For the past six weeks, we’ve spent every spare moment judging the hundreds of entries submitted for the Spring, 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. Participants 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.
Now, hang on tight because an ocean storm is brewing!
THE SPRING, 2013 TOPIC
She sat in her favorite spot on the porch of the weathered beach house, the salty air sticking to her skin, the oncoming storm blowing sand across her bare feet. The crisp envelope bent beneath her fingers as she laid it on her lap, and reached for the pen in her dress pocket…
Before you continue reading, take a moment to consider where you would
take that story…
Here are our notes about common themes that emerged with this topic:
- Several stories had the exact same title: Message in a Bottle
- Many of envelopes contained suicide notes.
- Lots of envelopes contained bills of sale or deeds to the beachfront cottage/home.
- Many stories were about children given up for adoption.
- Common items in the stories were Adirondack chairs and porch swings.
- We even saw a few mermaids!
- Several stories featured characters using the pen to open the envelopes so they were the recipients of the letters, not the senders.
- 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, journalist or blogger 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:
- Vampires. We always see LOTS of vampires.
- 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.
- 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 appear here:
You can see the complete list of 85 prizes, and sign up, here:
The Summer, 2013 24-Hour Short Story Contest, which will be held on July 13, 2013. 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 WritersWeekly.com and BookLocker.com. WritersWeekly.com 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, WritersWeekly.com and BookLocker.com 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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