Don’t You DARE Trick or Treat THERE! – Topic, Common Themes, and WINNERS of the Fall, 2021 24-Hour Short Story Contest

Don’t You DARE Trick or Treat THERE! – Topic, Common Themes, and WINNERS of the Fall, 2021 24-Hour Short Story Contest


For the past six weeks, we’ve spent every spare moment judging the hundreds of entries submitted for WritersWeekly’s most recent 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

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.


A strong, biting wind sent vibrant yellow leaves and candy wrappers flying. The gray mansion with peeling paint appeared to be abandoned but muted lights appeared in the windows every night. The neighborhood children hurried by the old magician’s house with their lit pumpkins. Nobody dared open the rickety gate, and venture to the front door. If only they knew the real story…

(Stories need only touch on this topic in some way to qualify.)

Before you continue reading, take a moment to consider where you would take that story…

SURPRISE! We added a special note and hints for this contest!

They are:

CRUCIAL HINT! Whenever a contest happens during a big news event or crisis, lots of entrants insert that into their stories. Before you think about including a virus, a pandemic, quarantines, protests, global warming, political upheaval, or anything else that is all over the news right now, please know that lots of entrants are thinking the same thing. So, you might want to avoid those topics.

ANOTHER CRUCIAL HINT: Many people will assume the magician is kidnapping children and/or killing people in there so you should probably avoid going in those directions with your story as well.

Giving us a bad and/or boring ending!

Please give us a great ending! **WE LOVE SURPRISE ENDINGS!!**

Congrats to the top three winners!

1st PLACECursed with Purpose by Becka Krueger

(Becka won $300 PLUS a free book publishing package from valued at $875!)

2nd PLACEGray Matters by Thomas Brodkin

(Thomas won $250!)

3rd PLACE Horror Haven by Shelby Taranto

(Shelby won $200!)

100 other participants won prizes as well!

The top three winning stories, along with a list of the other winners, is posted RIGHT HERE.


Here are our notes about common themes that emerged with this topic:

Despite the “crucial hints” above, we received numerous stories about magicians who were murdering people in the house.

There were lots of lonely old people who made friends with the child who got up the courage to knock.

Quite a few stories had magicians looking for assistants, or for a child to learn the tricks of the trade.

Lots and lots and lots of lonely widowers, as well as people who had lost a child or other family member.

Many characters were not magicians at all, but had the nickname “magician” for a variety of reasons.

Several stories had family members being reunited at the house.

Lots of stories were titled “Trick or Treat” or “The Mansion.”

Tons of scary cats!

We lost count of how many time travel stories were submitted.

Lots of very crafty magicians were successful at permanently making people disappear!

Numerous children in stories said, “I double dog dare you.”

The magician was “stuck” in the house, and could not be freed until he/she lured someone else in to replace him/her.

Many magicians were waiting for a child to enter the home so he/she could steal the children’s youth.

As with all contests, some common themes come back again and again, no matter what the topic is.

These include:

The reader finds out at the very end that the main character is actually dead.

The story is about a writer and/or it’s a writer participating in a writing contest (groan).

We always receive countless domestic abuse stories.

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 an animal.

We find out at the end that the main character is actually an unborn child, telling their story from the womb. You only find out it’s a baby at the end.

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 telling 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.

The main character of the story is a writer or someone in the story (usually the main character) is named Angela (the same name as the publisher of WritersWeekly). Some also use Angela’s family members’ names in their stories.

IMPORTANT: We are seeing an increasing number of stories that incorporate current events (what’s ALL over the news right now) in them. These include pandemics, quarantines, vaccine mandates, protests, global warming, political upheaval, heated social issues, a hated president (or hated past president), etc., etc., etc. Any topic that has received saturated coverage in the news should be avoided at all costs. We’re all drowning in it all day, ever day. Nobody reading fiction for entertainment wants to read that stuff when they’re trying to relax so it’s wise to simply avoid it. REMEMBER, PEOPLE READ FICTION TO BE ENTERTAINED, NOT AGITATED.

You can increase your chances of winning one of our 24-Hour Short Story Contests by avoiding these common themes.  Step outside of the box and WOW us with something completely original!

Links to the winning stories of the current contest (and all past contests) appear RIGHT HERE.

1st prize: $300 + a book publishing package from BookLocker valued at $875
2nd prize: $250
3rd prize: $200
40+ honorable mentions
+ 60 door prizes!

103 prizes total!

You can see the complete list of prizes, and sign up for the next contest, here:


14 Tips To Give Yourself A Leg Up In Writing Contests!

Sign-up for the next contest!

List of ALL PAST TOPICS and WINNERS of the WritersWeekly Quarterly 24-Hour Short Story Contest!

From WritersWeekly Short Story Contest Winner to Simon and Schuster Contract!

Got questions about Print On Demand and Self-publishing? Ask Angela Hoy.

About The Author


Angela Hoy is the publisher of, the author of 19 books, and the co-owner of (one of the original POD publishers that still gets books to market in less than a month), (print and ebook design for authors who truly want to self-publish), and Abuzz Press (the publishing co-op that charges no setup fees).

Angela has lived and traveled across the U.S. with her kids in an RV, settled in a river-side home in Bradenton, FL, and lived on a 52 ft Irwin sailboat. Angela now resides on a mountaintop in Northwest Georgia, where she plans to spend the rest of her days bird watching, gardening, hiking, and taking in all of the amazing sunrises. - the free marketing ezine for writers, which features new paying markets and freelance job listings every Wednesday. - 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. - "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.


BOOKLOCKER ON FACEBOOK - Provides links to free excerpts!



Angela is the creator of the Original 24-Hour Short Story Contest!

Read More Of Angela's Articles HERE



33 Worst Mistakes Writers Make About Blind Characters

I admire any writer who wants to tackle a blind character. But so many writers take up this challenge and FAIL. They research blindness by reading other fiction books, by observing their blind colleagues and acquaintances, and by tying on a blindfold and pretending to be blind themselves.

I understand the challenges your characters face, their triumphs, their hopes and their fears, because I've lived them. I work with people who have varying degrees of blindness every day, so I've seen every challenge, every situation you could imagine.

Let me share my knowledge to improve your writing. You can create blind characters that readers will fall in love with.

~Stephanie Green


So, You Wanna Be a Ghostwriter - How To Make Money Writing Without a Byline

Many freelance writers find it difficult to break into the publishing world. What they don't know, however, is that there's a faster and easier way to see their words in print. It's called ghostwriting, and it's an extremely lucrative, fun, and challenging career.

But how do you get started as a ghostwriter? How do you find new clients who will pay you to write their material? How do you charge? And what kind of contracts do you need to succeed? All these questions and more are answered in So, You Wanna Be a Ghostwriter...How to Make Money Writing Without a Byline.

Read more here:

One Response to "Don’t You DARE Trick or Treat THERE! – Topic, Common Themes, and WINNERS of the Fall, 2021 24-Hour Short Story Contest"

  1. Pingback: Can I use your 24-Hour Short Story writing prompts to create a book of short stories? |