How Do You Write What You Don’t Know?

[Note: Stephen is currently collecting data on what it's like to experience a great deal of pain (for use in some future work of fiction, of course), so this post is gonna be short. He's really counting on a couple of you providing the bulk of the post in the comments section. Bring on your wisdom.]

Okay, here’s the question of the day: How do you write a scene where a character experiences something you’ve never personally experienced? I mean things like shooting an innocent man. Jumping from a speeding car. Standing on stage in front of 100,000 adoring fans. Facing your greatest foe. Kissing someone who is not your spouse. Being told you have a terminal disease. Learning that your teenage daughter is pregnant.

Dying.

Yeah. These aren’t little things. Perhaps you’ve experienced some of them. (If so, you have my sympathies. Particularly if you’ve done the whole dying thing.) But I want to know how you approach the situations you haven’t experienced. And I’m not just talking about how you calculate the number of times you roll on the dusty ground after leaping from the car. I’m talking about the entire experience – especially the emotions that accompany the drama.

Does the loss of a favorite pet give you enough familiarity with ache to write a believable scene about the loss of a lover or a friend? Does the bitterness you felt toward a co-worker who took the last donut give you enough raw material to write a scene about a man who discovers his employees have been stealing from him?

Okay, floor’s yours. Talk amongst yourselves. Tell me what you know.

[Swallows pain pills, climbs into bed, closes eyes. It's called research, people.]

I’m Good at Drawing Frogs

When I was 10 years old, I liked drawing almost as much as writing. And though I dabbled in the drawing of reptiles, particularly snakes (which are actually a bit more complex than one might assume, despite their limbless design), I became particularly adept at frogs. If you wanted a drawing of a frog, you came to me.

I enjoyed drawing frogs. I mean, frogs are definitely the sort of creature boys ought to draw if they draw at all. Well, frogs and spiders. (Though if you ask me, spiders are more about math that art. Can you count to eight? You can draw a spider.)

But I also liked horses. Now before you accuse me of being all girly (no, I did NOT sew my own G. I. Joe clothes… I manufactured them – please, make note of the distinction), I’d like to add that my love for horses came from watching The Lone Ranger on TV (a totally masculine show because the protagonist is a cool cowboy who wears a mask), and not from falling in love with Marguerite Henry’s Misty of Chincoteague (although, yes, I did read it – purely for research purposes).

It was only natural that I would attempt to combine my love for drawing and my interest in horses.

Only one problem. I was a frog specialist.

My first attempts at drawing horses were disasters. If you know anything about horses, you know that words like “sleek” and “majestic” define their shape, whereas, frogs are all about “bulbous.”

I quickly became frustrated and disappointed and nearly stopped drawing altogether. I thought that all artists would naturally be able to draw anything they wanted.

Nope.

Thankfully, in the midst of my pre-adolescent pencil-and-paper angst, someone asked for a picture of a frog. I drew it. And it was good. Damn good.

Meanwhile, I bought a book called “How to Draw Horses” or something like that. I studied it. I practiced. And I improved. Had my interests not suddenly shifted to All Things Sports, my horse drawing ability might have soon eclipsed my frog drawing skill.

Okay. Segue here.

When I first started writing, I became quite good at instructional copy. Curriculum, sunday school lessons, things like that. I enjoyed writing instructional copy (in part because I was good at it).

I also loved reading novels.

Do you see where this is going? Of course you do. I wanted to write novels.

My first attempts were pretty awful. They were… bulbous. I almost gave up writing when I realized how far off the mark I was.

But then someone asked me to write curriculum. For money. Real money.

So that’s what I did. And over time, I added all sorts of non-fiction writing to my resume. I became an editor and discovered I was good at that, too. Then I worked my way into editing fiction (which is what I do almost exclusively today). The whole time, I never stopped trying to improve my fiction writing.

Here’s the perfect place in my over-long post to reveal all the amazing novels I’ve written and published. Except I’m still working on that. I think I’m at a place where my novel writing is as good as (or even better than) my non-fiction writing, and I might just be a better writer than editor. I guess we’ll see soon enough (“soon enough” meaning as soon as I finish the current w.i.p. and start doing just what you’re doing – submitting it to agents).

The point of all this? Simple: Find out what you naturally write well; write lots of it; and, if possible, get paid. Meanwhile, keep getting better at what you love.

