Nathan Bransford, Author


Wednesday, May 21, 2008

The Preposterously Magnificent Dialogue Tribal Council

JEFF PROBST: Three days, nearly 600 entries, well over 100,000 words. Who will earn the title of preposterously magnificent SOLE SURVIVOR? We will soon find out. With me tonight is literary agent Nathan Bransford. Nathan, how does it feel to be sitting here tonight at tribal council?

NATHAN: I'm happy to be here, Jeff. The torches were a nice touch.

JEFF PROBST: This wasn't just any competition for you. What was it like spending three days in the dialogue jungle without speaking to your loved ones, without bathing, eating rats, and drinking copious amounts of bourbon? That had to be difficult.

NATHAN: I'm a fighter, Jeff, and I'm in this game to pick a winner. It was very difficult to choose finalists, and I'd like to thank everyone who entered. This wasn't easy.

JEFF PROBST: What was the most difficult aspect for you?

NATHAN: Context. It was extremely difficult to jump into scenes midway. This was by far the most difficult contest to judge, and I'm sure it was difficult for the writers as well. Some authors spend an entire book building toward a perfect moment of dialogue, and yet in this competition the authors only had 250 words. Not easy at all.

JEFF PROBST: Here's what I don't understand about this. You're a literary agent. It's your job. Why are you complaining? Why should this be difficult for you?

NATHAN: Um.. I'm not.. complaining. You turned hostile.

JEFF PROBST: Do you have the hidden immunity idol?

NATHAN: No.

JEFF PROBST: Then let's get right to tonight's voting. I'll go tally the votes.


First vote: Michele. That's one vote for Michele.

Malika is on her way to Nubia through Egypt, on a journey to regain her rightful place as the daughter of the black female Pharaoh Nikwala after years as a slave to the Greeks. Enroute, she meets Zuberi, a fellow countryman.

“How is the Princess this morning?” Zuberi asked, his face serious but his voice carrying a cheery lilt. She wondered if he overheard their argument.

“Quite well now, thank you Zuberi.”

“Perhaps you should sit.”

“It feels good to be up and about,” she said, a bit more sharply than she intended. He wasn’t going to tell her what to do too, was he?

“My mother used to have a cure for fevers. It was a special soup that made from sheep’s testicles—to give you strength.” His white teeth gleamed in the sun and she was surprised to see he had dimples just below each angular cheek. His eyebrows were raised innocently, but his smile was mischievous.

Malika grimaced, and Zuberi laughed. It was lovely sound, deep and resonant.

“--and a tea infused with hookworm larvae for the fever.”

“Oh, stop!” Malika laughed out loud. She noticed Alexandros glance at her and frown. She ignored him. “Are all the cures in Nubia so…unusual?”

“No, I am teasing just a little bit. Only the most simple farmers still use the hookworm cure. But the soup--” he grinned.

Malika held up her hand. “I’m not quite well enough to hear that again.”

“Ah,” he chuckled, “lucky for you your aunt has made you well again. She is a good and wise woman.”

“Yes, she is.”

“She is fine teacher, also.”

Malika nodded, wondering how much of their conversation he overheard.

“You are learning the power of our people, yes?”

“Yes, but not everyone approves.” She glanced sidelong at Alexandros, who was pacing nervously along the rail as the ship on the horizon grew closer.

“Ah, but he is not Nubian. He cannot understand.”



Second vote: Jeffrey Selin. That's one vote for Michele, one vote for Jeffrey Selin.

The Zodiac and Kirby's experience are legendary -- the motorboat for stalling and Kirby for captaining the craft under duress. Kirby doesn't have the best playthings. Not the kind bought with wealth. They leak oil. They need mending. They are just things he collected along the way.

"Tomorrow," he says. "I need it first thing." Kirby wipes sweat from his high forehead. He has a screwdriver in the other hand. "That one?" he points.

"Oh, yeah," says Braddah. "Dis one ac’ real funny kine."

They're in Kirby's driveway bent over the Zodiac's outboard. Braddah is a thick-skinned Samoan, part Portuguese, part Hawaiian, all local. Just Braddah. His big brown crack is exposed in baggy ass board shorts.

Alan, Kirby's son, circles the driveway on his skateboard. The urethane wheels hum on the blacktop. "Dad. Dad, watch this," he says.

"So I get a new injector?" says Kirby.

"Cool head main ting," says Braddah.

"Dad, watch!"

"Shit," says Kirby.

Alan attempts a daredevil board sport leap. There's air. It ends with a crash to the blacktop. Kirby waits, places a hand on Braddah's shoulder as if to say hold on. "You alright?" says Kirby.

Slowly the boy gets up. "Whatever." He returns to circle the boat and its captain with the Doppler effect of racing wheels.

Kirby watches. "Hey, how old was Mickey when he first tried the waves at Jaws?"

Braddah shrugs. "Oh, he go at it since small kid time," he says.



Next vote: Polenth. That's one vote Michele, one vote Jeffrey Selin, one vote Polenth.

"Davie, dearest? That's a very bad idea."

"Why?" asked Davie. He stopped the drill an inch from his head.

"Dying is terribly unpleasant."

"I won't die. My mind isn't bound to my physical form. This will prove my independence from mortal flesh!"

"I'm sure it will, dear," I said. "But you'll get blood on your clothes. What would your mother think?"

He lowered the drill. "She'd be angry."

"Exactly. Why don't we prove your independence from mortal flesh some other way?"

"There isn't another way."

I sighed. "You could go on a quest or sing about it, like a normal young man. You're making my job very hard."

