Patsy, is, I’m sure, known to many of you. She runs the womagwriter blog, which focuses on writing for the (sadly, rapidly shrinking) women’s magazine short story markets, as well as her own blog which has regular links to free-to-enter writing competitions.
Patsy is also co-author of From Story Idea to Reader – an accessible guide to writing fiction, which is available in paperback and on Kindle (and PS – she’s too modest to tell you this herself, but as she’s a novelist and had over 500 stories published, I reckon she probably knows what she’s talking about!).
Thank you very much to Patsy for agreeing to judge the shortlist, well done to the winners (I’ll be in touch about your prizes) and thank you to everyone who took part (if you want to read the winning stories, they’re in the post before this one. If you wanted to enter but couldn’t think of a way of using the words, the 5 shortlisted entries might fill you with inspiration for the next time…!)
When I get up to 800 followers, in a couple of months or so, hopefully (on 733 at the moment!), I’ll be running another one of these random word competitions. And I can give you a heads up now – I promise there will be no fish or offal/innards and one of the words will be EIGHT!
So, without further ado, here is Patsy’s report:
“Well done to the 41 people who successfully entered this competition. Getting the random words and a complete story or poem into such a tight word count isn’t at all easy. I was very impressed with the shortlisted stories and feel slightly mean not awarding five first prizes as they’re all very good. Unfortunately Helen’s prize fund won’t stretch to that, so I’ve had to make a decision.
1st place – Full House by Christine Cherry
This is an entirely believable, bittersweet story, which involves the reader. I could easily imagine the emotions of the characters – and how they’ll feel afterwards. The author has made great use of the word count. There’s no unnecessary description* as there are enough clues for us to build our own picture of the characters and location. This could probably be extended into a longer piece, which would have even greater emotional impact, yet doesn’t feel crammed into the tight word count required for the competition.
The gentle twist works well. Like Rita, I was initially misled about the nature of their relationship, yet when I learned the truth it seemed obvious that it was one-sided. She was the one making an effort with her appearance, saving a seat and sharing sweets. Peter is just naturally friendly and flirty – the wink and kiss the first time they meet show that and his jokey manner thereafter suggest that for him that’s all there is to it. Although I feel sympathy for her, I’m also pleased he at least has a happy ending.
Good, unforced use of the random words.
2nd Place – Don’t Say I Never Treat You by Maryanne Pike
This is an example of a story perfectly fitting the format used. The heavy use of slang and dialect would be hard going in a longer piece, but work very well here. It’s not too difficult to follow the meaning, yet the reader feels a certain satisfaction in having done so. It’s also a clever way to unobtrusively work in the random words.
In common with the winning story (and all those shortlisted) this one also provokes an emotional response in the reader. In this case I want to kick him and tell her to file for divorce!
In a longer piece the unlikeable and manipulative nature of the narrator would, I think, be unappealing but this is short enough that we can almost admire his deviousness and the success of his plan before we’ve lost all sympathy for him. Use of first person helps with that as we naturally feel closer to him.
Again there’s no description*, as again it’s not needed.
*I don’t want to suggest description is always unnecessary, just that it needs a purpose beyond simply adding to the word count. In the remaining shortlisted stories description is used to good effect.”