet is relative; in that it somehow always goes beyond itself and yet never escapes itself.  (the concept also sort of reminds me of plato’s allegory of the cave–the first part of it anyway.)


let me know if i am on the right track.


and, yes, i dig elliot (t.s. and the one from ET)



Braydon Beaulieu – 2011/02/09

And by “inquiry” I mean, of course, “enquiry.” My bad.

Braydon Beaulieu – 2011/02/09


I have been sufficiently tagged in. First off, a thank you to Eva. Seeing the two sentences: “Braydon’s story demands that the reader start thinking about meaning and metaphor and narrative and character more readily because the the characters are non-humans and living human experiences,” and, “It’s more immediately appealing” immediately juxtaposed is a jackpot, in my eyes. I’m glad that my language and characters are engaging, but force you to reflect. Excellent comments.


Thanks to Lichty18, rosemarynixon, danielperry, elliottj, husseini8 and frank lee for the well-thought-out comments, criticisms, and recommendations for both pieces. Like frank lee, I’m glad this is turning into a productive discussion about the stories, like a creative writing workshop, only with voting and whatnot. danielperry, your comments were indicative of this for both pieces, and showed that you put a ton of thought into your words. Also, thank you for the courtesy of posting tonight. I appreciate you taking the time to do so.

What I’d like to speak to is the writing-as-community theme broached by Lichty18 and elliottj. While I was rather stunned by Madeline’s comment this morning, I found myself conceptualizing the comment in different ways throughout the day (one of the reasons I’ve held off on commenting for a while). To answer your inquiry, elliottj, writing is very much a communal activity, is necessarily so based on its nature. There is a community established between writer and reader in any given text, whether that text is private (e.g. a diary) or public (e.g. the eight stories in this Deathmatch). Although I can’t remember the technical term at the moment, there is an idea in T.S. Eliot’s writing that all writing is indivisible from its influences, that all texts exist within a network of other texts. This can be seen in the ease with which readers seem to be identifying Kafka, in particular, in Field Guide to Kleptoparasitism. That’s a community in which I wish to immerse, not run from. The same thing can be said about the community I’m bringing to Broken Pencil. These are readers, plain and simple. I have not asked any of them to vote for me blindly. One of my own students today sent me a two-page email of criticisms about my piece, and I thanked him for the edits (this, after all, does have to turn into a thesis project after Broken Pencil) and lauded him his courage in sending me his honest opinions. As you can see from elliottj’s criticisms of my story, in our department we are not trained to blindly support each other. This is the writing community I’m bringing to the Deathmatch. Involved, active, engaged. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

husseini8 – 2011/02/09

Mr. Beaulieu, you simply outclassed Miss Masters. The entire thing stimulated the mind and was a pleasure to read, really. Miss Masters, you are a good writer however when comparing these two particular pieces, there is no doubt that Mr. Beaulieu was far more creative and had really created the characters on more dimensions. Great work from the both of you.

frank lee – 2011/02/09

I love how this is turning into a workshop unlike the pompous shenanigans of round one.

Madeline… first of all, you have a wicked name.  I’ve liked Madeline ever since a high-school crush broke my heart because I went outside for a cigarette instead of cuddling with her.  Tragedy.  And Masters?  Sounds powerful, and of course packed with some pun potential.  I hope to see it on the cover of a book someday!

I agree with rosemarynixon on a few points, but I’m sure our take is different, so I thought I’d elaborate.

In terms of telling rather than showing:

“I’m coming, Christ! No one ever comes to anyone’s house anymore, especially not invited,” he thought, which made this occurrence exceptionally uncomfortable for him.

Raymond’s annoyance and discomfort are evident in the italicized thoughts.  Restating that he is uncomfortable lessens the impact.  IMO, adverbs are notorious for “telling” instead of “showing”.  For example, with “she said happily” … can her happiness be shown through the dialogue alone?  Or through some other mannerism?

I also agree with rosemarynixon that the characters seem a bit unbelievable/unrealistic.  I realize the absurdity of saying that when you are up against the bug man, but in Braydon’s case, Tony is meant to be unbelievable.  When I’m faced with Mridula and Raymond, I know I’m supposed to be reading about two relatable characters, yet I can’t see myself in either of them, and I can’t see the scenario unfolding as it did.