He scowled. "You just don't understand."

"Of course I do, poppet. Come on, let's get some doughnuts. You'd miss doughnuts without a body, wouldn't you?"

"I suppose." Davie looked at the drill. "Fairy Godmother? Can I drill holes in the doughnuts?"

"Yes dear. If it stops you drilling holes in yourself, go right ahead."



Next vote: emeraldcite. That's one vote michele, one vote Jeffrey Selin, one vote Polenth, one vote emraldcite. One vote left.

“Thanks for the coffee,” Smith said, his voice slight. “You going to have any?”

“I don’t drink coffee.”

“A detective that doesn’t drink coffee? Philly never ceases. So, you want to know about it, huh? I guess I should talk about it.” Smith grimaced as he sipped his coffee.

“I just got off work--”

“What time?”

“A little after midnight.”

“That’s late.”

“Not really. ‘We run a tight ship,’” Smith said in a raspy voice, obviously emulating a boss. “I worked until midnight, shut down my station, and headed to the ground floor. I told Frank ‘good night,’ and then left.”

“Who’s Frank?”

“Security at the front door.”

“He see anything?”

“Only thing Frank sees is the Flyers’ score on TV.”

“Then what?”

“I was heading to the garage when I saw the body. At first, I didn’t know it was a body. I mean until I pulled back the sheet and saw the blood.” Smith choked on the hot coffee. “Sorry.”

“What about the body?”

Smith picked up a pen on the table and drew a symbol that Blake didn’t recognize.

“That was carved on his chest. His whole body was shaved, man.”

“Go home and rest Mr. Smith. Call us if you think of anything else. Here’s my number.”

Blake handed Smith a card.

Philadelphia Police Department
Detective Christian Blake
Special Investigator of Occult Homicide

Smith looked up, his mouth formed around a question. But Detective Blake had already left the room.


Last vote: Victoria Schwab.

From a young adult story about the world between life and death, the Shadow Mile:

The shadow woman pointed down the street and spoke.

“It’s a left. Don’t forget.” She said, patting Nell’s shoulder. It was an awkward feeling, not quite solid but certainly thicker than air. “Always a left. Never go right. Right never goes where you want it to.”

Nell nodded slowly. “Right’s wrong. Got it.”

The shadow woman shook her head and the hole where her mouth should be pursed. “No, no. Right’s not wrong. It’s just not right for you.”

“Mildred, you’re confusing her.” Sighed the shadow man. He raised a long shadow hand and pointed.

“At the end of the road, turn left. Straights are unpredictable. They don’t tend to lead you straight to anything.”

“How will I know when I’ve found an Out door?” Asked Nell.

“Don’t worry about that.” Said the shadow woman. “You found an In door. An Out door will probably find you.”

“You’ll stumble upon one, if you’re lucky.” Added the shadow man.

Nell thanked the two, and apologized again for intruding. She took a step, then stopped.

“I’m sorry, but would you mind telling me what this place is called?”

“You don’t know?” Asked the shadow woman. “But…”

“It’s called the Shadow Mile.” Interjected the man.

“Oh,” Said Nell. There was a flicker of familiarity, but then it was gone. “That’s a strange thing to call a place.”

“It’s a strange place.” Said the man.

And since this made nothing much clearer, Nell simply thanked them and turned and, standing very straight, walked away down the shadow street.



JEFF PROBST: We have a tie.

In order to break the tie, please cast your vote for the sole survivor in the comments section of THIS POST. Anonymous votes will not be counted. Please do not campaign for any survivor on the Internet or elsewhere -- let's make this a fair challenge. Voting will close on Friday at 5:00 pm Pacific time.

WHO will be the sole survivor? Find out on Friday.






272 comments:

«Oldest   ‹Older   1 – 200 of 272   Newer›   Newest»
ipgirl said...

Definitely the Shadow Mile dialogue (Victoria Schwab). It was witty, and I was sucked in right away.

Betty Atkins Dominguez said...

emeraldcite, I liked this dialog the best, even before you gave a vote.

Great job, Nathan.

sex scenes at starbucks said...

Just to be contradictory: Polenth.

Not really contradictory; I liked it!

Gail Goetz said...

I loved Michelle's. I watched the scene unfold, and felt it, and heard it. I was there with the characters. When it was finished, I wanted to read more.

Janiss said...

If these snippets were in books I picked up randomly, Polenth's is the one I would keep reading. So my vote goes to Polenth.

Michael said...

Victoria Schwab. The Shadow Mile dialogue did what dialogue should do: propelled the story forward while giving a voice to the characters.

Kristin said...

Jeffrey Selin.

Thanks for running another great contest, Nathan!

Kim Kasch said...

Polenth gets my vote. Drilling holes in heads or donuts . . . like they used to say on Laugh-in, "Very interesting".

Sarah Jensen said...

Totally emeraldcite. I would love to read that book.

Anonymous said...

is it wrong of me to note that the first entry is actually 283 words, 324 if you count the description? the last one also over 250 word limit, but only by 4

Sue Eves said...

The characters and humour won through. I vote for Polenth.

FrostIntoFire said...

Polenth, for showing a lot without telling.

Erin Miller said...

Love Michelle's. I also want to read more.

rob said...

POLENTH

NaomiM said...

Difficult choice between Polenth and Shaddow Mile, both very engaging extracts, but Polenth gets my vote by a hairs breath: Nice differentiation of the two voices and a very amusing dialogue.

JES said...

Polenth for me.

I can see why you selected each of these. Great job by all five writers and a heroic effort by you, Nathan.

Bobbie said...

