Hello everyone and welcome to the sixty-eighth* month of this competition, a huge one this time. There were a staggering 94 entries from 40 authors for the theme of ‘learning something new’’. So with only a small amount of places there were sure to be some that were really good but missed out.
NB You can all send in three stories for a better chance of being picked. *bit of trivia: eighth is the only word in the English language that ends ‘hth’. 🙂
As happens occasionally, some stories were great but had little or nothing to do with the theme or there were a few similar (learning to ride a bike and paint – not at the same time 🙂 – were popular). There were a few this month and they’re likely ones that missed out.
One story was disqualified for only being 95 words (some of the ‘some thing’s corrected to ‘something’. It arrived at 96 but had ‘about’ twice together so remove one… Another from the same author was disqualified for the same reason. Fortunately the third story was 100 words exactly so went through to the judging. Or so I thought… I read it and realised it had a word missing, ending with ‘What to with him?’ What a shame.
Ditto another story that was missing an ‘a’ (he was qualified guide dog) which would have taken it to 101. It’s a shame as it was my favourite story from that author. Another regular submitted three with one at 101 so that was disqualified.
Another went to 99 as ‘silver bodied’ should have been hyphenated and another story to 101 for ‘upside-down’ without a noun following (, i.e. it was upside down rather than an upside-down cake https://www.lexico.com/definition/upside_down). The easiest way to tell if something should be is whether each word makes sense on its own. A ‘silver fish’ would but ‘bodied fish’ wouldn’t have.
Another 99-word story was so because ‘mocking bird’ should be one word (as it’s the name rather than any type of bird that mocks). https://www.lexico.com/definition/mockingbird It’s a shame as it was my favourite of the three stories sent by that author but another was a strong piece so that went through.
Finally, a new entrant to the competition missed out with their only submission as it was a word short. Such a shame.
- 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.
- 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 Sam?’ is asking if the person knows someone called Sam. ‘Do you know, Sam?’ means that the character is speaking to someone called Sam 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.
- when a character asks a question (using a question mark) or shouting (exclamation mark), then the he/she said would still be small ‘h’ or ‘s’. If we have the character doing something or it’s obvious who’s speaking then you could remove the s/he said.
- 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.
- I come across a lot of dialogue narration where it implies a character is speaking and smiling, grinning etc. at the same time. This is particularly difficult. Although ‘said’ blends better than more unusual verbs, there can still be too many. Where you have something like: “I like it,” Laura said, smiling. “I like it.” Laura smiled. Or better still: Laura smiled. “I like it.” So we know it’s Laura speaking before she speaks. As https://www.geist.com/writers/writers-toolbox/gerunds-and-participles-avoid-ing-words says less (‘ing’s) is definitely more.
- I’m a stickler for unintended repetition, some of which may feel rather pedantic – should you ever have anything critiqued by me – but I listen to the document on my Kindle (Fire’s text to speech), alongside reading it on the screen, and certain words or phrases leap out. In one of the stories, there were two ‘empty’s which may have been intentional but it jarred with me (sorry!). A touching story though so it went through.
- me vs I / I vs me / me vs. I / I vs. me etc.: the easy way to work out whether something should be I or me is to remove the ‘xxx and’ or ‘xxx and’. If it still makes sense, then you’re fine. An example would be ‘Adam and I are going shopping.’ Changing the plural verb to singular, it would be ‘I am going shopping.’ You wouldn’t say ‘Me and Adam are going shopping’ because you wouldn’t say ‘Me is going shopping.’
- 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.
- words often overused include ‘all’, ‘now’, ‘very’ and ‘just’. There were four ‘just’s in one of the stories. 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.
- 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’.
- when we have someone’s/something’s age, we don’t usually 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 a noun (or implied), e.g. a fourteen-year-old girl / a fourteen-year-old. 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.
- when speaking to someone and using a name, nickname or term of endearment (which counts as a name), generalisation (guys, ladies etc.), 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.
- 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’.
- some stories were really well written with intriguing plots but their endings let them down. ‘oh’ or ‘huh?’ are not good reactions. While you may not always get ‘wow’, you certainly want ‘ooh’.
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 May is ‘going round in circles’ and you can submit your entries (and do send three) at any time up to midnight (UK time) on Monday 31st May. 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.
Laura Besley with ‘Sliding Scale’
You can learn to cry so no-one on the ward can hear you, you can learn to find positions in bed so you’re in slightly less pain, you can learn to enjoy the hospital food, you can learn to be less embarrassed about a bed bath, you can learn to abide the physio’s chirpiness, you can learn to be happy you can take a few steps.
You can’t learn a word that means thank you for rescuing me, caring for me, sitting with me, supporting me, saving me. It doesn’t exist.
You say thank you, and hope it is enough.
Jane Brown with ‘A Mother’s Applause’
“Every girl in our family could do a backflip by ten years,” Mum said. “If I can’t teach you, I’ll be letting down our ancestors.”
“Chill, Mum,” I said, laughing.
She rolled her wheelchair closer. “I know you can do it, Annabelle! Be confident.” She coughed and smiled. “I’ll find a way – somehow – to show how proud I am when you do it for the first time.”
Two months later, I stood on the grass, bent my knees and did it. A perfect backflip.
Stunned, I turned to her tombstone. It was covered in white butterflies, all flapping their wings.
Mary Lawton with ‘Non-traditional’
Tom hears the whispers and sniggers as he makes his way to a seat in the lecture theatre.
“Isn’t he too old for this class?”
“Mature students are the pits.”
“Let’s hope there’s a First-Aider here. He looks like he’ll fall over any minute.”
Sighing, Tom sits back.
“If I get him as a partner, I’m quitting this class.”
“Yeah, it’s probably a hobby to him, not like us. That generation makes me sick.”
Tom stands, then walks to the lectern.
“Welcome to Sociology: Tolerance and Intolerance in 21st Century Society, a necessary learning experience for many of you.”
David Klotzkin with ‘A Lesson in Photorealism’
“My *pictures* of flowers attract bees,” said Famous Artist tipsily (while the bees hummed over his drink garnish).
Chuck thought he could draw that well, with practice.
Later, he showed Famous Artist a pastoral sketch of a deer and a tiger in a flowery meadow.
“So? No bees.” Famous Artist sniffed.
Then paper bees flew from the paper and buzzed away, seeking the sea and alphabetical order. The tiger bounded out, saw Famous Artist, and fled, terrified (he was just a paper tiger). The deer walked daintily from the picture into the field, leaving behind a paper trail.
Anne-Marie Smith with ‘Playing the yoyo’
- Julian Cadman with ‘Put Off Course’
- Lorna Stewart with ‘A Self-educated Man’
- Nina Steer with ‘Too old, they said’
- Tony Cleaver with ‘Inflated Expectations’
- Tracey-anne Plater with ‘Hermit Crabs’
Honourable mentions (not winning anything but only narrowly missing out and still looking good on their CV) – in alphabetical order:
- Clare Law with ‘I learned to cook with Mama’
- Darren York with ‘Paint a Vulgar Picture’
- David Filce with ‘Sarah’
- Elyse Russell with ‘Blue and Green’
Helen Sant with ‘The Thief Whose Heart Was Stolen’
- Kaitlin Woodland with ‘Camping Blunders’
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.