For the past six weeks, we’ve spent every spare moment judging the hundreds of entries submitted for the WritersWeekly Fall, 2013 24-Hour Short Story Contest. In case you’re not familiar with our quarterly contest, this is how it works. On the date of the contest, at start-time, we send out the topic for that specific contest to all registered entrants, while also posting it online. Entrants must be registered before the contest begins and there is a limit of 500 participants per contest. Entrants then have 24 hours to write and submit their stories. The stories “must deal with the topic in some way to qualify” and they must not exceed the pre-assigned word count, which is announced with the topic.
After reading the entries for each contest, we can see how difficult it is to come up with a unique plot when working with an assigned topic. But, inevitably, a few writers do manage to successfully break away from the pack.
THE FALL, 2013 TOPIC
She wiped her hands on her apron, peering out the window. Red and orange leaves hurried by as the cold autumn wind battered the small cabin. The girl should have been back from the errand by now. At that moment, she saw the flying, fiery red braids. The devil’s mark on her right cheek, a constant reminder, was clearly visible, even at dusk. The girl, breathless, burst through the wooden door.
“Ma! Come quickly!!”
Before you continue reading, take a moment to consider where you would take that story…
The top three winners of the Fall, 2013 contest are posted HERE.
Below are our notes about common themes that emerged with this topic:
Many stories were named “Devil’s Mark” or “The Devil’s Mark.”
Several stories featured forest animals saving children.
Most of the stories had normal children with a blemish that the town thought was evil.
The blemishes/marks often changed color when the child got excited or angry.
Many stories had the child bursting in with news that the father had returned.
Lots of those stories featured fathers returning from the military.
Many of the children were bringing home someone for their witch mother to cook.
Several stories featured the child finding someone in the woods, and summoning their mother to see.
As with all contests, some common themes come back again and again, no matter what the topic is. These include:
Vampires, aliens, and other fictional monsters. We always see LOTS of these.
We find out at the end that the entire story was just a movie/TV scene/play or we find out the first scene of the story (usually the topic itself) is from a movie/TV show/play.
The reader finds out at the very end that the main character is actually dead (is a ghost or spirit of some sort), or that the main character has dementia. We always get several retirement home or other senior citizen stories.
The main character dies at the end, and is met by a loved one or an angel of some sort. We also see lots of dead friends/relatives trying to convince the characters it’s their time to die, too, helping them cross over, etc.
The story is dramatic but you find out at the end the characters are really children playing make-believe or that the main characters are actually animals, not people.
The main character of the story is a writer.
Someone in the story, usually the main character, is named Angela (my name).
A common fairy tale or other well-known tale is the basis of the story.
A well-known fictional character is used in the story or is the basis of the story. (Writers need to create their own characters rather than borrowing from other writers.)
The story either begins with a dream or you find out at the end that the story was all a dream.
Links to the winning stories of the Fall, 2013 24-Hour Short Story Contest appear HERE.
1st prize is $300, 2nd is $250 and 3rd is $200. You can see the complete list of 85 prizes, and sign up, HERE.
THE WINTER 24-HOUR SHORT STORY CONTEST WILL BE IN JANUARY, 2014. Each contest is limited to 500 entrants and they usually fill up so don’t delay if you want to participate!
About The Author
Angela Hoy is the publisher of WritersWeekly.com, and the co-owner of BookLocker.com (one of the original POD publishers that still gets books to market in less than a month), PubPreppers.com (print and ebook design for authors who truly want to self-publish), and Abuzz Press (the publishing co-op that charges no setup fees).
WritersWeekly.com - the free marketing ezine for writers, which features new paying markets and freelance job listings every Wednesday.
BookLocker.com - According to attorney Mark Levine, author of The Fine Print, BookLocker is: "As close to perfection as you're going to find in the world of ebook and POD publishing. The ebook royalties are the highest I've ever seen, and the print royalties are better than average. BookLocker understands what new authors experience, and have put together a package that is the best in the business. You can't go wrong here. Plus, they're selective and won't publish any manuscript just because it's accompanied by a check. Also, the web site is well trafficked. If you can find a POD or epublisher with as much integrity and dedication to selling authors' books, but with lower POD publishing fees, please let me know."
Abuzz Press offers FAST and FREE book publication, but only accepts a small percentage of submissions, and only works with U.S. authors.
PubPreppers.com - "We Prep, You Publish!" Print and ebook design for authors who truly want to self-publish. Offers formatting and design services only, and then provides simple instructions for authors on where to sign up to have the print and ebook editions printed/listed/sold. Cut out the middle man. Keep 100% of what bookstores pay for your book!
Angela's POD Secrets Revealed Series can be found HERE.
Got questions about Print On Demand and Self-publishing? Ask Angela.
Have a POD Book with another publisher? See if BookLocker can give you a better deal. (BookLocker offers "disgruntled author discounts" to those who want to move from other POD services.)
See BookLocker's publishing packages HERE.
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Angela is the creator of the Original 24-Hour Short Story Contest!
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