I was torn between Emeraldcite and Victoria's and had to let my personal preference for YA here break the tie. So my vote is for Victoria. But I'd read either one of these based just on this little bit of dialogue.

Linda said...

All five fabu, for different reasons, but Polenth squeaks by - most original.

Thanks for running the contest. Peace, Linda

Anonymous said...

Victoria Schwab

Welshcake said...

Shadow Mile.

kitty said...

emeraldcite


...

Luc2 said...

Often I find it hard to chose. Not this time (no offense to the other finalists): POLENTH.

I can really hear the exasperated yet patient voice. Great!

Agnieszka said...

I vote for Michele. I really liked it and how I could see the scene and the characters in my head.

Michelle said...

Wow, those were all great, but I fear my vote must go to Michele (and not because her name is close to mine!)(heh). The interplay between the characters was just fascinating in that excerpt.

heather! anne! said...

Excellent choices! I love Victoria Schwab's dialogue in the Shadow Mile. In fact, it reminds me a little of The Phantom Tollbooth. Well done, Survivors. :)

Anonymous said...

Polenth

Anonymous said...

Polenth, please.

Maripat said...

There were a couple that that really had me wanting more...but you insist only one.

Shadow Mile by Victoria Schwab.

Thanks for doing this.

Heidi the Hick said...

Polenth.

It made me snicker, and I got into it so much I didn't even notice the dialogue tags or how it was structured.

Nathan, dude, I love your strange little world.

(These contests show us writers what your job must be like. Hats off to you.)

julcree said...

i'll vote Shadow Mile, Victoria Schwab.

Bethanne said...

I'll go with Polenth. Made me laugh.

Whirlochre said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jessica said...

Thanks for the fun contest, Nathan! I vote for Michele. I love the range of emotions present in only 250 words.

Linda said...

More Polenth, please!

Whirlochre said...

...but Polenth's is way up here.











No disrespect to Michele, Jeffrey EC and Victoria, but their entries are somewhere here...

Mystery Robin said...

emereldcite

cc said...

I vote for emeraldcite.


Had a great flow to it, and without being too cutsey also had room for bits of humor, like, "Only thing Frank sees is the Flyers' score on TV."

Nice touch. This isn't even my type of novel and I'd read it.

Peni Griffin said...

Polenth! Nobody else comes close - in humor, in drama, in conveying character and situation.

Kryianna said...

Polenth

ICQB said...

Victoria Schwab. Artfully done.

LD said...

I vote for Polenth.

superwench83 said...

Polenth most definitely!

RedDuck said...

Polenth. Great job!

D. Robert Pease said...

emeraldcite please.

John Askins said...

Jeffrey Selin. But they were all good.

Icarus said...

Victoria Schwab, far and away.

superwench83 said...

Oh, and one more thing. In light of this list of finalists being picked, I think it's important to remember something that BookEnds mentioned after their last contest was finished. I'll quote it here:

(link to original post: http://bookendslitagency.blogspot.com/2008/05/lessons-learned-from-bookends-100-word.html)
Clearly a strong voice is important to a successful book, but I’d also like to clarify that just because a voice may not have struck us in the first 100 words doesn’t mean the manuscript is lacking a great one. It can often be something that builds. In fact, I just signed a client who entered one of our contests and didn’t even make honorable mention. But when I read her submission, I totally fell in love with her voice. I love the story and the characters too, but her writing style is really what hooked me. So please don’t be discouraged from submitting based on the contest results. It was a daunting task to judge based on 100 words, and so we had to make our decisions much differently than we might in the submission process.

So just because your contest submission didn't succeed here doesn't mean you should take it to heart.

Adaora A. said...

I like Michelle's the best.

But that's just me.

spinney said...

Victoria and Shadow Mile!

melissalobianco said...

I'm going to have to vote Polenth. Most engaging, to me; economical. Good Luck to all!

Thank you for the exercise, Mr. Bransford.

Sheila said...

Wow, that was speedy. I don't know how you picked five out of 600, I can't even pick one out of five. I wanted to read more of each of these.

But I think I will go with Victoria's.

Thanks Nathan!

Melanie Avila said...

I vote for Polenth. (my second is the detective one).

Great job everyone!

Carrie said...

Michele. Absolutely.

mlh said...

Tricky . . . tricky . . .

I was going to vote for Jeff Probst, until I realized that conversation wasn't part of the contest.

So I guess I'll go with Polenth.

Jodi said...

Polenth for me.

Now pass the doughnuts, please.

Susanne Sanstra said...

Shadow Mile, gets my vote.

I just found this blog yesterday, what fun. I'm hooked.

Lori Ann said...

Emeraldcite.

Crinklish said...

Polenth. Loved the combo of implied violence and British drawing-room comedy.

Eric said...

emeraldcite. Lean and clean.

Sandra said...

Jeffrey Selin.

Elaine said...

Michele is my vote!!

LoveMakeda said...

I vote Polenth! It was all dialogue, no backstory, but it says everything. Loved it!!

I liked Michele too because I might have picked up on some romance there :o)

Great entries!

Taggie7 said...

Polenth

Betsy said...

Polenth

KevinS said...

All good in their own way; is this a subjective business, or what? Emeraldcite. Nathan, about that 250word rule... Many of us non-survivors took machetes to our jungles!

jo robertson said...

Jeffrey Selin.

Intriguing contest, Nathan!

Just_Me said...

Polenth- that's the only one that grabbed me and made me want to read more. There's so much scene in the DL, I love it!

eCommunicator said...