It feels like you started with a concept and plot, and drove from beginning to end with some characters that happened along the way.  In Braydon’s case, it seems like he spent the majority of his time developing the characters of Tony and Angela, and then gaves us ‘a day in the life.’  Most of his narrative is spent placing the reader into Tony’s strange world, the smells, the insectoid body, the random klepto hoard.

Most of your narrative is spent achieving A to B, with the character details doled out in absolute statements: she was bright and friendly, he was really confused, it was eye-catching and colourful.  That meant I was never able to really get to know the characters, and so their motivations seem suspect.  They both seem very “normal”; he’s just an ex- DJ guy with a house, and she’s just a woman with an apartment and a dog.  Nothing about those slim details justified, from my perspective, why she’d show up at his house and offer him this art, or where the spontaneous attraction came from, or why he made the first move and then backed down.  Perhaps if I knew both the characters better, their actions would be less puzzling.

I don’t mean to harp on you too much.  I think this has potential to become something bigger… like a series of short stories about this crazy woman who makes art from people’s garbage and then serially tries to make out with them.

Field Guide, on the other hand, may showcase Braydon’s strong, creative voice, but I find myself wondering where the story could go, and if I could ever care about the strange bug man enough to get through something longer.

elliottj – 2011/02/09


A quick rundown of where my thinking is on this. Hopefully this is something you’re looking for, discussion-wise.

Madeline, I like the way your story makes and pushes metaphors in an amusing way (i.e. the warning flags) and the extreme social awkwardness of your characters (I love how parodic of real life encounters it seems) but I do agree with Rosemary: your prose can get expositional, explanatory too often. We need to be shown the confusion, the craziness, etc. coming through the characters, via what they’re saying, how they’re moving, the sound of their voices — more imagery, less telling of emotions/reactions.

Things get a bit clunky as well: a lot of dialogue tags in a two-way conversation, for example, which gets a little much when the conversation rules the piece. Or the double-way you’re distinguishing thoughts (both with italics and with indicating thought in quotations/tags).

Braydon, I think your strength is in being thick with unique images and tight with your language. I will admit, I don’t totally get the fetish for the newspaper clipping. Then again, I’m not sure if I want to?

There are points when the jumping around in your piece jars me a bit (there’s a good segue into Angela, but after the conversation with her, there’s a digression that becomes him leaving for her place that left me a little out of sorts). Other than that, the mosquito is a bit confusing, when I picture the main character as an ant. (This is maybe my own failure to understand something vital.)

I think Madeline raises an interesting point in that — I did come here because I know Braydon (we’re in the same English department), but I’m wondering if we can discuss that in terms of writing in community. I’m glad that someone I know was in this contest, because now I know about it. To some extent, because of the “indie” nature of the literary scene, I think networking is almost necessary in order to keep abreast of things; at least, it’s always seemed so to me, as I find out a lot more through word-of-mouth than I do myself. Also admittedly without my colleagues as inspiration/friendly competition, I can get a little lackadaisical in my writing practices.  Possibly I’m presenting a disconnected idea here, but any thoughts on how community influences your writing, fine authors and commenters?

Lichty18 – 2011/02/09

Thanks, Ms Masters! I enjoy joining the discusion.

I’m not really one who finds a lot of favorite lines. For the most part, my favorites are few and far between. However, I did pick out a few. So for my favorite lines:

“When I skimmed my loot at 6:46 in the morning,…”

-I like the use of the word ‘loot’. I think it brings more meaning to the stolen paper.

“I tunnel into my nest, closing the door behind me…”

-This really brought a lot to the image of the homes. A nest with a door…hmm…


“She wasn’t white, and for some reason this made him trust her less. But she was brown, maybe Indian, not a race he associated with home-based crime. Still.”

-What I really like is the lone ‘still’. I’m a fan of one word sentences.


Ms Masters, I can see that you’re obviously unhappy with Mr. Beaulieu’s lead.Completely understandable, but were the comments about his larger fan base really necessary? It can only be concluded that you were trying to gain sympathy. I feel that this is rather unfair. If Mr. Beaulieu has more people voting for him then they either believe his story to be better or support him as a friend. Either way, you both had the opportunity to market your stories to friends. Just because he has a large fan base doesn’t mean you can go about gaining votes because you say you don’t. I see this as rather hypocritcal.

danielperry – 2011/02/09

Braydon: not fair to leave you hanging too long, so I made some time this evening.