Someday, you might just become adept at drawing horses.

Well, that’s it for today… I’ve got a few frogs to draw. Gotta pay the bills, you know?

See you next time.

The Last of the Contest Entries

Just in time for the weekend, the last of the entries from the “First and Last” contest. (And, yeah, my short story, too.) Once again, thanks to everyone who participated. If you still haven’t read the winning entries, click here. Next week it’s back to regular blogposts, so be sure to come back to see what wisdom and nonsense I come up with.

Tanja Cilia titled her short story “Time, and Again”:

It was the best of times… no, really, the very best of times.  I’d married the handsomest man on earth, and I was pregnant.  We’d just moved to an old town-house, complete with antique furniture.

Idly, I twisted a knob on the bureau – and something clicked. A tiny drawer sprang open and a stack of old papers, tied with yellowing ribbon, fell out.

Hey!  That’s MY handwriting.   Weird.

The date on the papers is 1984. The squiggles crossing the t and the curls at the ends of the y and j are unmistakably mine. But…  I never use blue ink, because it reminds me too much of the school homework I loathed so much.

In those days, no one had made concessions for my dyslexia.  When, in my very last year at school, I had a teacher who understood what the matter was… it was almost too late.  Almost, but not quite.

She tutored me privately and taught me how to read, from scratch.  Eventually I got a job at an English-language newspaper.  I soon became their top accredited journalist.

The keyboard is the logical extension of my fingers. But for private use, I always use “nice” colour inks like aqua and lilac and preach…. curiosity got the better of me, and I felt compelled to read what’s written…

April 12… The day Ms Debono drove me home after I had twisted my ankle. It was the day before my sister’s wedding, and I was the hobbling bridesmaid!   Hey!  The name of the teacher as given here is Miss Camilleri.  But she could not drive…

I felt dizzy. I took the papers down to the kitchen and cracked open a bottle of fizzy water.  I took one sip, and forgot all about it.

I turned to June 5.  That was the day the brakes of our car didn’t hold, and we ran into the car in front of us.  Yes… here it is, “car crash”.  Oh, no!  It says we were in the ‘new’ Getz Malibu…  but the car had actually been dad’s old Triumph Toledo.

My husband returned from work, and walked towards the kitchen. I began to tell him what had happened – and then I glanced at him.

He was not my husband.  I saw the puzzled look in his eyes. And when I looked down at the papers, the pages were blank, and… The bottle was empty.

Because I am a fan of creative symmetry, the very first entry I received will be the very last one presented here. And it’s a good one from Kelly Sauer:

The sun didn’t rise on Thursday.

Maybe it isn’t really Thursday, Annie thought, dragging her aching body out of bed. Maybe it was still Wednesday night. The crash was nothing but a nightmare. The sun had to rise today. It was her wedding day.

She groped in the dark for a light switch, tripping over a pile of clothing and stumbling into the wall beside her closed door. She flipped the switch.

Oh great, the power was out. Of course. Her digital clock wasn’t glowing.

Annie rubbed a hand over tired eyes. The darkness was so thick she couldn’t see her hand in front of her face.

She scrabbled through her bedside table drawer for a flashlight. She tried flipping it on. Hmm. Batteries must be dead.

Frustrated, she pitched the light across the room. It hit the alarm clock off her dresser, clattering to the floor.

The clock radio began to play.

“…80 degrees and clear for you today, with mostly sunny skies…”

Annie froze at the sound, then pitched forward, passing from one black world into another.

———-

Her cell phone was ringing. Where had she left it? Her head was spinning. She opened her eyes into darkness, pulled from unconsciousness by the urgency of the identifying tone.

“Jase?” She croaked into the mouthpiece. Why was she croaking? “I can’t see.”

“I’m coming! I’m here!” She thought her apartment door was coming down in the other room. Her ears were ringing.

Someone burst into her room, hitting her leg with the door. Then he was beside her, his touch piercing the isolating black.

“Please help,” she pleaded. “The sun didn’t come up today…”

———-

She was four months late for her wedding. The sun did rise that Thursday. One of her bridesmaids attended her in a silver frame at the front of the church.

Too many tears, Annie thought, leaning heavily on her father’s arm for her walk into Jase’s arms. But she could see them. The tears. The camera flash. Those who loved them. The look on Jase’s face. The tie he was wearing. She couldn’t quite see the color yet.