Michele - because her characters came through their dialogue. And what a great treat your contest was. You know, you are actually OK...for a Literary Agent!

Elladog said...

I was somewhat torn between Michele and Polenth, but in the end I'm going with Polenth!

dramabird said...

Both Polenth's and Victoria's pieces drew me in. Finally, I let punctuation and style be my tie-breaker. The persistent dialogue tag errors in the Shadow Mile piece (Original version: "Don’t worry about that." Said the shadow woman. Correct version: "Don't worry about that," said the shadow woman) would drive me berserk within a page, even though the content is very appealing.

Plus, Polenth not only stuck to the word count limit, but used just as many words as were needed (a tight 162).

So I vote for doughnuts and drills! :)

Janna Qualman said...

My vote goes to Victoria Schwab, for The Shadow Mile.

Good luck to all the finalists!

Anonymous said...

I vote for Michelle

Elise Murphy said...

I vote for Michele. What a set-up!

Flanna said...

Shadow Mile. The dialogue grounds the reader, despite the setting being, well, shadowy.

madison said...

Victoria Schwab, Shadow Mile. Very witty, nice word play, flowed easily.

Hogan said...

My vote is for Michele. It really draws you in; I'd love to read more!

Anonymous said...

My vote goes to: emeraldcite

Anonymous said...

I vote Michelle!! - Stacy, Maine

norty said...

Michele's writing had me reaching for the next page. For a few minutes nothing else existed - kids, animals, television - typically a chapter or two will pass before I'm "into" a story. Another vote for Michele. Great job Michele!

Anonymous said...

I vote for Michelle
Amy from Maine

Anonymous said...

I vote for MICHELLE!!!!!!!!
<3 Corinne from Maine

RMS said...

This is a toughy! I have to go with Polenth although I also enjoyed the Shadow Mile. Ultimately, holes in heads and donuts did it for me!

sarah said...

Polenth, with a close second for Victoria Schwab

Natalie said...

Victoria's Shadow Mile

Kiersten said...

Polenth.

Also, wow, Jeff Probst! I knew you were a big deal in the writer world, but who knew it extended even to reality tv!

Walter said...

Polenth.

fas said...

Victoria Schwab - Shadow Mile

hb.simplejoy said...

I vote for Michele. Great concept... a Nubian princess once enslaved by Greeks. How fresh to hear the words of a witty, confident young African woman. And a hint of romance catches my attention. Can't wait to read the rest of the story.

Anonymous said...

Michele is definitely my favorite! Fabulous!

Quasipsyco said...

Polenth
The dialog was fun and clearly explained the scene without any need for exposition. It was also very funny and engaging.

Merry Monteleone said...

Nathan,

I can't believe how fast you got this done!!! Thanks again for the great contest.

I think everyone did a great job - out of these finalists, I'm going to pick:

Polenth

Rooty Too, mRoo, and other nom de plumes said...

I vote for Michelle.

Wonderful and nicely attended contest!

All of these finalists were good!

Kari said...

I enjoyed Michele's.

Noj said...

Given the field and the fact that this was supposed to...

a. be limited to 250 words
b. be about dialog
c. IMO not require backstory

my vote goes to Polenth, although I didn't care for the I sighed/he scowled.

A good read regardless.

mro said...

I vote for Michelle!

Wonderful contest - very clean too!

All of these were just great.

Thanks!

Melinda said...

Polenth

moonette said...

As anonymous pointed out already, Michele's entry exceeds the word limit - in my word counter it had 284 words. That doesn't count the intro para. No doubt it is well-written, but 34 extra words is significant.

I vote for Polenth. Perfect amount of humor and wit - not forced or overdone. Drew me right in. Loved it.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, sorry. I have to call foul on this. The rule was that the entries were supposed to be 250 words or less. Two of these entries violate that rule. It's not a comment on the quality of their work - but Nathan, when you establish rules and guidelines for a contest, it isn't fair to disregard those rules at the end. It's insulting to the people who worked hard to comply with them. It gives an unfair advantage to those who did not. And I realize that this is your blog and you can do whatever you want, but it reflects poorly on you as a professional.

Nathan Bransford said...

Hi everyone, thanks for voting. Just a reminder that anonymous votes will not be counted.

On the word count -- in lieu of doing strict word counts I included those with a ballpark range as I was going along, and I figured that people would sort it out with their votes, which looks like what is happening.

auria cortes said...

Polenth for sure.

Nathan Bransford said...

anon-

It would reflect poorly on me as a professional if running blog contests in my spare time was my actual job, which it isn't.

writeidea said...

I vote for Polenth. Or maybe Victoria just to be difficult--it's hard to choose between the two.

Anonymous said...

I only used 136 words. That leaves me 114 to give away!
I'm hereby officially giving 73 words to Michelle.
Just cause I like her entry so much and she needed the words more than I did (or could make such nice use of them.)
I have 41 left.
Any takers?

HowdyHey said...

Torn between Polenth's and Victoria Schwab's. However, the punctuation errors in the latter repeatedly interrupted the flow.

So, Polenth.

Nate said...

Victoria Schwab - The Shadow Mile

Polenth said...

Yay! This was a nice surprise to come home to.

My vote goes to Michele. Special soup for the win!

Nathan Bransford said...

Let me just further clarify the word count thing a bit, and I regret that anyone is frustrated by this.

This contest took a lot of time to judge. A lot a lot a lot a lot. I wasn't going through individually and counting words. By the time I got to the finalists, I did a once over to see if they were in the ballpark and went based on the writing.

