Topic, Common Themes, and Winners of the Summer, 2012 24-Hour Short Story Contest! – Angela Hoy, and

For the past six weeks, we’ve spent every spare moment judging the hundreds of entries submitted for the Summer, 2012 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 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.

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.

So, today, hop aboard a fishing boat, and assist with processing today’s catch…


Growing up on a fishing boat docked in this small northwest coastal town brought stares from townspeople and jeers from classmates. She desperately wanted to escape but, with competitors driving down charter prices, she knew her dad would never be able to afford a replacement. As she sliced open the belly of yet another Salmon, her eyes widened and she dropped her knife…

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

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

  • In almost all the stories, the mother of the girl is dead.

  • In most of the remaining ones, the mother left the family.

  • In many of the stories, the father is an alcoholic.

  • Most stories focused on the bullying experienced by the girl.

  • Many stories placed a lot of emphasis on the smell of fish.

  • The name “Sarah” was very popular in this contest.

  • Several stories featured cut hands.

  • In most of the stories that didn’t have the girl finding something in the fish itself, something happened to startle her while she was cutting into the fish.

  • In many stories, the girl lived on the boat with her father.

  • Common objects found in the fish:

    • Jewelry (the most common object), gems, coins, money, gold or gold nuggets

    • box/tube/capsule with a note inside

    • salmon eggs

    • baby salmon

    • clue to a drowned/murdered person

    • tiny person, pixie, genie, etc.

    • keys

    • drugs

    • human body parts

  • Despite the rule specifying otherwise, we always get a handful of stories where a character is named Angela or Angie.

  • Also despite the rule specifying otherwise, we always get a few stories where the main character is a writer or a journalist of some sort and some of them are dealing with writing for a short story contest. Those stories are particularly disappointing because we see so many of them during each contest.

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

  • 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.

  • The story is dramatic but you find out at the end that the characters are really children playing make-believe or that the main characters are actually animals, not people.

  • A common fairy tale or other well-known tale is the basis of the story.

  • 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 appear here:

You can see the complete list of 85 prizes, and sign up, here:

The Fall 24-Hour Short Story Contest, which will be held on September 15, 2012, IS OUR MOST POPULAR ONE! The winners of the Fall contest are announced just before Halloween each year and the Fall topic is always a bit chilly, and sometimes a bit creepy! Each contest is limited to 500 entrants and they usually fill up so don’t delay if you want to participate!

Angela Hoy is the co-owner of and is 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.”

Read a price comparison of the most popular POD publishers HERE.

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