Your story operates at a very high intellectual level, which I admire, and so does your vocabulary. There’s never a dull moment in your profluent narration. That’s hard to pull off when you use such dense language. Overall I found your story to be well thought-out and particularly interesting in our present moment of not one, but two reality television shows about compulsive hoarding. The metaphor of the scavenging insect that informs your work is excellent, and though it might be obvious, I can’t help but compare it to Kafka’s Metamorphosis. In the way that he lives his life, Tony is as insignificant as an insect. Or maybe not: “I wonder if she sees me in thousands of inverted images, or one erect one.” This line was an original and absolutely jaw-dropping way to describe what it feels like to not know if you’ve come for more than sex. The socially-relevant “wallop” at the end is great, too. Beyond his aberrant behaviour, when you reinforce his position in society, you make your deviant resembles a different Kafka character – K., from The Trial – pushed down almost systematically and relegated to insignificance, bested and catalogued by the scholar with an interest in… ants. Good job.

Again I say, best of luck to you both!

Madeline Masters – 2011/02/09

Hello Lichty18,

Thanks for joining the conversation! Good to have you as part of the discussion.

Sounds like you’ve found strong points in both stories. No one has really done this yet, so would you like to share some of your favorite lines from each story?  You know, if you feel like it. ;D

Lichty18 – 2011/02/09

First off, congrats to the authors. Both stories are very well done.

What I really noticed about Field Guide to Kleptoparasitism was the complexity. While reading it, I often found myself thinking very hard about the story. I wondered where it was going and why. I personally believe that those pieces which make you think are the ones that needed much thought to create in the first place.

Floppy Discs was much more straightforward. This could either be a strong or weak point depending on the reader. It was much easier to understand on the surface but still held meaning which required to deeper look into the story.

As for the characters, I found that Field Guide had characters who I found to be interesting. They were complex, and I felt that they were very real. The characters in Floppy Discs  were extremely realistic as well. I could easily see the situation in the story happening in reality.

Overall, both were great reads.

Madeline Masters – 2011/02/09

rosemarynixon: Ok, great – thank you! Have a good evening. I’ll look forward to your response.

rosemarynixon – 2011/02/09

Hi Madeline,

Just heading out.  Good questions which I will respond to but can’t until later tonight at the earliest.  Possibly not till morning.  But will get back to you for sure.

Madeline Masters – 2011/02/09

To Eva: Thank you again for your positive words about Floppy Discs! It is a much quieter story than Mr. Beaulieu’s. Field Guide grabs the reader right away with mention of compound eyes and theft and all these smells – I love the smells. It’s interesting because at least for the first read, we’re thinking “What the h*ll is going on here? And what/who is the main character?”

Floppy Discs is more about nuance and yes, I’d agree, it has to be read a little more closely to get the full effect. It takes on a lot of themes, but subtly.

I like being called a “sleeper hit” – thank you! That’s definitely my style.

Madeline Masters – 2011/02/09

rosemarynixon: Thank you for giving your honest opinion of our stories!

Because I want to use this experience to help me grow as a writer, can you give me some examples of the points you made about Floppy Discs?

For instance, where did you feel the characters were “pushed” into their actions, rather than reacting naturally to the situation, or finally giving into their desires that normally they keep under the wraps of societal norms?

Where could I have “shown” the reader instead of telling them what happened?

What exactly do you mean by “expositional asides,” and could you give me some examples?

What do you mean by “preciousness” about the art at the story’s end?

What about the characters’ situations did you find unbelievable?

I’d like to talk to you more about your thoughts on my story. Thanks for posting and engaging in the dialogue!

rosemarynixon – 2011/02/09


An honest response:

Braydon Beaulieu’s story is stronger, better written, more creative.  His defamiliarized premise, his sharp attention to detail throughout, his intriguing use of the senses, and in particular the sense of smell are just a few things that set it apart.

Madeline Master’s story is weakened by the flat “telling about” instead of creating the story before the reader’s eyes. So many unnecessary expositional asides. There seems little motivation for the characters to act as they do, their actions don’t ring true; instead the reader has a sense of the writer manoevring them when fascinating characters are those that spring organically from their situations. The focus on race seemed an end in itself instead of propelling the story forward. There seems no significance it.  And there is a sense of preciousness re the art by the story’s end.