She stepped toward him. After weeks of blackness, she’d forgotten what colors she’d chosen for her wedding.

Sunlight streamed through cathedral windows across the aisle, bathing Jase in light, drawing her smile.

Ah. She chose the blue one after all.

And, finally, because I thought it would be fun if I had to write a story, too, I asked you to suggest first and last sentences for my own short story challenge. I chose “The striped cat glared at me” for the first line and “The rain washed it all away” for the last line.

Here it is.

The striped cat glared at me.

Horatio.

That was his name.

He was sitting in a circle of sunlight on the carpet, a statue in a spotlight.

“You want me to feed the cat?” I’d asked.

“Yes, if you would,” she’d said. “You do know the cat has a name, right?”

“Of course.”

“And…?”

“And I prefer to call him ‘cat.’”

She didn’t say anything. But I saw disappointment in the turn of her lips.

***

The next day I was sitting on her couch. She was beside me, smelling of cinnamon and sipping a glass of merlot, her body humming along with Sia’s “Breathe Me.”

We’d been friends for a long time. Shoulder-crying friends. Best friends. But something turned in me and before I could deny it, I realized I was in love with her.

That’s exactly when Horatio jumped onto her lap. Somehow, she kept from spilling the wine. I think she laughed.

I said words I wish I hadn’t. Words that weren’t true. Yet out they came, pressed by panic into an uncertain moment where they could do the most damage.

“I hate that stupid cat,” I said.

She hugged Horatio tighter and he purred.

“I’m sorry,” I said. “I don’t mean that. I love the stupid cat.”

“He has a name,” she said. Then she drank the rest of her wine.

***

After a week without words, she invited me over to watch a movie. Breakfast at Tiffanys. Not our first choice. But we were lazy. Do you know how it ends? The taxi ride. The cat. The engagement ring tossed on Holly’s lap. And all the while it’s raining and you’re wondering if she is going to give up a chance to be with the man who loves her.

“Where’s the cat” Holly asks, frantic.

“I don’t know,” says Paul.

And that’s exactly what I was thinking. I don’t know. Our relationship was at a crossroads. Did she see it too? I was afraid to ask.

As if cued by the closing credits, the night sky began sheeting water against her living room window. When thunder boomed Horatio leaped onto her lap.

“Horatio,” I said, and it was a sigh.

She turned to me, smiling. But this was a new smile. One that would lead to a kiss.

Suddenly, there was no more uncertainty.

The rain washed it all away.

Some of you might be disappointed I didn’t write a science fiction or fantasy story. But look closer. See the ending? It is a fantasy after all.

Okay, kids. Nothing more to see here. Get back to work.

See you Monday.

Revenge of the Still More Contest Entries

My poorly-disguised “original content hiatus” is nearly at an end, but not yet. Today, more entries from the “First and Last” contest for you to enjoy. For those of you who haven’t yet read the winning entries, click here.

If you’re new to the noveldoctor site, take a moment to read this old post on 7 Things that Keep Editors in Business. And then read a bunch more. And tell your friends to stop by, too.

Alicia Gregoire-Poirier entered this fantastical story:

The sun didn’t rise on Thursday. This came as no surprise to the girl; she had been able to control the stars since quickening in her mother’s womb. The Destroyers were rapturous with the knowledge and each wanted the girl’s power for their own.

The girl’s mother, covetous in her own right, arranged fostering by The Destroyers’ mages – The Arcane Ones. Here, the girl learned of the delicate balance among the universe; how if one planet fell, all others were doomed. They imparted this knowledge to frighten her.

It empowered her.

Her powers blossomed under The Arcane Ones’ careful guidance, surpassing expectations of all. The eve she lost her maidenhead, she held the moon in her thrall until she and her lover were spent. The moon sighed in pleasure and disappeared for a fortnight.

Her lover was enamored of her talents and lavished her with baubles that were so prismatic in their beauty; they reminded the girl of the universe. She named them in accordance of her lessons.

Crimson. Saffron. Cerulean.

After their naming, the jewels rose and transformed before the girl and her lover. Each danced amid the elements they called forth with their lovemaking. Colors tattooed their bodies, an indelible mark of their union.