Yes, rules are rules, etc. etc., but partly this is influenced by how I think about word and page count. If I ask someone for a 30 excerpt and they send me 32 pages, I'm not sweating it.

This is a for-fun contest run by a very busy person who maybe got extremely tired thinking about word counting all of the people in the vicinity of the finals to try and eliminate people. Let's have some fun.

May 22, 2008 8:53 AM

Annette Lyon said...

Victoria--all the way.

Anonymous said...

I read them all, but Michele has my vote. Characters were alive for me. I want to read the book now.

Michele said...

Thanks for the vote, Polenth! That was generous and kind. And I'll return the favor by voting for yours--it was funny and engaging.

What a great way to start the day! Thanks Jeff, er, Nathan, for selecting me as a finalist.

Bonnie said...

I vote for Michele.

Tom Burchfield said...

Shadow Miletqmuxau

Sam Hranac said...

All were good and deserve to stay on the island. However...

I'll vote for Polenth, thank you.

Though I have to say, I love Victoria Schwab's name. No offense, but it brings to mind a tire store with a side-line in unmentionables.

Victoria Schwab said...

Haha, no offense taken.

This is so much fun. I'm afraid I don't know where to cast my vote. I'm just delighted to be included.

Dave F. said...

I liked the first one (Michele) about Malika and Zuberi. It strikes me as the best (that's my opinion!).

And I'll give myself a second vote in Jeffrey Selin. Zodiac, Kirby et alia are a group of nuts. I like groups of muts. Hell - I'm a little nuts.

Good contest. Thanks you for spending the time and effort.

Lisa Molson said...

I vote for emeraldcite. The dialogue revealed the grittiness of the characters; set against the backdrop of Philly.

Yeah, regarding word count, boy you just can't win, can ya? I must admit I probably spent WAAY too much time shaving off 100 words or so LOL; however, it was a great exercise for my brain, done spur of the moment, yesterday. I have learned a ton in the process, and I thank you:-)

E.A. West said...

I must vote for Polenth.

Anonymous said...

My pages didn't make the cut but re: the word count...

When I read the "250" words requirment it never occoured to me to actually count the words. 250 is usually a page and so I picked a page of dialogue from my book and sent it.

I'm betting many of you did the same. Let's not take away anything from the lovely finalists by nitpicking. I adored reading every single one of the finalist and entries, that's what matters.

Kim said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
bonnie said...

I vote for Michele.

Nancy said...

Congratulations to all the finalists! Each of them had something that appealed to me, but I was most intrigued by Victoria Schwab's. It drew me into the story even though it was only a snippet out of context.

Nathan Bransford said...

For the record, I've never rejected a query solely because it didn't follow a rule.

And BTW, the last two I left out were previous contest finalists. I suppose they should be the ones most frustrated if we were being word count sticklers, but they've already won the prizes at stake and we (and they) all know they're wonderful writers.

Marti said...

Shadow Mile.

Thank you to all of the contestants. I read some amazing snippets and got a better idea of what works and what doesn't in dialogue.

Most of all, thanks to you Nathan, for hosting and judging the contest. Hope you have a peaceful Memorial Day weekend and get to rest up!

Anonymous said...

Doughnuts and Drills! I know my vote doesn't count since I've decided to remain Anonymous, but I want the author to know he has a fan.

I thought the Shadow Mile had wonderful potential, but the dialogue tag errors wrecked it for me.

Mary said...

My vote goes to Jeffrey Selin.

Anonymous said...

I like Shadow Mile, personally.

I'm sorry to hear that Victoria's losing votes for dialogue tags. The propriety on those can be pretty subjective.

Anonymous said...

the rules are meant to be broken

first, break all the rules

russian rule-ette

Nathan rules!

rule-y cool

Petrina said...

Excellent contest, Nathan. Thanks for all the time you put into it.

My vote goes to Polenth. I'll be looking for it at my local Barnes and Noble.

Joey said...

I really like Polenth.

I also like how these contests teach me more about writing - to see what appeals to Nathan and perhaps agents in general. Very educational and especially entertaining. Thanks Nathan.

Polenth Fan said...

Polenth man! Clean, unexpected, funny, NOT overwritten. Go drill guy!

TALON said...

Tough vote to cast this time round, Jeff. Nathan is a great competitor (we're still convinced he has the immunity idol).

As difficult as it is to break a tie situation with such great work to choose from, I have to cast my vote for Victoria Schwab. I found the format of the dialogue tags disconcerting at first, but they added to feel of the excerpt. I was hooked and wanted to know more.

Thanks, Nathan, for the terrific contest.

kittyboy said...

Tough call between Polenth and Victoria Schwab. But, I gotta pick Polenth. Congrats to all 5 finalists.

cwsherwoodedits said...

Polenth!

Connie said...

I vote for Michelle. I like the way she has enhanced the dialogue with descriptive prose. I have a better picture of the setting and the characters.

Heather said...

While several were interesting to me story-wise, Polenth really hit it on a dialogue level, and that's what it's all about!

Terry said...

Michele gets my vote!! Very descriptive - I can see the characters! I want to read more!!

Anonymous said...

If you're going to have rules, you should have a bit of consideration for them. Yeah, okay, word count restrictions are mostly about preventing walls of text, but still. A tad unprofessional tbqfh.

Anonymous said...

I agree on the rules thing . Was it against the rules when George Washington attacked the British on President's Day? Was it against the rules when Bill Bellichik videotaped Nixon during waterspy? Was it against the rules when Johnny Fairplay made a suishi roll without a grain on Hell's Kitchen? Hell no! (apologies to Jim Belushi for murdering his joke).

