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Fantastical Vocal Favorites Vol. 1

Supporting Passionate & Talented Writers on Vocal

By Amanda StarksPublished 9 months ago Updated 5 months ago 7 min read
Top Story - October 2023
Illustration by Jom Plang from Jom Plang's Images. Edited with Canva Assets.

Paying it Forward

I've wanted to do this for an age and a half - however - I felt like I hadn't built enough of a backlog of liked stories or a strong enough rapport with my fellow vocal creators to justify attempting it.

But here I am, five years deep on Vocal with over 200 liked stories and a wonderful community of writers that I've come to admire and connect with.

Seriously, there are SO MANY passionate and talented people here, it's crazy!

So I want to give back to the community and to the writers who have lived rent-free in my brain over the years by not only highlighting their work - but also paying it forward by giving my own "Fantastical Vocal Favorite Bonus" to those writers.

Here's how it will work: I will choose four published stories per volume and give in-depth thoughts as to why these stories are so great ( and why you should read them ) and then I will be gifting a $5 bonus to each of those writers as a way to pay it forward and show my support.

Please note that if you don't have a stripe account attached to your Vocal account I cannot tip you. :(

You can think of it as a smaller version of Paul Stewart's incredible "Vocal Deep Cuts" ( an amazing series that you should check out as well! ) as I will be doing my best to avoid popular stories, top stories, and contest winners with more than 10 likes. This isn't a hard or fast rule - more like a guideline!

I will also never promote my own work on these articles, as I want the spotlight to be on the writers featured here!

I'm also going to try to have a sort of theme for each volume - or at least pick pieces that I think fit well together because of their content, style, or genre. The type of content ( poem, fiction, non-fiction, ect. ) won't matter as much as I simply want a cohesive feel to each volume!

So, without further ado, here are the first four stories for my Fantastical Vocal Favorites!

A Cyclical Twist

"I have no time to linger in my thoughts, however. It’s an important day. Not for me but I’m sure for someone in the world. For me, it’s the same routine."

I remember finding this three years ago while scrolling through Vocal stories as one does on a lazy Sunday morning. I was truly not expecting to like this story by Sabrina Johns as much as I did, as I'm more of a fantasy, sci-fi, or horror enjoyer. However, this story grabbed me not by its modern setting or world-building, but by its distinct and engaging voice.

It sucked me in like many a novel has in the past. Immediately you are beset with a master-class opening that sets the tone for the entire story.

I wish you could hear the sound of this. The morning groans of a 20 something year old female going through a quarter-life crisis.

The main character is living in a monotonous modern-day world with thoughts and actions that seem to hit the right spots for relatability and engagement. I was pulled along by the incredible voice and well-crafted characterization, pace, and plot - and yet when you think you know how this story might go, Sabrina pulls out the twists to make your heart race.

And THAT TWIST...I still think about it all these years later.

This is the only story ever published by Sabrina, which is a shame because they truly have a talent that I would have loved to see more of. Who knows, maybe they will return? Or maybe they moved onto a bigger pond? Regardless of someone's activity - if a story is good, it deserves praise.

Big Pond or Little Pond: That is the Question

My dear, dear friend from Queens was ever bold

Echoing to me his age-old witchery of gleam and gold

My god, this still hits years later, and the mix of playful and cynical within a lyrical rhyming scheme is just...who thinks like this?

Josephin Crispin is yet another vocal writer who has been absent from the platform for a while, yet when going through my liked stories I couldn't help but not highlight this piece as it is just so unique and quite poignant for modern-day writers, especially us here on Vocal!

It's a very modern story hidden in poetic mastery; someone who writes for a small, niche audience is tempted into going big, commercial - going from a big fish in a small pond to a small fish in a big pond.

It's something I've seen discussed in the Medium vs. Vocal debates. Yes, Medium is the far bigger platform with a larger reach, and you will have the opportunity to make more money thanks to its partner program and a bigger audience. Yet, Vocal is new, and the writers who have established themselves here are well-known among the community, while your work on Medium - even if your stats are great - might get lost in the shuffle.

Thus the big fish in a small pond ( Vocal ) vs. the small fish in a big pond ( Medium ) comparison.

Reading this back then really had me thinking about my dedication to Vocal, but it also made me realize something rarely talked about for writers - the cost of success.

We all want to be successful, but do we want to be unreachable? One of the reasons I've stayed on Vocal is the community; it feels like a family here in many aspects. If I were to go off to chase the dollar, I would lose that, just like the 'main character' in Josephin's poem does.

A really outstanding and unique poem. I hope this writer returns!

Dreams Delivered in a Loaded Gun

"Weapons have many forms, many names, many faces. Now it was the plunge of a syringe, full of transparent promises for a second chance at life as long as I live the rest of mine half gone."

You might be noticing the theme I settled on for this volume by now; modern issues explored in unique voices and twists through storytelling, and this one - despite the ending - is much more modern than you may think.

I read this piece by Obsidian Words quite recently, and I was absolutely blown away by their skill. Their word choice is very purposeful and serves to heighten the themes and imagery of this heart-wrenching short story.

It's a common story at the start: the character is delivered a terminal diagnosis by a doctor, and they are trying to process the news, but what sets Obsidian Word's approach to this trope from the rest is how she chooses to describe the character's reaction.

"The specialist rattled off facts that hit my ringing ears like spent shell casing meeting concrete. The barrel of a gun pressed flush to the space between my eyes as he detailed the way my body was set to destroy itself."