In Beaulieu’s story, the reader becomes the character, experiences along with the character.  In Masters’ story, the reader is too aware of the writer manipulating her characters, forcing them into situations that aren’t quite believable.



emoran – 2011/02/09

i wasn’t just fucking around with my elliot quotations.  Discs is really complex because it deals with the notions of the cultural relevance of private moments and public representations of the private and rides a fine line between the two nicely.  the art falling to the floor as the two make out; the pointing out of the resume disk and the reluctance to share any information about the interview outcome; the questions of what to do with the piece of art or “art,” and much more all point to the complexities of this piece.  the thing that I think is problematic to this story is its seeming simplicity.  it would be easy to just dismiss it after a cursory reading as nothing more than a portrait of an awkward encounter.  But really I just think that’s about being a lazy reader.  I AM NOT SAYING YOU GUYS OUT THERE ARE LAZY READERS.  i am just sharing with Madelaine my thoughts on why some people may not be as compelled to vote for her story.  you have to sit with Madelaine’s story for a bit before you’re like, “oh yeah… that’s cool.” It’s like a sleeper hit.


Braydon’s story demands that the reader start thinking about meaning and metaphor and narrative and character more readily because the the characters are non-humans and living human experiences.  it’s more immediately appealing.  like a box office hit.  again, not saying it’s trash–a vapid glossy blockbuster like Avatar.  no.  more like ET.  something that you can get into even though it requires that you suspend your disbelief while beginning to examine your own values and life.  or, maybe, i am the only person who can really really relate to Tony.


That’s my two cents.

Madeline Masters – 2011/02/09

Hello Daniel!

Thank you for responding to our plea! From your comments, I feel like you really “get” Floppy Discs, and that makes me happy. I appreciate all your positive feedback.

You bring up two things that are very different between my story and Mr. Beaulieu’s: first is timeframe. Floppy Discs does take place over a very short period of time – it is one short scene in two people’s lives. Field Guide is chronological, but it sort of jumps and skips from one thing to the next. I wondered if this was to represent an insectile, scatter-brained thought pattern. Or is it because this story is taken from a larger work? I’m not entirely sure.

The other thing is relatability. I favor stories that have characters I can relate to, to a fault. And that’s also how I write. I try to create people that the reader can feel and identify with. Tony, on the other hand, is not someone we would want to relate to or associate with ourselves. Mr. Beaulieu said himself that he enjoys writing as Tony because he is nothing like him.

So I can see where our two stories would attract different kinds of readers – those who like a story in which they can find a piece of themselves or someone they know, and those who like a story that throws them into an unfamiliar, unusual, and sometimes disturbing, thought pattern.

Daniel, thanks again for your comments, and I’ll look forward to hearing more from you when you have time. You must be exhausted from your week of battle! I know I will be…

danielperry – 2011/02/09

Hi Braydon. Hi Madeline. Congratulations on getting into the ring. I hear your cry for readers! I don’t know either of you, and as you might expect, I’m done with ballot stuffing and trashing people’s work. What I will do, though, is vote for each of you once, and say what I like about each story. If you think I can tell you anything that will improve your work, look back to my round for info on where to find me, and I’ll talk to you privately.

Since you’re down on the scoreboard, Madeline, I’ll speak to your story first.

Where “Floppy Discs” shines is in its close quarters. Everything happens in one setting, between two people, over a span of what, less than half an hour? It’s very real, and the characters are very believable. They talk like real people, like casual acquaintances who awkwardly want more but don’t really know how to ask for it – and even though they just met, as a reader, I bought it. All a part of that pre-meeting calculation, the need to strike just the right note when approaching a stranger. Your narrative voice interestingly slips into a sort of Free Indirect Discourse, third-person but seeming in various places to come from one character or the other, and never quite neutral. The twist is fun and it doesn’t undo the story, it adds to it. On the whole your work is very socially relevant, on cultural, sexual and environmental levels. One man’s junk is another (wo)man’s treasure, and this little postmodern snapshot makes an interesting comment on the waste theme that runs through the story and bubbles up in both characters. There’s a lot more here than meets the eye. Good job.

Braydon, I probably won’t get to you until tomorrow, but with the scoreboard being what it is, I think you can afford it.

