Here’s a little ‘judges’ report’ just before I announce the winner and runner-up…
Thank you to everyone who took the trouble to write and send in their story. Each of them was read carefully. Some of the stories had some very good ideas that just weren’t sufficiently developed and a couple just missed out on the shortlist because they gave away too much in the title or revealed too much before the end of the story. (If you’re writing a twist, make sure we can’t guess the ‘punchline’).
Quite a few entries focussed on crime and domestic violence and interestingly, during one of Sue Moorcroft’s workshops earlier this week, she revealed that she gets dozens of entries around those themes for the Writers Forum monthly short story competition (which she judges). She’s heartily sick of them! If your story is one of many with the same theme, it’s less likely to strike a chord with a judge, as it will seem unoriginal, so, whatever kind of competition you’re entering, don’t go with your first idea: try to think of something that’s unlikely to be chosen by someone else. Being original (without being totally weird!) is, I think, part of the secret of competition success.
Some entries tried to be terribly clever – and just left us feeling confused – and some were basically a joke, disguised as a ‘story’. There were also a few spelling mistakes (ouch!) and rather too many exclamation marks in some cases! Journalists don’t call them ‘howlers’ for nothing. Try to use exclamation marks as you would a chilli in your cooking – sparingly! (I know I have littered this post with them but I’m more restrained when I write fiction, honest!)
I’d also add that if you’ve only got 100 words to play with, make sure you use them all and give your entry a title if you’ve got that option. You’ll notice that our runner-up didn’t do either but I think his entry would have been improved if he had (and who knows, he might have moved up to first place!)
So, to the winners.
“Catch me if I fall, mummy. You will catch me won’t you?”
Susan flicked the remote control and froze the image as a flaxen-haired cheeky face beamed out from the TV screen.
“That was me on my first two-wheeler. Do you remember, mum? I was terrified of falling off.”
A lop-sided face stared mutely back at her.
“Come on, then,” she smiled. “Let’s get you ready for bed.”
Two rheumy eyes looked into Susan’s and they conveyed more fear and frustration than any words could.
“It’s o.k. mum,” she whispered. “I won’t let you fall.”
We liked this because of its originality, its poignancy and a feeling that these were ‘real’ people with a life before and after the scene portrayed. Well Done, Keith, your 2012 Writers & Artists Yearbook will be with you soon.
The runner-up was Ivor Seabrook from Leicestershire for his unusual and rather charming mini saga, which didn’t have a title but which nevertheless made us smile:
‘On that hill beside the strange tree.’
‘Nice of Percy to sell you this lovely ring.’
‘And I’ve still got a fiver. Only cost a shilling.’
‘I remember your proposal.’
‘On that green boat?’
‘Accompanied by your lovely guitar playing.’
‘And your tasty honey.’
‘Doesn’t seem like that was 366 days ago.’
‘Show miaow much you love me.’
‘O, you are a hoot.’
Ivor,(I found this out when I emailed him to tell him the good news), has just finished his first novel and is editing it before he takes ‘the big step’ of letting people read it. Congratulations, Ivor. You’ve actually finished a novel (and you’re not just a ‘wannabe’, like me!), so you can be very proud – and good luck with it.