The girl’s infatuation with the boy was not in The Destroyer’s plans, and the boy foresaw his death in their eyes. The girl, clever as she was, did not have The Sight, not like he. For this, he sent his prayers up to The Deity. He asked for strength to carry his plan forward and that the girl would endure.

She was their salvation.

Unaware, the girl slept on and her lover chanted over her magic jewels. He sealed his life force in blue and death to his adversaries in yellow. He saved red for the destruction of all. Then, with his hand over her already ripened womb, he blanketed her with his parting wish.

The sun didn’t rise on Thursday, the day they sacrificed her lover, because it was her will. Darkness remained while her soul warred with half-imagined murmurings.

Murder was at her fingertips.

The babe stirred inside her.

She chose the blue one after all.

Here’s Jon Freestone’s creative entry:

Somewhere between roof and the pavement, Sam remembered where she’d left her wallet. That distraction was just enough to let her fly. Sam loved the H2G2 series but never thought you could really fly by forgetting to hit the ground.

Sam’s favorite dreams were the flying dreams, she even learned how to lucid dream to be able to control her dreams. Sam soared over the neighborhood, this was way better then any of her dreams.

The hardest part was deciding where to go. Fly home, buzz her boy friends house, or go pick up the wallet. While trying to decide Sam saw a red blinking light to her right and blue light strait ahead.

Why go home, I just want to fly, she thought. Sam started flying between the flashing lights. In the end it wasn’t too hard to decide which light to head for, after all her rival school’s colors were red.

So turning to the left, just to see what would happen, She chose the blue one after all.

Adrian Firth titled his creepy entry, “The Day of Screams”:

The sun didn’t rise on Thursday. Dense fog hid the sky, hanging low across rooftops and power lines, smothering houses and decapitating trees. Diffused light brightened the world gradually, like God was turning a dimmer switch. More likely it was the Devil. Oblivious, I eased my Toyota down the driveway in the half-light.

At the letterbox, I leaned out and opened the lid to find nothing but real estate flyers. Cursing the paperboy, I sat trying to get something on the radio, anything at all. The neighbour’s cat chose that moment to stroll into the street.

Pam Jameson’s black moggy often sat in the road, usually early morning and sometimes at dusk, as if it owned the world. As if it were invulnerable. Top of the food chain. We used to think that way too.

A funnel of cloud spiralled from the sky to the white line in the centre of the road. It oscillated like a miniature twister. From the wobbling point, a smoky tendril formed and snaked toward the cat like a ghostly boa constrictor, engulfing the animal.

Cats can scream like nothing on earth. I still had a hand on the radio band selector.

Ahead of me, up in the fog, a massive shape drifted across the sky. Something like a building-sized shark. It seemed to broadcast fear. I sat motionless and cold until it left. Then I put the car in reverse.

I ran from the carport to the house. Inside, I locked the door and went to the television. No picture. No cellphone coverage. No dial tone. You are not connected to the Internet.

That was Thursday. The day of screams. The power is out, and the water doesn’t run now. The fog wraps all sides of the house, all the way to the windows. I keep the curtains drawn. I cower and cry and piss myself when I feel them overhead.

This is how it ends for us. Not nuclear war, economic collapse, or slow drowning in a rising sea. Not plague, asteroid strike, or a broken ecosystem. It finishes the way we have always feared, since the time we huddled around fires in smokey caves.

Monsters.

And while Robyn D. Stone’s story didn’t open with one of the assigned first lines, it’s does end with one:

If only he could see the future. He would know it would work out. Losing his father was surely the hardest thing he had ever been through in his life. Thinking of him now made him happy and sad at the same time. Happy for all the times they had been able to share. Sad for all the times lost.

Looking down at his own son dressed in his Sunday best, his heart was so full of pain. So full of pride. Would his son remember his grandfather? Would he know how much he loved him? How proud he was the day he was born? Steven wondered what words he could use to make sure this six year old little boy knew all the things his grandfather would have wanted him to know.

With his tie slightly askew and hair more than slightly rumpled, he looked so much like Steven had when he was his age. Everyone had been saying the same thing since the accident. Family from faraway places and out of town guests who had not seen Taylor since he was a baby were all amazed at the strong family resemblance. Strong jaw. Dark eyes. Heavy bangs. It was all there. The strong family traits handed down from generation to generation.