Best of luck to both of you!

Braydon Beaulieu – 2011/02/09

This is me wholeheartedly agreeing with Ms. Masters on the discussion thing. Let’s get ourselves talking! Let us know what you thought was effective or ineffective in both stories, and why you’re voting the way you’re voting. Cheers!

Madeline Masters – 2011/02/09

That is, I think Mr. Beaulieu would like to hear more from the audience about his own story…

Madeline Masters – 2011/02/09

OK, so, anyone out there who’s reading these two stories and is not acquainted with Mr. Beaulieu or myself, tell us what you think of each, and why you believe one story deserves your vote over the other.

I’d really like to see more discussion going on here, so far it’s been a silent struggle compared to the last round, which was hot and heavy almost the whole way through, from what I could tell.

Don’t be shy – I’d love to hear more of your thoughts on “Floppy Discs,” positive or negative, and I’m sure Mr. Beaulieu would, too. That’s why we’re here, after all!

Madeline Masters – 2011/02/09

Yes, I am really beginning to wonder if the wide margin is because of an unfair matching of our Friends lists or an unfair matching of our stories.

If it is because the general readers find Mr. Beaulieu’s story to be vastly superior to mine in creativity, “originality” (that sticky wicky word), style and language. Then I respect that.

If the problem is more that Mr. Beaulieu has a lot more people in his life voting for him… well, that’s disappointing for me as a writer, and I guess a reminder to me that I should pay more attention to my friends.

It is a hell of a lot harder to keep friends after graduation. That’s not a judgement on either side, it’s just the truth. I think most people who work full-time would agree with that.

Braydon Beaulieu – 2011/02/09

No need to feel like a dolt, Eva. The simple answer is that she doesn’t influence this story. Field Guide to Kleptoparasitism predates my very recently developed love for Miranda July. To add some semblance of satisfactoriness to this answer, though, I will say that what I (now) seek to emulate from Ms. July’s work is how she skilfully initiates and maintains that traditional reader-writer contract: suspension of disbelief. It seems that through her narrative voice(s), Miranda July is able to present even the most ridiculous situations (I’m thinking of Jack Jack butterflying across the kitchen floor with his face in a bowl of salt water, in “The Swim Team”) in such a way that the reader accepts them without question. As you can probably see from Field Guide, this will be a very useful skill to possess when writing Tony’s stories.

For those of you who haven’t read your Miranda, this should convince you to do so:

7newspapers – 2011/02/08

…Klepto is very well written…economical…consistently beats away at the insect analogies…it’s one of those stories though that doesn’t leave us with a fixed pat ending…i’m not quite sure what to think of the obit clipping…it seems just another fetish of this weird immoral compulsive person…so the whole piece comes off as a description or encapsulation…Madeline’s story also draws us in quite well…it’s too is about a “weirdo”…and how art can bring artistic people impulsively together…but there’s no…catharsis…i’ll continue voting…the wide margin at this point gives us our first clue as to the political strength and connectivity of the possible victor of the whole Match…braydon is definitely Linked In ; )

emoran – 2011/02/08

i wish i could say that i am just asking this for the sake of continuing discussion but that would be a fib.  braydon, can you articulate how Miranda July influences your work specifically in this story (if she does)?  i feel like a bit of a dolt but i don’t see it.  maybe it’s just been a while since i’ve read anything by her… so please, if you can, elaborate.



Braydon Beaulieu – 2011/02/08

Sorry, all. Long day at school/work.

First off, thanks to emoran (Eva) and 7newspapers for the positive comments and feedback!

As to Madeline‘s inquiry about my thesis project, it’s essentially a collection of short stories from Tony’s perspective. I love writing as this character because he’s so far removed from me that I’m able to completely immerse myself in imagery and dialect when I embody him, which is essentially a really pretentious way of saying that I enjoy the fact that this character allows me to not be present in the text at all. Franz Kafka’s work, in addition to Rawi Hage’s and Miranda July’s, is definitely an influence to my creative writing (as you can all see) as well as my critical studies.

emoran – 2011/02/08

Just a quick note on derivatism:  T.S. Elliot said “Immature poets imitate; mature poets steal.”  And might I add, none of us is original.  As to the distinction between authenticity and originality, well, I think you may be splitting hairs but here is another T.S. Elliot quotation: All significant truths are private truths. As they become public they cease to become truths; they become facts, or at best, part of the public character; or at worst, catchwords. I think the idea in the last quotation is particularly pertinent when considering Madeline’s story.

