Hello everyone and welcome to the sixty-sixth month of this competition. Sorry it’s so late! There were 43 entries from 22 authors for the theme of ‘a tall tale’. NB You can all send in three stories for a better chance of being picked.
One was disqualified for only being 99 words. It ended in ellipses which the author may have counted as a word although they were attached to the final word. It’s a shame as it was that entrant’s only submission. 😦 Another was disqualified for having a character being ‘seven-foot-tall’ as one word. A ‘seven-foot-tall object would have been fine but sadly it should have been ‘At over seven feet tall…’ so was 102 words not 100, and at the time the author’s only story. Another was only 96 words. There were ellipses (…) so even if each one was (were) counted as a word, despite being attached to the previous word, it still would have only made 99. 😦
A lone story from a new entrant was sadly missing a word (sitting at ‘a’ table) so adding that made it 101 words rather than 100. It was a really good story so such a shame. Another was 101 words simply for having a word too many. And one became 101 when ‘pocket-watch’ was unhyphenated (https://www.lexico.com/definition/pocket_watch).
One story had a semi-strong word in it. I try to keep this blog as family friendly as possible. Fortunately it wasn’t my favourite of the three by the author submitted anyway so it went by the wayside. With a handful of the stories, despite reading more than once, I struggled to see how they fitted the theme. These were either disqualified or placed as ‘honourable mention’, likely to then be ruled out of the competition at the whittling-down stage.
Another was disqualified for having ‘old- fashioned’, correctly hyphenated but as two words, dropping the story to 99 when conjoined. It’s really sad as it was such a fun story.
- It doesn’t matter so much in a competition story – as long as there’s only one – but in the novels I get in I check for nodding of heads and shrugging of shoulders to remove the ‘his / her head’ or ‘his / her shoulders’ because we only move with those parts of our bodies. Nods especially are often overused. We also only clap with our hands and shaking heads are usually ‘side to side’ so the how isn’t needed. Certainly mention the body part (or other) if it’s done a different way.
- Where an action has ‘starts to’ / ‘started to’ or ‘begins to’ / ‘began to’ before it, most of the time they’re not needed because unless the action is interrupted, the verb alone works better / is stronger. An example would be ‘the phone began to ring’. If it stops without being answered then that’s fine (although it still rang!) but if not then just have ‘the phone rang’.
- This won’t get your stories disqualified but useful to know (makes you look more professional): unless more than one sentence, a title doesn’t have a full stop at the end. It would also usually be title case, e.g. The One-time Thing rather than The one-time thing.
- While you want to give as much information as possible, there’s a fine line between not giving enough – the stories I go ‘huh?’ at… and if I read them again and still go ‘huh?’ it’s not a good sign (and usually get an honourable mention / drop off) – and telling too much, i.e. having a great punchline but then explaining it. Trust the reader to know what you mean, providing you feel it’s clear without an explanation. I always recommend having someone – especially an honest someone – else read your story for their reaction. I also recommend having your computer or someone/thing else (I use my Kindle Fire’s text-to-speech) to read the stories aloud. This would have picked up the missing ‘a’ (table) above.
- Try to avoid repetition where you can. It’s easy to miss (one story had ‘clutch’ twice but maybe intentionally) especially where they are regular words such as ‘just’, ‘now’, ‘all’ and ‘very’.
- We speak in contractions (e.g. I’m rather than I am, isn’t rather than is not etc.), and it’s fine (preferred) to use them in dialogue and first-person narration though less so in third-person narration / description.
- Things are usually ‘that’ whereas people are usually ‘who’ (or ‘whom’ where it can be replaced by ‘him’ e.g. to whom / to him), i.e. he was the man who had lied (who = he had lied not him had lied) / it was the door that had been slammed.
- Where an age precedes a noun, it should be hyphenated. When we have someone’s age following, e.g. ‘Tom was ten’, we wouldn’t need the ‘years old’ or ‘years of age’ because the number – within the right context – is sufficient. There would also only be a hyphen if preceding an implied noun, e.g. the fourteen-year-old (shortened from ‘the fourteen-year-old girl’). Had there been a non-exact name using ‘something’ (or similar), The ‘something’ represents an unknown number so it would all still be hyphenated as the likes of ‘twenty-two-year-old nurse’ would have been. One story was disqualified for this reason.
- Again not a dealbreaker but numbers under 100 are best written in full so they blend with the rest of the text (especially where they are 1st, and the likes, as eReaders tend not to like superscript) so I’ve amended the ones that are. That said, I think all numbers unless titles (BMW Series 5) etc. are best written in full. For info., decades are plural so no apostrophe required.
- https://www.lexico.com/en/definition/washing-up is hyphenated regardless of whether it’s used as an adjective, e.g. a washing-up bowl, or noun: the washing-up. The verb, however, would be to wash up. A story was disqualified for having a character ‘washing-up’.
- I strongly recommend you don’t invert dialogue tags as it’s not how we would naturally speak if talking aloud, e.g. changing ‘said Tony’ to ‘Tony said’. ‘said’s do tend to blur into the background so don’t try too hard to choose something else, e.g. ‘Tony postulated’, even ‘Tony exclaimed’ could be too much if we already have the likes of ‘Get out!’ It’s not so bad when you don’t have a name but having the ‘said’ or equivalent is more natural where you have a character’s name.