Pushing those bangs to the side, Taylor looked up with a sideways glance and gave Steven the signature lopsided smile. What was he thinking? Did any of this make sense to him? Steven had tried explaining it all to him before the services, but how much would a six-year old really grasp. He was having trouble grasping it all himself.

The wind began blowing softly, which sure helped on this hot August afternoon. Southern heat in August was something you could always count on, but his father had been very firm in not wanting a major production for his funeral services. He was specific in saying graveside services only. They had honored his wishes.

As the last trumpet sounded, he gave Taylor a tight hug and watched him walk away and get in the car with Julia, his ex-wife. He reached for his pocket and felt inside, it was still there. But, he knew, the bottle was empty.

Just a couple more short stories to go and you’ll have seen ‘em all. Pretty good stuff, don’t you think?

I’m already planning the next contest, and I think you’ll like it. Much less work, but still loads of fun. And, no, I’m not saying anything else about it until September.

Even Yet Still More Contest Entries

Will this madness ever end? Um… yeah, it will. On Friday. But today? More of your creative writing. And for those of you who missed it earlier, here’s yet another re-post from the vast (ie: sometime in the past three months) archives of noveldoctor.com, a handy little guide to What Your Editor Is Thinking.

And now, your stories.

Here’s PJ’s second entry (yes, I told her it was okay to submit two):

Somewhere between roof and the pavement, Sam remembered where he’d left his wallet.  When the elevator reached the bottom, Sam urgently jammed in his security card and pushed the button for the penthouse.  As the elevator went back up, he took a mental inventory.

In the gym bag that he carried was $20,000 in cash.  In his pocket were Cubano cigars – a token of appreciation for The Man; he had a feeling they might meet again.  Sam had done projects like this before and this was a record – three months from start to finish.  The final installment necessary to keep The Man on board was happening today.  Sam was anxious to get this deal finished and enjoy the fruits of his labors.  His lovely Sylvia and a bottle of cognac would be waiting for him this evening.

As the elevator doors opened, Sam walked through the living room, past the floor-to-ceiling windows looking out over the Hudson River and into the bathroom where he plucked his wallet from the counter.  As he returned to the waiting elevator and pushed the button, Sam slid the wallet into his back pocket. The elevator descended once again.

Forgetting his wallet would have been a deal-breaker.  It held the membership cards for the gym which were, inexplicably, critical incentives for The Man.  They had been the most difficult to arrange because of the potential for an incriminating paper trail.

Sam knew Vincent would be pleased with his work.  Vincent was short on details, but Sam knew two things for sure – his money was green and he was generous with benefits like the keys to his luxurious penthouse.  Sam also knew Vincent had something to do with the developer planning the project in the northwest section of town – 2,000 apartment units with retail space.

It was an easy job – partly because of The Man himself and partly because Sam’s competition was so inconsequential:  citizens circulating petitions, sending letters to the editor, talking to the press.  Plus, their issues were trivial – congestion, flooding and overcrowded schools didn’t matter to Sam.

As the elevator doors swept open, Sam strode across the lobby and through the outside door.  There was an elderly woman waiting to come in through the door – her arms full of grocery bags.  Sam glanced at the woman and kept walking, letting the door fall closed as the woman’s face reddened with indignation.  She yelled after him, “You can’t even hold the door open for a lady?  Men like you are monsters!  Monsters!”

Josh Poirier used the same first and last lines and came up with this story:

Somewhere between the roof and the pavement, Sam remembered where he’d left his wallet.  As he tumbled head over heels for what seemed an eternity his mind raced back to the reason he was in this predicament.

The day started like any other, he woke up, showered, shaved, ate a quick breakfast, kissed his wife, hugged his two sons, who giggled mischievously, and hurried off to work, a bit late, which was his normal routine.  It was the commute to work where his troubles began. Speeding down the freeway, he didn’t notice the state trooper until it pulled up behind him and with sirens blaring and lights flashing dizzily, motioned for him to pull over.  He complied with the request and turned the wheel slightly to begin moving to the shoulder, stopping on the overpass.

He opened the glove compartment door and pulled out his registration, ignoring the cold-steel pistol that lay beside it.  Reaching in his pocket he was surprised to not find his wallet sitting comfortably in its normal location.  He began searching frantically through the cabin of the car.  It was nowhere to be found.  He then thought about the two kilos of cocaine hidden in the backseat and realized that without his license the car was probably going to be searched.  He couldn’t afford to go to jail.  So he opened the car door and ran.

