Hello everyone and welcome to the sixty-third month of this competition. There were 47 entries from 24 authors for the theme of ‘silence isn’t quite golden’.
And boy, a really strong month this time. There were several stories of loss so in another month they may well have been placed differently had there not been so many. The ones I chose were, to me, the more powerful ones. For me to read a story and go ‘wow’, that’s a very good sign.
When I receive the stories I copy/paste them into a Word document then read them in batches, placing them roughly where I think they may end up. It’s rare for me to have less than two winners, seconds, thirds, several highly commended and honourable mentions. I’m writing this at the point of my final whittling and I have three firsts, three seconds, four thirds, four highly commended and four honourable mentions. The latter, sadly, will have to go and the others staggered. I email them to my Kindle more than once as I rejig the order until I’m happy with the selection. It invariably means that some great stories are cut that may have been placed in other months and it’s especially true this time.
These are the ones that didn’t make even the first round…
- One was disqualified for only being 98 words. The title was three words so even if included would have been 101.
- A story lost a point for ‘creaked opened’ rather than ‘creaked open’ – a simple error. This sometimes happen with last-minute entries but it wasn’t the case this time. It didn’t affect the word count so it went through but was placed lower than it would have been without the error, and dropped off the list, which is a shame, especially as it was that author’s only entry – why it’s always worth sending three.
- Another lost a brownie point for ‘laying’ (placing something) instead of ‘lying’ (being horizontal). To lie is ‘I lay’ in simple past tense but in present tense, people lie, chickens lay. If you are putting down an object, you lay it down. If you are having a rest, you lie on the sofa. In past perfect, it would be ‘lain’ (people), ‘laid’ (object). http://www.quickanddirtytips.com/education/grammar/lay-versus-lie.
- A great story had an ‘of’ missing (little bit plain fun) so would have been 101 and therefore had to be disqualified, another shame as it was a solo entry and a great story. Another, again a solo entry, was disqualified for having a word too many (before they were commanded them to stop) – the ‘were’ or ‘them’ should have been removed, making it 99 words. 😦
- One was disqualified for incorrect word count for having unhyphenated ‘eight month old dogs’. 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.
- Another, unfortunately from the same author, was disqualified for having two ‘to’s together, reducing the story to 99 words by removing one.
- where a word is a generic noun rather than a name (e.g. ‘the doctor’ vs Doctor Smith – ‘a goddess’ in this case) there should be a small first letter.
- when referring to family, mum/mom and dad should be capitalised when used as a name, e.g. “I know, Mum/Mom.” When used as a ‘job’, e.g. my mum/mom, my dad, my doctor etc. then it should be a small m, d etc. NB. There’s a comma before ‘Mum/Mom’ here because when you’re writing someone’s name – and a nickname or term of endearment counts as a name – when another character is speaking to them, 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.
- in my writing I add commas where a reader would breathe if reading the piece aloud, which I always recommend the author do too, especially where a scene feels flat or you think it doesn’t work for whatever reason. Tip: although grammatically correct, I recommend that 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.
- careful of too many adverbs, especially in short pieces like these (one had four). Where dialogue shows us how something’s said then we don’t need an adverb with the verb, or replace the whole thing with a stronger verb (e.g. ‘Get out!’ he snapped… rather than …he said angrily).
- there weren’t too many clichés this time. Even something as simple as sitting ‘bolt upright’ is a bit of a cliché so best avoided. No points lost but definitely worth choosing something original.
The winning stories are ones that I reacted most favourably to (despite the two ‘was’s in the first sentence of one of them). 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 December is ‘the winter summer holiday’ and you can submit your entries (and do send three) at any time up to midnight (UK time) on Thursday 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.
Douglas Goodrich with ‘The Lost Oscar’
She always sits in the same seat every day, looking out at the large oak tree, outside the recreation room’s bay window. Gorgeous in her old age.
Margarette Felton is how she was known in Hollywood. Daisy Hinkler is how she grew up in Paris, Texas. Before the spoken words on screen, she was a goddess. Commanding a thousand dollars a week when others worked in sweatshops for a quarter of the salary.
But the elusive Oscar is what haunts her still today. She never won the gold. If only she’d have transitioned to the talkies, but silently she mourns.
Stef Smulders with ‘Animal Love’
When I bought the house, I hadn’t noticed next door’s dogs, five ferocious Rottweilers locked up in a tiny back garden.
Now their fights and endless waves of roars keep me awake at night.
“I’m afraid to approach them myself,” my neighbor said with a weird smile. Two sleeve tattoos covered his arms.
Then, one night, all is silent. A miracle! I go outside, curious to know why. Near the fence, I hear smacking noises. The dogs are eating.
The ‘I Love Dogs’ tattoo lighting up in the beam of my lantern tells me more than I want to know.
Anne Maguire with ‘New Start’
Jean was my new neighbour and was very chatty. “It’s lovely and quiet here, you’ll not be bothered by noisy kids or music.”
I wanted to tell her how I missed the sound of kids, of Sally playing her flute – really badly – and me smiling proudly. How I missed her incessant chatter about life at eight and all its intricacies. How I missed her shouting about how awful a mum I was.
Alex says I’ve not to keep bringing it up. This is a new start, he says. They don’t need to keep hearing about a dead child, he says.
Paul Mastaglio with ‘A Christmas Break’
Captain Ben Johnson made his way carefully along the trench. Where was everybody? Carelessly discarded mess tins littered the dusty floor while a helmet sat abandoned next to sandbags. There were no hushed conversations as cigarettes were rolled. No scraping sounds as weapons were cleaned. Nothing moved.
His reverie was broken by the sound of loud cheering coming from above. Ben hastily climbed a ladder and looked across no man’s land. British and German soldiers were chasing each other as they competed for possession of an old leather football. A smile creased his lips. Why couldn’t Christmas Day last forever?
Jane Brown with ‘To Boldly Go’
‘Why did you become an astronaut?’ the reporter asked.
‘To explore new places and stick flags on planets,’ I replied grinning.
I lied. I wanted to get away from Mother. The constant phone calls and visits had become unbearable. Even moving to a different country hadn’t helped. Funnily enough, she had been silent recently, ever since I’d told her I was leaving Earth.
I gazed into the blackness as an unexpected rocket approached my ship.
‘Surprise!’ Mother’s voice crackled over the comms. ‘I become an astronaut too! Isn’t it going to be fun up here? Just the two of us.’
Julian Cadman with ‘Silence Speaks Volumes’
Silence isn’t quite golden, when awaiting her call after giving out your number.
Silence isn’t quite golden, after you’ve told her parents what you do for a living.
Silence isn’t quite golden, when you’ve just proposed.
Silence isn’t quite golden, after your best man’s told what he thought was an acceptable anecdote during his speech.
Silence isn’t quite golden, when you wake up and realise you’ve forgotten to switch on the baby monitor.
Silence isn’t quite golden, after you’ve asked the consultant if it’s curable.
Silence isn’t quite golden, when stepping through the front door alone for the first time.
- Bob Cairns with‘A Prayer Falls on Deaf Ears’
- Cath Barton with‘The Angelic Glow’
- Joyce Bingham with‘When Will You Leave, When Will You Tell?’
- Katie Jones with‘The Silent Partner’
Honourable mentions (not winning anything but only narrowly missing out and still looking good on their CV) – in alphabetical order:
- Alan Barker with‘Oh Dear, What Can The Matter Be?’
- Carol Allison with‘The Commuters’
- Darren York with‘Noose’
- Michael Harries with‘Cwtch’
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.