Hello everyone and welcome to the fiftieth month of this competition. There were 38 entries from 27 authors for the theme of ‘not his / her fault’. NB You can all send in three stories for a better chance of being picked.
One was disqualified for only being 99 words although there were two words (suit case) that should have been one so was actually 98. Fortunately the author had submitted a 100-word story so that went through. Another was 100 words except a hyphenated word (upside-down) shouldn’t have been hyphenated because it didn’t precede a noun, as https://www.lexico.com/en/definition/upside_downexplains. It was a shame as it was my favourite story from that author, who’d fortunately sent two others. Another (one of three stories from the same author) came in at 100 but had a word missing (had ‘of’ instead of ‘of the’ before a noun) so would have been 101 corrected.
Three had words that should have been hyphenated (chocolate covered, slipper clad, all important – before nouns) so went down to 99 words and were therefore disqualified. Sorry to the authors but I have to be fair to every entrant. Fortunately there were two other stories to choose from from each author but sadly one of the ones I ruled out was my favourite.
Two others, from the same author, were disqualified as they had rogue punctuation which, when reunited with the words they should have accompanied, made the stories 99 words. The third story then by default went through to the judging.
One story, though not disqualified, was discarded in favour of another of the same author’s stories because it had two ‘began to’s in it. While that’s not technically incorrect, 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’.
There was a story that was subsequently followed with a ‘corrected’ version. Although the rules do state that the first version of a story is the one accepted, I couldn’t see any difference and the original went through.
One story lost out for having a ‘his’ at the start of a sentence (before a verb) when it should have been ‘he’. Not the biggest mistake in the world but you should read your stories thoroughly before submitting. This was the only story from that author so s/he missed out. It’s always worth submitting three even if you think two are weaker than a third. I may think differently.
Another (from another author) lost a point for having words the wrong way round ‘said had’ rather than ‘had said’ – again this should have easily been picked up before submitting. Fortunately I preferred another story from this author so that was fine. Both stories were sent well ahead of the deadline.
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 strong 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.
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 December is ‘a winter job’ and you can submit your entries (and do send three) at any time up to midnight (UK time) on Tuesday 31st December. 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 £14 / $18) is below. I chose the following story for first place but was so smitten with one of Jane’s other entries, and as there’s only one prize per author, that I’ve chosen this second story too!
Jane Brown with ‘The Gift’
She was eight the first time it happened.
‘Mummy, there’s going to be a storm tomorrow.’
The next day, after the clean-up, they laughed. ‘She’s got the gift!’ they joked.
Soon they stopped laughing. The press took notice. Fires, hurricanes, tsunamis – day after day, she was faultless.
After the flood, people got scared.
‘She’s cursed,’ they said. ‘A witch. She’ll destroy us all’
She was placed in a padded cell, mouth taped shut.
A tear rolled down her cheek. It wasn’t her fault.
Her ‘gift’ was sight, designed to help, to warn.
And she had seen what was coming tomorrow.
Jane Brown with ‘The Typo’
Mr Higgensmith storms into the room, his face purple.
‘Well… we lost the Walkers tender. All because of a spelling mistake.’
‘Jim, you drafted this. Tell me why I shouldn’t fire you on the spot?’
Jim stammers, ‘Um…. Trevor edited it afterwards….’
Trevor glares at Jim.
Oliver from IT says, ‘Let’s just check the logs.’
He types some keys.
‘Ah yes. The file was changed yesterday morning. At 3am. By the user ‘m_higgensmith’. The ‘L’ from ‘Walkers’ was changed to an ‘N’.
The room goes silent.
‘Right. Back to work everyone.’ Mr Higgensmith says quietly. ‘Didn’t want the job anyway….’
Darren York with ‘Another Promise Broken’
I’d made a promise to Mother that Richard would be the last. She wasn’t convinced though. I couldn’t help myself. I had a penchant for a smartly dressed man reeking of aftershave. Mum wasn’t happy. “Stop what you’re doing, Carrie. Someone will get hurt if this carries on,” she said, as I readied myself for the date.
Richard never saw it coming. They never do. He invited me back to his flat. It didn’t take long. He was dead before he’d finished his drink. It was his own fault for being so nice and asking me out. They never learn.
Laura Besley with ‘The Corrosion of a Marriage’
They sit in their familiar positions at either end of the sofa, remote on the middle cushion, dinner on their laps. Some evenings, like Tuesdays, they don’t even need to talk about what to watch (The One Show, Eastenders, Holby City).
At nine o’clock she goes to bed, reads, and is asleep by the time he comes up to bed after shooting at zombies on the PlayStation.
If you asked them how, when, or why they ran out of things to say, neither would know. It was an accumulation of big things and small, until one day, there was nothing.
Alan Barker with ‘A Perilous Profession’
Morgan paced up and down, cursing.
Since taking early retirement from his job as a miner, he’d embarked on a writing career. However, much as he enjoyed his new vocation, the lengthy silence from the publishers was testing his patience.
He was reaching for the phone when an email appeared.
Susan read with great sadness about Morgan’s passing.
In the short time she’d known him, he’d shown considerable promise as an aspiring author.
Then she noticed the date he died and hurriedly checked her outgoing emails.
Surely her letter of rejection hadn’t been the catalyst for his fatal heart attack?
Joyce Bingham with ‘The Grim Reaper’
It’s a thankless task, but someone has to do it, waiting in the shadows for the next soul. My mind plays tricks with me, although my body is no longer corporeal it’s like a phantom limb.
My very bones ache with the cold and the tingling of chilblains skitters across my non-existent skin. I wish I had some of the fires of eternal hell here to warm me up. I know for sure the man I await will lament that it was not his fault, but death does not care. He has already been judged and I want his soul.
- Astra Lowelle with ‘Ashes’
- Carol Allison with ‘Happy Birthday’
- Isabel Flynn with ‘Daring Adventure’
- valfish56 with ‘Drastic Measures’
Honourable mentions (not winning anything but only narrowly missing out and still looking good on their CV) – in alphabetical order:
- Diana Hayden with ‘Mea Culpa?’
- Kirtan Savith Kumar with ‘The Watch’
- Paul Mastaglio with ‘Working Overtime’
- Sophie Toovey with ‘Blameless’
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.