For the past six weeks, we’ve spent every spare moment judging the hundreds of entries submitted for the WritersWeekly Fall, 2014 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 on WritersWeekly.com.
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 via email. 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, 2014 TOPIC
The cold wind battered the fortune teller’s wagon, threatening an early frost. The girls climbed down, simultaneously giggling and shivering about the message the old witch had delivered. As their feet pushed through the red and orange leaves, a shadow emerged from the gnarled maple trees. A bent man in tattered layers stepped in front of the girls, leaned over, and put his crooked finger to his lips…
(Stories only needed to touch on that topic in some way to qualify.)
Before you continue reading, take a moment to consider where you would take that story…
The top three winners of this contest are posted HERE.
COMMON THEMES SUBMITTED
Here are our notes about common themes that emerged with this topic:
In several stories, the old man was previously young but the witch took his youth.
In a few stories, the old man was the future self of one of the characters, there to issue a warning.
A twist on that was the elderly man running into his younger self coming out of the fortune teller’s wagon.
Lots of stories had the fortune teller predicting one of the girls would die, and one of them did indeed die in most of those stories.
The man in the woods was the fortune teller’s husband and/or the man in the woods was part of the fortune teller’s ruse.
There were lots of warnings about impending danger in the woods.
Several of the fortune tellers were reading tea leaves.
Numerous stories featured death cards with deaths at the end of the stories.
A few stories featured the fortune teller and/or the old man stealing the children’s youth / turning into them.
As with all contests, some common themes come back again and again, no matter what the topic is.
The story is about a writer and/or it’s a writer participating in a writing contest (groan).
Vampires, aliens and other scary creatures. We always see LOTS of those.
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 or TV show/play or even a book or article one of the characters is reading.
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 to 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 or someone in the story (usually the main character) is named Angela (the publisher of WritersWeekly).
A common fairy tale is the basis of the story.
Links to the winning stories of the current contest appear HERE.
1st prize: $300
2nd prize: $250
3rd prize: $200
20+ honorable mentions
+ 62 door prizes!
You can see the complete list of 85 prizes, and sign up for the next
The WINTER CONTEST is scheduled for January, 2015.
Sign up today, right HERE!
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.
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.
ANGELA ON TWITTER
BOOKLOCKER ON FACEBOOK - Provides links to free excerpts!
ANGELA ON TUMBLR
Angela is the creator of the Original 24-Hour Short Story Contest!
Read More Of Angela's Articles HERE