Anonymous said...

Ease up there, anon. Nathan has done a very nice, very fun thing here, and there's really no need to drag it down.

Monica said...

Polenth!

Nathan Bransford said...

anon-

Did you see the part where Jeff Probst announced the winners?

And let me say again -- previous finalists were the last two I left out. If you're a previous contest finalist and you feel that it was unfair to have been left out because two people went over the word count, contact me via e-mail and I'll send you a free book.

Otherwise, while there were many great entries, I'm sorry to say that other than these two previous finalists the word count didn't affect the contest and the list of finalists. So let's just try and enjoy this.

David L. McAfee said...

Jeffrey Selin

L.K. Campbell said...

I had a tough time deciding between Jeffrey Selin and emeraldcite. Since I can only pick one, I choose Jeffrey Selin.

Anonymous said...

I know, I already voted for Michelle, but I also vote for Victoria too.
So there!
It is Preposterously Magnificent to vote twice!

LitWitch said...

Polenth's made me laugh out loud. If that's not a winner, I don't know what is!

Other Lisa said...

Boy...this is tough...

I liked them all but am leaning towards the paranormals (which are generally not my thing, but there you go).

I guess...Polenth...

Great job, everyone!

Stephanie said...

Polenth!

Anonymous said...

Anon needs to take a breath and get over it. It's done now and it wouldn't be fair to the 5 finalists to change things at this point.

That said, I get his/her point. Nathan, it's your house, you set the rules and you can change those rules however you like. We can chose to play at your house, by your rules, written in stone, changable or otherwise, or we can chose not to play. But I sincerely doubt that anybody who entered your contest, myself included, thought it was "fun". To those of us who are seeking to be published, it was a chance to win the opportunity to have you, a litery agent, look at our material, and that prize of prizes, ten minutes of your very busy and highly valued time.

I, for one, cut out words and changed sentences, thereby changing their meaning and lessening thier quality, to meet your 250 word requirement. Had I known you would have overlooked a few extra sentences, then I would have deleted with less abandon than I did, which might have made a difference or not.

Maybe next time, you might consider making your rules sound a bit less absolute. Though, in all fairness, you did more or less mention that the rules were subject to your whim.

Kiki Marie said...

I vote for Michele...I look forward to attending her book signings and reading her books!
Kiki Marie Fritschi
Murrieta, CA

Nathan Bransford said...

Yeah, I thought by calling my own opinions feckless and strongly held I made it clear that rules were subject to my own interpretation/things like laziness about word counts.

Anyway, I'll be keeping this in mind in the future. But people, try and take these contests less seriously. They are not what stands between you and publication. They are not do or die. Picking the finalists is a subjective process.

Maybe the real solution is that there should be no prizes in the future. These contests really should not be causing any heartache on either side.

Margaret Yang said...

Polenth

Anonymous said...

I had fun!

I learned a lot!

(And I am a writer hoping to be published one day too.)

Anonymous said...

Hey Nathan,

If you give the finalists a query critique and their story sounds promising, would you ever request more, or is it strictly a critique and not consideration?

Conda V. Douglas said...

Polenth.

Dialog hooked me right away, loved the humor and wanted to read more.

Anonymous said...

Is there anything that warrants an automatic rejection with you? I know you have your pet peeves, but is there any one thing that you just don't like in a submission or contest entry? You seem to be remarkably broad minded.

Eric said...

Once I gave a man a shiny life-sized monkey made of gold, only to have him complain that he'd have to buy a cart to carry it home.

Your contest are always a hoot.

Thanks again, Nathan.

alyun said...

All very good entries—congrats to you all for your work!!!

Now for the nitpicking to eliminate, because how else to make a choice with comparable entries?

Emeraldcite:

“A detective that doesn’t drink coffee? Philly never ceases…” struck me as exposition (light expo, but looked like too purposeful a set-up for the later “Flyers” line).

Then: “We run a tight ship,’” Smith said in a raspy voice, obviously emulating a boss…” seemed to flip an attitude for someone who has discovered a body. Impersonations in that scenario are low on my reality-check list. But hey, I’m being picky; it was still a very strong piece.

Polenth:

I only have one objection to this very delightful excerpt, but it was jarring to me: "I won't die. My mind isn't bound to my physical form. This will prove my independence from mortal flesh!" Sounds lifted from a thespian doing a cold read instead of from a character that I by inference, am assuming is younger (e.g. diminutive Davie instead of David, Fairy Godmother, poppet, your mother…etc.)

Selin and Michele:
I’d probably like both of these fine efforts in a novel but the excerpts for purposes of what I was personally expecting in this contest were too loaded with supporting action to gain my vote. (as if my vote matters—just voicing my picky opinion).

Victoria:

Last one standing. Verging on supporting action overload but she found the line without crossing. Clever interplay—gets my vote!

tinhutlady said...

Michele.

Nathan Bransford said...

anon@11:21-

Yes, I might request more (although I will add in case people are still distressed that I also request to see more when people query me directly).

anon@11:29-

I can't really afford to have automatic rejects, except for genres I absolutely don't represent. People can mess up my name, they can begin with rhetorical questions... I'm still going to try and give them a fair shake.

I don't recommend that people just break the rules willy nilly, but I'm also very forgiving about things like typos and some rule-breaking. I don't think carelessness helps your odds, but there are very few automatic nos.

Brigid said...

Nathan said: Maybe the real solution is that there should be no prizes in the future. These contests really should not be causing any heartache on either side.