Guns and weapons are a big motif in this piece, and it is wielded to maximum effect as the story goes on. This is honestly one of my favorite things a writer can do in their story - using imagery and motifs to further push the theme or message of a story.

And goddamn what a message it is. By the end, there was a hollow echo as I read the final sentence, much like the feeling after a gun is fired off.

I could really gush about this story in its own article, but to avoid spoilers, I really urge you to read this story for yourself, as it is a top-tier tale that deserves more recognition!

Procrastination: A Modern Struggle

An example: drafting the line as relating to procrastinators,

Circumventing blame or judgement through peaceful comparisons like

The last ice cube in a drink, waiting to somehow dissolve

This was an excellent entry into the "Dancing with Distraction" challenge hosted by Vocal, and it was one of my favorites that I read out of the dozens of entries I looked at.

Hannah E. Aaron's word choice is both cynical and self-aware ( wow, just like the title! ) with a very self-deprecating voice that I couldn't help but relate to and love. In some ways, the style could be seen as humourous, as they talk about the process of trying to create something while lacking any drive to do so. Such is the nature of procrastination that many of us writers experience!

It may not tell a clear story like the other entries above, but its distinct voice and unique approach to representing a modern issue were too good not to include in this volume.

Procrastination has probably always been an issue with working people, but in today's modern-day landscape, it feels like there are so many extra distractions and stresses that can lead to becoming a chronic procrastinator. Do it long enough and it might even become second nature. I think anyone who can turn that negative energy into something creative deserves praise. We could all learn from this!

End of Vol. 1

And there you have it, four fantastical favorites from Vocal that have made an impact on my reading journey. I'm not sure yet how often I will do this, as I would like to keep the $5 bonus per pick going, but I do need to be mindful of my own spending! I hope this encourages others with spare money in their pockets to support their favorite creators financially, as every dollar not only helps the author but encourages them to continue writing with us on Vocal and beyond!

I hope you will consider giving these pieces a read, a like, and leaving a comment if you have the time! Let's boost these talented creators!


If you want to read more underrated stories, consider checking out Paul Stewart's Vocal Deep Cuts!


About the Creator

Amanda Starks

Lover of the dark, fantastical, and heart-wrenching. Fantasy writer, poet, and hopefully soon-to-be novelist who wants to create safe spaces to talk about mental health. Subscribe to my free newsletter at www.amandastarks.com for updates!

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Comments (24)

  • Randy Wayne Jellison-Knock5 months ago

    Another outstanding fantastical edition. These took a bit longer to read (yeah, I read vol. 2 first as it was atop your page), but worth every moment. Thanks again for doing this.

  • Dana Crandell9 months ago

    What a wonderful and thoughtful idea. I'll enjoy reading all of the stories.

  • Novel Allen9 months ago

    I hope to check these out, some are new to me. It is amazing how much we miss as we go along. Great work on this story. Congrats.

  • Hannah E. Aaron9 months ago

    Hi Amanda! I really want to say a sincere thank you. ‘Self-Awareness’ being mentioned here made my day. Thank you so much for your kind words regarding it, and for the tip. It is so appreciated!

  • Poppy 9 months ago

    Oo I’m so excited you’re doing this! I’ll have to check these out soon. And congrats on top story!

  • Aleena Huda9 months ago

    Thank you so much for sharing this.

  • kp9 months ago

    excellent recommendations :) thanks so much for this thoughtful review and congrats on the top story!

  • Caroline Jane9 months ago

    Well deserved top story here. I love that folk are doing this. Wonderful stuff.

  • Alex H Mittelman 9 months ago

    Great suggestions for stories and writers! I’ll check them out!

  • Rachel Deeming9 months ago

    I love what you did here, with your short discussion to whet our appetite. I'm going to check these out.

  • Paul Stewart9 months ago

    Back to say congrats on Top Story!

  • JBaz9 months ago

    This is a great idea, I always thought of doing something similar. But you are actually doing something and I really like your format. This gives all of us a chance to read stories we may have missed. Congratulations

  • Test9 months ago

    Congratulations on your Top Story Great work! 💖

  • Hope Martin9 months ago

    Thank you for this! I appreciate a list of good reads.

  • Kendall Defoe 9 months ago

    A generous gesture! Thanks!

  • Melissa Ingoldsby9 months ago

    Very kind of you to do this!!! Love it

  • Matthew Fromm9 months ago

    love this and I've been meaning to do something similar. I'm a sucker for inter-community support!

  • I'm so thrilled that you have started this series! I only know two of the writers you've mentioned here but I don't think I've read their works that you've shared here. I'll circle back here to read them!

  • Donna Renee9 months ago

    Love this, Amanda! I’m unfamiliar with a couple of these authors and will check them out :)

  • Paul Stewart9 months ago

    Well done for doing this and thank you for the kind shout-out, Amanda. I will definitely bookmark this so I read through your selections and suggestions!

  • Ian Read9 months ago

    Amazing work, Amanda! This is an amazing thing to do and I commend you! 😀

  • Obsidian Words9 months ago

    I am beyond honoured, thank you so very much and this is a wonderful idea to share your thoughts with others xx

  • Wow, This is Amazing ♥️✌️📝💯🎉😉

  • Great sharing and promoting other creators stories, excellent work

Amanda StarksWritten by Amanda Starks

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