- Where the speech has an unrelated dialogue tag, e.g. someone laughing, moving, smiling, waving etc. (with it capitalised: He laughed. She picked up the mug.’ etc.) the punctuation should be a full stop rather than a comma. Had it been related description, it would be a comma.
- Words often overused include ‘all’, ‘now’, ‘very’ and ‘just’. I recommend searching for them with a space either side so – for ‘just’ as an example, it doesn’t pick up ‘adjust’, ‘justice’ etc. I’d recommend only keeping the ones for emphasis or detract from the sentence if chopped, or changing to ‘only’ where appropriate. And the likes of ‘just’ can be swapped for ‘only’ where appropriate but better to chop so whatever you swap it for doesn’t get used too often either.
- Instead of adverbs (e.g. dropping quickly) try to use more interesting verbs e.g. plummeted, wherever possible.
The winning stories are ones that I reacted most favourably to. They were clever, surprising, eek-making (in a good way), or gave me a warm fuzzy feeling (without being sickly). Sometimes a story beats another because it has a stronger link to the theme so it’s worth writing a story to the theme rather than tweaking a story you already have to loosely fit it. Alternatively there may have been several stories on with same topic so I chose my favourite of those. With any competition, much rests upon the judge’s preference and it’s usually ones than garner a stronger (positive) reaction that do the best.
You may have chosen a different order or indeed not placed one or more of them so if you entered and didn’t find your story / stories here, don’t lose heart. You probably only just missed out so do enter new stories this month*, next month, whenever you like (but not in advance!). It’s an ongoing competition and free, so you could win at any time. There were new and familiar names this month so anyone could win… it’s all dependent upon whether your story grabs me, for whatever reason (whether it be clever, funny, unusual, quirky, or sweet).
Apart from the top three and highly commended, there are some ‘Honourable Mentions’. They don’t win anything but they were so close to being Highly Commended that I wanted them to know how close they came. It’s still something for them to put on their CVs.
*The theme for March is ‘going to camp’ and you can submit your entries (and do send three) at any time up to midnight (UK time) on Wednesday 31st March. Details and entry forms on https://morgenbailey.wordpress.com/100-word-free-monthly-competition. So without further ado, below are the successful entries this month.
First place (winning free access to three of my online creative writing courses (currently worth £60 / $60) or a free edit and critique of up to 2,000 words (worth £30 / $42):
Linda Hibbin with ‘What Every Girl Dreams Of’
Courtship. Petite woman. Tall, dark, handsome man. She feels feminine, a fragile flower in his arms, sheltered from life’s crises.
Wedding. He is attentive to his beautiful bride.
Honeymoon. He complains throughout the flight about the lack of legroom. Same problem for her in the marital bed.
New home. Mirrors, cupboards, shelves too high. He mislays the pedal extensions she needs in the car. He acts as though socially above others, pretends not to hear her in a crowd.
Family. Children, grandchildren inherit his genes. Tower above her. Talk over her head.
She shrinks with age.
They don’t miss her.
Second place (winning free access to two of my online creative writing courses (currently worth £40 / $40) or a free edit and critique of up to 1,500 words (worth £22.50 / $31.50):
Darren York with ‘The Magic Pen’
“How did you do it?”
I wanted to say that writing a novel was a lot of hard work and nothing comes easy but I was feeling in a mischievous mood.
“On a trip to the Congo I met a witch doctor who cast a spell on my pen which made writing the book effortless. I didn’t even need to do any editing and published it within a week.”
His face lit up.
Off he went to the Congo with a suitcase full of pens.
He could have borrowed mine.
It still had a bit of magic left inside it.
Third place (winning free access to one of my online creative writing courses (currently worth £20 / $20) or a free edit and critique of up to 1,000 words (worth £15 / $21):
Nicholas Marshall with ‘Uncharted waters’
Skip introduces himself to the four friends who have not sailed before.
“We’ll have a great time,” he says.
The yacht slips out of the marina on the afternoon tide and soon the rising swell is uncomfortable.
As darkness descends, a gale tugs violently at the reefed sails and there is a howl that is not the wind.
The second hand of the cabin clock starts to sweep backwards.
Suddenly, in a brightness belonging to midday, the four friends who have not sailed before wait on the quay.
Skip introduces himself to them.
“We’ll have a great time,” he says.
Highly commended (winning my Entering Writing Competitions course worth £20 / $20) or a free edit and critique of up to 1,000 words (worth £15 / $21) – in alphabetical order:
- Alan Barker with ‘Painting The Town Red’
- Dorothy Cox with ‘Low Tide’
- Jane Broughton with ‘Saturday Job’
- Nina Steer with ‘Pigs Leave No Trace’
- Stef Smulders with ‘Boarding’
Honourable mentions (not winning anything but only narrowly missing out and still looking good on their CV) – in alphabetical order:
- Joyce Bingham with ‘It Fell Out Of The Sky’
- Paul Mastaglio with ‘A Little Accident’
- Rebecca Coles with ‘The Morning After The Night Before’
- Sue Massey with ‘Cock And Bull’
Congratulations, everyone. The entries for this month are already drifting in. Remember, you can send up to three per month so rather than miss out on a chance by sending one story, do submit more.
If you’ve enjoyed these stories and / or just want to leave a comment, please do so below and / or you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org., although I won’t (can’t) discuss forthcoming entries unless it’s a general query.