Or maybe the prize could be something other than a partial critique. There is this obvious sense of desperation in the writers community. You sweat for months, YEARS on these novels, and then you pray. You beg. You hope. You wait weeks. Months. Years. Sometimes you wait longer than it took you to actually pen the damn thing. You say to yourself, "If I could just get an agent to read it....!!"

And there lies the rub. People feel like the one page query / five page writing sample is stifling their talent. They feel sure (me included, all the time) that if they could just get someone to read their work, their undeniable talent would be recognized. There are people paying THOUSANDS of dollars on the Brenda Novak Diabetes auction site to get an agent or an editor to read and critique their partial. Thousands! And while the money is going to charity, you know some of those writers are seeing this as a way to finally (FINALLY) get something read. The charity is a nice sideline, but they're not putting all that dough on the line to get a warm feeling inside. Let's all be honest.

You put an enviable prize out there, Nathan. You did it out of the goodness of your heart, and you're to be commended. But just because you see it as the reading and critiquing of a partial, as a "just for fun" contest, you've got a lot of desperate writers on this side of your blog, seeing a two day contest wherein they might finally, agonizingly, get the chance to have an agent read something. In the face of waiting eight weeks to get a rejection letter, or biting your nails for three months on a partial just to get a form rejection, seeing this contest as an opportunity is going to bring out the tooth and nail of every writer, especially if they think someone has an unfair advantage.

But let's all realize: an extra few words didn't win this contest. Great dialogue did. And Nathan had to judge six hundred entries in forty-eight hours. Just because you're not a finalist doesn't mean you suck.

Just because you're not a finalist does not equate to rejection.

Take all that emotion and put it to something useful.

Like your novel.

(Thank you again, Nathan, for putting a great contest out there.)

Polenth said...

Maybe the real solution is that there should be no prizes in the future. These contests really should not be causing any heartache on either side.

Removing the prizes won't work. In the days when I ran roleplaying plots, any plot with large numbers of people would get complaints. These were events with no prizes, winners or competition. Someone will always find something to complain about. There isn't a way to please everyone.

The upside is that most people enjoy events/competitions most of the time. They might not be as vocal as the complainers at the time, but they'll be the ones talking about it positively in six months time.

dernjg said...

Polenth

Nathan Bransford said...

ok, thanks for those thoughts, I appreciate the feedback. For now, prizes in the future!

Really, I feel badly that people feel badly. I will be vigilant in the future on these contests.

Miss Viola Bookworm said...

Jeffery Selin

brian_ohio said...

Great Job, Nathan. (Did you try the bat soup?) It's so nice of you to have these contests, quite a learning experience.

I love all of these entries, but Polenth gets my vote.

Congrats to all of them.

nancorbett said...

Jeffrey Selin

All of the finalists did a great job! The two best, IMO, are Michelle and Jeffrey Selin.

Of these two, I select Jeffrey Selin as the winner for a couple of reasons. First, he's juggling more than two speakers, which is much more complicated that keeping two speakers clearly delineated. And second, he pulls off having a character with an accent. Great job!

Anonymous said...

re anon @9:45 - "I'm sorry to hear that Victoria's losing votes for dialogue tags. The propriety on those can be pretty subjective."
Really?

I mean, I know that there are different camps regarding the presence of quotation marks, and I can see the artistic value in both, but with Victoria's entry, the style just looks plain incorrect.

I apologize if I'm coming across rudely, I really don't mean to. I know I make mistakes too and I actually really enjoyed her entry, but my assumption was that Nathan included it because it was so good *despite* the errors.

But your post makes me think that it really is supposed to be that way, which is something brand new to me. Is that a style some people prefer to the traditional (to my mind) way of using dialogue tags? Learn something new every day!

Anonymous said...

Re:

No, I didn't mean to suggest I thought it intentional, though I don't know the author, but that I thought it should be forgiven because the content was so wonderful in my opinion.

I assume that it was included for content, as Nathan just said in a comment that he was very forgiving with typos.

Anonymous said...

I think the prizes are great!

You do us all a service, Nathan.

Thank you.

You give us a fun way to learn and a chance to show our stuff

and the heady possibility that we will have been, if not discovered at last, at least awarded the chance to have possibly given you a chuckle or gotten an invisible pat on the back from you to keep on writing.

Nathan Bransford said...

For the record, I don't know whether the effect was intentional or unintentional, but either way I decided it worked for me.

Miss Viola Bookworm said...

Nathan,

Don't sweat the complaining. You chose five great scenes, and after all, you're the one with the job as a literary agent, so clearly you know more than the rest of us about what works the best. Instead of complaining, we should be reading through all of the entries to learn from other writers as well as the ones you selected.

In regards to the word count issue, I think that many of us went nuts trying to use a piece that fit the 250 word limit, but that is because we're all used to agents out there who aren't as kind and forgiving as you are.

I'm sure you're aware of this, but there are agents out there who will throw out queries or submissions because of something as simple as a word count, and even if they didn't, as writers struggling to get published, or as brigid said, just to have someone read our darn work, many of us work our tails off to follow the guidelines set by each agent. We're so used to being told all the things that writers do that drive agents crazy (something as simple as putting "I look forward to hearing from you soon" at the end of a query), that many of us have done exactly what Miss Snark told us not do: OBSESS OVER EVERYTHING! It's difficult to quit obsessing when truthfully, if we want to comply with each individual agent's wishes and preferences, it does feel as if we do have to obsess a bit to get it just right.

At the end of the day though, as Snark said, good writing trumps all. Perhaps that is what we should remember when we're querying or simply entering blog contests: just submit good writing, which is what the five nominees did.

