Hello everyone and welcome to the sixty-second month of this competition. There were 52 entries from 25 authors for the theme of ‘creep’. NB You can all send in three stories for a better chance of being picked. Not an easy month to whittle down to the successful stories.
One was disqualified for only being 99 words. Another, from the same entrant, started as 99 but had ‘over turned’ as two words rather than one so it went down to 98 words. Fortunately the author’s third story was 100 words so that went through. A similar thing happened for another author (‘work load’ instead of ‘workload’ https://www.lexico.com/definition/workload) but one of the other stories was my favourite of the three so it wasn’t a problem.
Another ended being 99 words as there was an adjective (now-former) before a noun so it ‘lost’ a word. Another, from a regular entrant, was disqualified as there was a hyphenated word (battle-cry) that, sadly, shouldn’t have been hyphenated: https://www.lexico.com/definition/battle_cry. So separating them made it 101 words. It’s a shame as it was a great story but I have to be fair to everyone to amend any ‘errors’. Another of the same author’s stories had a word (‘her’) too many so removing that made it 99 words, so also disqualified. A different author had a story disqualified for ‘entry way’ which is (https://www.lexico.com/en/definition/entryway). Both of these examples are the same in UK and US English so no allowance for nationality unfortunately.
One 99-word story (from a regular entrant) had a hyphenated word so perhaps it was counted as two.
One story had a title that should have been hyphenated (One-way) but the title’s not included in the word count so it’s fine. Another (different author) had an adjective (‘white knuckle’ ride) that should have been hyphenated (because it’s not a white ride) so the 100-word story dropped down to 99 and was therefore, sadly, disqualified.
Another author submitted four entries but the third and fourth appeared to be the same. The first version of the story is the one accepted so I ignored the second.
One story had two standalone hyphens in the story which (and it’s in the rules) don’t count as words. As – hyphens, rather than (correctly) – dashes, Word does actually count them as words so sadly it only came to 98 words. Fortunately the author had submitted the maximum of three so the other two went through.
I was torn between two stories from an author and marginally preferred the one I deferred (more polite than ‘shelved’) but the title gave away the ending so an easy choice in the end.
- when speaking to someone and using a name, nickname or term of endearment (which counts as a name), you’d need a comma before the name, i.e. ‘Do you know John?’ is asking if the person knows someone called John. ‘Do you know, John?’ means that the character is speaking to someone called John but asking them if they know something. A subtle difference but you want to avoid confusing the reader so they jump out of the story.
- we mumble / mutter / whisper under our breath so wouldn’t need ‘under my / his / her breath’.
- although grammatically correct, I recommend you don’t put commas between adjectives, and certainly not immediately before the noun / object. It slows the pace… really slows it where there are several and anything that slows what should be a fast-paced page-turning read is best avoided.
- like ‘erm’, we do say ‘well’ as a dialogue pause but it’s best not to include it in our writing, or at the most have it as a characteristic for one of the characters. Ditto ‘look’.
- there were the occasional ‘creep slowly’ (and ‘slowly creep’ which is a split infinitive’). By default, ‘creep’ implies a slowness so the adverb can go. 🙂
- there was a story with two characters whose names started with the same letter. They were different in gender and length (Amy/Andrew) and it’s such a short story that there couldn’t be any confusion but I recommend using as few duplicated letters as possible. I use a table to keep track and you can find one for novels at https://morgenbailey.files.wordpress.com/2020/10/1c-names-table-novels.doc and short stories at https://morgenbailey.files.wordpress.com/2020/10/1c-names-table-stories.doc. Whether you’re editing something you’ve already written or starting a new piece, it’s worth using something like this to ensure originality, even for instance if it’s avoiding having a character called Katherine when you’ve got a church called St Katherine. (Note: no full stop after the ‘St’. The same goes with Mr, Mrs, Dr etc. They’re more common in the US but I recommend not having full stops after these shortenings to avoid any readers thinking they’ve come to the end of the sentence.)
- 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’.
- although ‘rooted to the spot’, ‘frozen on the spot’ (or similar) is a cliché it won’t count against you but clichés are best avoided. http://www.be-a-better-writer.com/cliches.html is a great list of 681 clichés to avoid.
- there were some stories with some fabulous onomatopoeic words and ‘active’ verbs (crash, plunge, rumble, races, howls, shrieks). Look at your verbs and see how they can be more vivid.
- ‘police’ is a generic noun unless forming part of a title, e.g. ‘West Midlands Police’. Like group, money, company, couple, family etc., is a single entity should be a single verb (e.g. ‘was’ rather than ‘were’). That said, it depends on how natural it sounds.
- it’s always best to ‘show’ us how a character is feeling rather than telling us. Instead of saying s/he’s infuriated, have her/him do something like growl or say something that ‘shows’ us.
- 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.
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 November is ‘silence isn’t quite golden’ and you can submit your entries (and do send three) at any time up to midnight (UK time) on Monday 30th November. 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.
Stef Smulders with ‘Attic’
There’s a madman in the attic. At night, his shuffling keeps me awake. I wait for the stairs to creak but nobody descends.
By day I sit at my desk and rock my body, fighting the anxiety that’s creeping up on me.
One night, I listen behind the bedroom door. Silence. I exit and climb the stairs. At the top, my head at floor level, I stop to look around. Minutes pass.
There’s nobody there.
Feeling safe, I enter and crawl into a corner.
There’s a madman in the attic. At night he shuffles around.
But there’s nobody listening downstairs.
Anne Maguire with ‘Project Creep’
I’d heard the term several times in the meeting.
At a break I asked Andy and he said “project creep” was when a project got out of control via lots of little blips rather than a big mistake.
He said, like when your rug creeps four inches nearer the telly rather than moving into the dining room.
I thought about life. I’d expected to be married to a man and with kids by the time I was thirty but here I was less than that, married to a woman who was pregnant – my rug was definitely in the dining room.
Jane Broughton with ‘The Name of the Game’
I’m a creeper. I creep up walls and around windows. I’m tenacious and can adapt to any surface. I use the smallest chinks in mortar to anchor myself to a building. I dig in and then up I go, steadily and stealthily. I probe as I ascend; seeking out open windows, loose frames, gaps in roof tiles, any opportunity for access. Once I spot my chance I exploit it mercilessly. You won’t know your house has been cracked by the creeper. Not until you remark on the small absences, a wallet here, a necklace there. The name is my game.
Joyce Bingham with ‘The Dead are Watching’
As she approaches, the smell of the cemetery, damp soil, leaf mould, and worm casts is replaced with the iron hint of blood, the stench of rotten soul.
Her transparent dull aura reveals her vices, her nature.
I can feel my fellow residents moan and writhe, some in pain, others in pleasure. She is a creep, a troll, carrying, with delight and glee, photographs which will destroy a life.
She cuts across my plot, I will the ivy to trip her, the device cracks as it hits my headstone. I send a pestiferous breath across its surface, the electronics fry.
- Lesley McLean with ‘Annelida’
- Sarah Robin with ‘Another Stormy Sunday Afternoon’
- Scott Rhodie with ‘Not the Life of Riley’
- Sue Massey with ‘The Hole’
- Valerie Fish with ‘Douglas’
Honourable mentions (not winning anything but only narrowly missing out and still looking good on their CV) – in alphabetical order:
- Anne-Marie Chaplin with ‘In The Wild’
- Douglas Goodrich with ‘Cheers!’
- Liz Aiken with ‘The Dance of Life’
- Patricia Cooksley with ‘Cowboys and Indians’
- Paul Mastaglio with ‘The Perfect Shot’
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.