He paid no attention to the shouts behind him to stop as he vaulted over the guard rail and landed on the rooftop of one of the buildings situated under the overpass.  He knew that he must have looked guilty now and began jumping from rooftop to rooftop to escape.  He looked back to see if he was being followed and slipped off the edge and fell.

In the brief moments of clarity that is sometimes afforded while hurtling towards waiting, certain death.  Sam thought about where his wallet could be and remembered he had left it on the kitchen table.  A brief flash reminded him that through the window as he left his two sons seemed to be dividing money, probably stolen from his wallet.  His sons were growing up to be just like their old man.

He muttered under his breath, just before his head met his feet, “Those….Little….Monsters….”

Here’s Erika Frank’s story:

The sun didn’t rise on Thursday. The roar of the thunder and the bright lightning radiated off the cliffs outside. The jagged light washed over the walls of Diana’s bedroom, jarring her out of a deep sleep. She glanced at the dim red glow of her clock, which read 6:02 AM. She would have preferred to have slept in.

She wouldn’t be going into her office today. That was already planned. Not that she had to clear her schedule or anything. She’d been losing a steady stream of clients with each pound she put on. Not many people wanted to work with a chunky nutritionist.

She didn’t want to get out bed just yet, but she needed to use the bathroom. She gently pulled her feet up from the covers, trying not to disturb the pile of Persian kitty at the base of her bed. “Felicity will be just fine. She has at least two weeks worth of food and water in her jumbo sized feeders.”

The floor creaked with each step to the bathroom. A noisy reminder of the coastal dampness rotting anything made of wood. The night-light glowed with blue intensity making her reflection in the mirror even paler than normal. Very ethereal and ghost like. She stopped and stared. She liked her reflection like this. It was even better than being lit by candlelight. No lines showed around her eyes and no gray at her temples. Yes, this was a good picture to hold on to in her mind.

Into the kitchen she shuffled, keeping the lights off. She was enjoying the darkness and all the shadows of her house. She gathered a package of Oreo’s off the counter and the sapphire blue bottle of gin and headed back to her room. As she crawled back into bed she hit the play button on the controls. There is no way of truly knowing how many times she watched Titanic. It has lived in the dvd player since her divorce two years ago. This movie and anything Nabisco have been her companions since that nightmare. She hugged her bag of cookies to her chest and watched. She took an occasional drink from her blue bottle on the bedside table. There was also another bottle. A brown prescription bottle on the bedside table. The bottle was empty.

And the last of today’s entries (which uses all three last lines) is from Ellen Shahan:

The sun didn’t rise on Thursday. For Holly Graves, it didn’t rise on Friday or Saturday either. It wasn’t till Sunday that the young woman was able to drag her lumbering bones out of bed and part the shades that had so kindly cocooned her in darkness. She was thirsty and the taste in her mouth simply had to be addressed.

In the uncharitable light of the bathroom, Holly squinted at herself in the mirror — the makeup she hadn’t removed, the hair that might have made a proper nest for swallows. It took effort just to squeeze toothpaste out of the tube. Pressing the toothbrush to her teeth, she caught sight of her red fingernails, so recently done — a fresh affront, incongruous, the color of blood. Yet there was no blood. There was only ash. What came after.

She’d thought she could brave the world for an hour or two, maybe order in a pizza and some lemonade — she was so thirsty — but now she was unsure. Perhaps she’d overshot the mark, given herself more to do than could be managed. Maybe what she really wanted was to sink back into sleep, another long, dreamless sleep that blotted out all thought, all hope, all memory or yearning. A sleep borne of lovely pink pills, as harmless, as gentle, as roses bereft of thorns. She liked them ever so much better than the blue ones a friend had given her. The blue ones were monsters with prickly spines and a devilish afterlife.

Holly poured herself a glass of water.  Only minutes into the day, and already she was done with it. She went to her bedside for more of the balm that would ease her suffering, but the lovely pink darlings had vanished. She’d taken them all. The bottle was empty.

She chose the blue ones after all.

Monsters.

Tomorrow? Yup. A few more. And then the last ones on Friday (including mine, as promised).

Thanks for visiting. (And thanks again to all the folks who took the time to enter the contest.)