Madeline Masters – 2011/02/08

Wow, I laughed out loud twice reading Eva’s comments about the title “Floppy Discs” and references to breasts! The connection was definitely unintentional, but I’m glad you took it there!

Glad someone else finally threw out the name “Kafka” so I didn’t have to do it. I’m wondering if this has anything to do with Mr. Beaulieu’s Masters thesis, but he’s been silent on his end for a while.

Anyway, thought this would be a good time to make the first posting of the “preamble,” the stream-of-consciousness style bit that comes before the actual story. Enjoy!


He was into music. He made his own music. And he did it using A discs. There doesn’t seem to be any reason behind what color discs he uses for what element – drum loops, vocals, back beats, riffs. I guess he just grabbed a disc and went with it. Then why did he buy them in multi colors? Just for the rainbow effect?

He threw them all out, still in their organizing boxes. Well, he put them out into the world. He abandoned them. Unless he was watching from the wings. That would be really creepy, and potentially time-consuming, but I can see myself doing something similar some day.


emoran – 2011/02/08

Madeline Masters: profile pic is HILARIOUS!

emoran – 2011/02/08

k.  i am kinda in this new relationship and it makes doing anything other than sex almost impossible; i.e., sorry my comments are late–and here’s to hoping my period is not…


anyway, i actually really like both stories.  any story that talks about wet panties sorta has a special place in my heart right now… although the title, Floppy Disks, and the many references to breasts in the story is a weird juxtaposition, obviously totally unintentional… just the words… floppy… boobs… disks… i dunno it all sits in my brain strangely.  other than that i like the quirkiness of it and the curve ball and the nonchalance of the characters and tone.


i like tequila.  do you like tequila?  i also like cupping someone’s balls while i swig tequila.  (you?) so how could i not likeField Guide to Kleptoparasitism?  Kafka’s done it, so why not?  no, not Kafka has cupped balls–well he might have done that too but that is not what I am referring toi’m talking about writing about the scuttling creatures as allegory for human shit–dysfunction, psychological complexes, identity shifts… and perhaps desire (to cup balls).  i love the imagination behind this one and the mystery of it… (i know, you think i am going to say something about cupping balls but i resist) the ending is enigmatic and i like that.  but most of all i love the finality of  “You don’t have a sister, Tony” set against the fact that we don’t really know what the fuck that means.  i know that might sound sarcastic but it’s not, i really like it.  and, i just want to make sure that you understand that if you don’t read this story in its entirety you are going to miss the sweetness of a good cupping of balls!

Good luck guys!



Madeline Masters – 2011/02/08

Ha ha thanks! The profile pic actually has some story behind it… did you notice what’s in the background?

7newspapers – 2011/02/08

…yeah, like what you said…i’ll have to check out that documentary…but originality has a funny way of coming back into vogue…you’ve got my vote until i decide who to vote for…nice profile pic ; )

Madeline Masters – 2011/02/08

7newspapers: I entirely agree that originality and iconicism are more highly valued in our culture over art inspired by other art. But, borrowing and referencing do seem to be a common theme for our generation and in “pop art” nowadays.

How many times have we heard new songs that take their melody/back beat from old songs, or have seen movies that reference other movies, books, art, or albums, in order to develop another layer of meaning for audience members who can relate to the reference?

Some say originality doesn’t exist. The lead article on BP right now, “Indie Won. Now What?” tackles the issue of originality vs. authenticity. I wanted readers to call into question whether Mridula’s art was authentic, or just a copy of the found- and pop-art she enjoys.

The documentary “Exit Through the Gift Shop” brings up the issue of “authentic” art vs. “derivatism.” Basically, the guy who takes highlights from all the other artists’ work and capitalizes on them is the one who gets to become a millionaire and gain his 15 minutes of fame.

Is that the kind of thing you were talking about?