The contest idea was great, and I'm thankful that you were willing to do it in your spare time. I'm sorry if the comments have troubled you because you were only trying to do a good thing which was supposed to be fun, and it has been! I enjoyed reading the five nominees you selected, but it was also great to read all the entries. There were many scenes I wanted to continue with, and it really made me see just how many great writers there are out there. Thanks for giving us the opportunity to put our stuff out there for others to read, and congratulations to all of the nominees.

Now, go and get out your Maker's Mark! :)

Anonymous said...

Gotcha!
I agree the content was wonderful.
Thanks for the clarification!

Lisa Dovichi said...

Polenth

Sam Hranac said...

I just want to echo my thanks for your doing these, Nathan. It is fun to enter, and fun to read all the great things being written out there.

For the record, I think that any contest that openly stipulates that massive quantities of inebriates will be consumed during the judging should have an equal amount of slack cut as to the outcome.

Also, thanks to Victoria for taking my comment in the light hearted manner in which it was intended.

tootles.

Beth said...

Firstplace: Polenth.

Second place(and very close it was) goes Victoria Schwab. Part of what prevented me from putting it first were the incorrectly punctuated tags. “It’s a strange place,” said the man, not “It’s a strange place.” Said the man.

Brigid said...

Yikes, I got on a rant and forgot to vote.

Victoria. All the way, baby.

Anonymous said...

MeghanVictoria Schwab! The dialogue was witty and engaging, and I'd have to agree with the Phantom Tollbooth comparison below. I'd love to read the rest of it.

Meghan said...

birpVictoria Schwab! The dialogue was witty and engaging, and I'd have to agree with the Phantom Tollbooth comparison below. I'd love to read the rest of it.

MikeC said...

Shadow Mile, Victoria Schwab.

Jason said...

victoria schwab

Jess said...

This vote's for Jeffrey.

As much as I liked emeraldcite's stuff, since I'm from Philly, it's just not realistic - did you happen to CATCH that last game in the semifinals? Flyers ain't scorin' anything. :D

Dana said...

Jeffrey Selin. Absolutely. His dialogue was excellent. And what's more, the description that supported it was so eloquent that even the skateboard had a voice!

karlitea said...

Polenth, hands down. Cute, clever.

JES said...

About the word count, neither a complaint nor a thumbs-up, but just something I noticed while working on my entry. Which was: in the WHOLE frigging book in which that dialogue appears, I haven't even come close to putting in so much time and effort on any other (eventually) 250 words.

What resulted wasn't perfect. But man, was it better. I don't know if I have the gumption to apply the technique to the other 120K words (or however many it is). But I do wonder if being disinclined to tackle that is a bad sign for a writer.

Oh, btw, also wanted to mention: I went back to Donald Maas's Writing the Breakout Novel to see what he had to say about dialogue; I couldn't remember. No wonder: as far as I could tell on a quick skim-through, he didn't have anything at all to say about it!

Speak Coffee said...

One vote for Victoria Schwab, please!

k.b. said...

Polenth

Spartezda said...

Ooh, Polenth.

Leis said...

Polenth.

Victoria came a close second.

MelodyO said...

Polenth FTW! ::shakes pom poms::

Josephine Damian said...

I vote Nathan for bravest and most tireless blogging agent, and of course, most funny.

I also vote for Emeraldcite.

Heather Zundel said...

Victoria Schwab's Shadow Mile - it did everything a sequence of dialogue should. It propelled the story forward, engaged the reader into the world being created, and gave each character a different voice at the same time.

(Polenth was my second choice, and very close at that. He managed to say a lot about the dynamics of the relationship and the world oof his characters without blatantly pointing it out in bold letters). He said very little but what he said told much more than just doughnut holes and drills. It reminded me very much of the dialogue in To Kill a Mockingbird - which says a great deal about something else without ever addressing it so point black (I am thinking of the scene between Scout and Francis in particular at her aunt's house. They start about boys should/shouldn't be cooking and then trancends into a very serious (but never openly addressed topic) of Atticus and the trial).

Very good entries all around!

V L Smith said...

I vote for Polenth.

I can understand you giving a word limit and then fudging it a little. It's probably more of a guideline than anything else, meant to keep people from submitting entire chapters.

I think it's great that you give everyone these opportunities to compete and show off their wares. People should stop complaining and be more appreciative of what you do - provide a wealth of information, tips and witty insight. You're one in a million.

Gretchen said...

Polenth

Elissa M said...

Victoria Schwab, Shadow Mile

Mike Harris-Stone said...

I vote for Polenth.

Though they are all really good!

I wish I had some Maker's Mark to help me decide! :-)

Great contest!

lisah said...

Another vote for Polenth. Nothing fancy about the dialogue... liked how it was brief and to the point. The fiary godmother speaking to Davie was a clever idea.

And Nathan, is there any hope for a short list of other contenders? Say, the next 10 or so that at least sparked your interest? Please?

sweet morbid delight said...

Victoria Schwab's entry was the best in my opinion!

Mike Harris-Stone said...

re: the word counts -- what's the big deal? ALL the finalists had very rich, lovely pieces. For me that weighs more than being a little over on the WC.

Nathan -- I hope you have a designated driver until your eyes recover from the judging!

terryd said...

Congrats to the finalists! There's some fine verbal tension here.

They're all very good, but my vote goes to Polenth.

(I've had similar conversations, as a parent.)

K2tog said...

My vote is for Michele. It was a very difficult decision – I was intrigued by both Schwab and emeraldcite – but when comes down to the craft of the dialogue, I had to go with Michele.

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