7newspapers – 2011/02/08

…well, you know…like that girl who creates art from another guy’s art…i’ve indulged in a little “derivatism” myself a time or two…we’ve all seen it…it’s like when somebody writes a poem about a painting, i’m thinking like, wow, they were really low on ideas that day…not that you can’t or shouldn’t be inspired that way, but sometimes it comes off as cheap or cheesy or pretentious or fawning or malicious or imitative…or parasitic…wheareas originality and iconicism seem to be more highly valued and sought after…i’m not necessarily happy about how your story ended, apart from whether credulity is strained…but there is something vaguely familiar about that skinny, old man that maybe some here can identify with ; )

Madeline Masters – 2011/02/08

7newspapers: thank you for your positive comments! You said “Floppy Discs” kinda speaks to you. Can you tell me a little more about that? Also interesting that you said both stories have a parasite theme. Did you mean because Mridula salvages something of Raymond’s to make her art, or something else? Elaboration is appreciated!

7newspapers – 2011/02/08

…wow, two fun stories…braydon’s draws us along with novelty in his exploration of loserdom…and madelaine’s kinda of speaks to me…both on a theme of parasitism…not sure who to vote for…although the writing is on the wall…

Madeline Masters – 2011/02/08

Oh, good question! There’s no post-amble in existence yet, but you’ve set the wheels turning – that could definitely be fun to write…

I’m curious about this Masters’ thesis now – can you tell us a little more about it, without giving too much away?

I have to say I was happily surprised when I first read your story last night – I have a thing for insects, and I love reading and writing stories from non-human perspectives. I wrote a story called “Insecticide,” that hmmm… I entered to BP’s regular submissions ages ago and am still waiting to hear back about.

So I guess the editors did a good job of choosing writers to face off against each other!

Braydon Beaulieu – 2011/02/08

To Mr. Brown: Wow, thank you! I’m legitimately blushing right now. Your vote and your kind words are much appreciated.

Ms. Masters: Love the idea of releasing a preamble. I toyed with the idea of releasing companion pieces myself, but was discouraged on the basis of not publishing too much of my Masters thesis. So, unfortunately, I won’t be joining you in your endeavour, but look forward to reading more about Raymond and Mridula. Mr. Brown had it right in praising the awkward tension that seems to be present in “Floppy Disks,” and hope that tension augments after reading the preamble. Question: Have you written a post-amble as well?

Madeline Masters – 2011/02/08

To David Brown: thank you! I’m glad to hear the characters piqued your curiosity.

I also wanted to mention that every day of the contest I’ll be releasing part of the “preamble” – a companion piece to “Floppy Discs” that tells more of the story from Mridula’s perspective.

So pumped for Day 1, and I’m sure many of our readers aren’t even awake yet!

David Griffin Brown – 2011/02/08

The talent pool is heating up!

Madeline’s story is awkward, cute, and full of tension.  There are many great quirks dropped about each character that left me with questions, which is good, because it had me interested in knowing more.  Is he really married, or did he just say that out of anxiety?  And how often does Mridula slink away from the homes of people “she should not have kissed”?

Braydon’s story is fantastic.  The writing is strong and bloated with creativity.  This piece gets my vote because it’s not just interesting, it’s inspiring.  As in, damn, I really want to write something this weird.

Awesome: The urge bites me to reach up and snatch the clouds from the heavens.

Good job to both of you!

Braydon Beaulieu – 2011/02/08

To Ms. Masters: I am also looking forward to a good, clean match and return your virtual handshake. As to hoping “we’ll learn a lot about our writing, ourselves, each other, and our readers,” well, I couldn’t have said it better myself. Mr. Perry, in the last match-up, was right in saying that in making it this far, we’ve both already won. In the end, this is a contest about people reading new, exciting stories, and I’d like to take a moment before the plunge to thank everyone for reading and voting, in this round and in the others.

I’d also like to welcome our guest commenter, Ms. Eva Moran. I look forward to reading your refereeing.

Now, let’s battle to the death. Or something.

Madeline Masters – 2011/02/07

Good morning everyone,

Normally I would never be awake at 2am on a Tuesday, but I’m just so excited and honored to be competing in this year’s Deathmatch, I couldn’t contain myself!

To Mr. Beaulieu: I hope we can have a good, clean match over the next seven days, and that we’ll learn a lot about our writing, ourselves, each other, and our readers. May the best writer win – I extend a virtual handshake to you. It’s going to be a fun ride.

And now, BY THE POWER OF GREYSKULL, let the battle begin!

Broken Pencil – 2011/02/07

Round Two begins! Standby for the final results from Round One.