Hello everyone and welcome to the seventy-second month of this competition. There were 46 entries from 22 authors for the theme of ‘an odd pairing’. NB You can all send in three stories for a better chance of being picked. As with most months
Please note: I have decided to cease the competition at the end of the year to free up time for my writing. It’ll have been 76 months in the making and a pleasure but sadly, as December’s prompt is going to be, ‘sometimes good things have to come to an end’. Any prizes won up to/including that point will still be honoured until the end of February 2022 so if you choose the editing option, get those stories written. 🙂 Speaking of which…
One was disqualified for only being 97 words. There were two exclamation marks which hadn’t been attached to the previous words but even so it would have only been 99. Shame. It had a three-word title so perhaps included. Another was 103 with no clear reason why, simply too many words. Another started as 100 words but dropped to 99 when ‘still warm’ washing was hyphenated. The author had sent in two other stories but one had two words with connecting ellipses but they still count as two words. When separated it made the story 101 words although there was technically a word too many (that’s all you do is talk = ‘that’s all you do’ or ‘all you do is talk’) so it could have been 100 words with the ‘that’s’ removed but not something the judge can do/does. An entrant’s only story was sadly disqualified for having ‘stubble covered’ legs and ‘clip on’ earrings, both of which should have been hyphenated. As should ‘too bold’ in another story. I have to be fair to everyone to stick to the grammatically correct word count.
- 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 action (verb) 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’.
- where 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 so: He laughed. ‘Say that again.’. Had it been related description, it would be a comma: ‘Say that again,’ he said while fiddling with his tie.
- 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’.
- https://www.lexico.com/definition/faint means barely perceptible, feeble, dizzy, to lose consciousness, have no idea (to not have the faintest) whereas https://www.lexico.com/definition/feint is a mock attack or the lines on printed paper.
- ellipses are one ‘character’ … rather than three individual full stops. Regardless of whether you put a word straight after them or have a space the two words () in this case count as two words.
- other than the likes of selfish, myself etc., most ‘self’ words are hyphenated. https://www.lexico.com/definition/self- provides a couple of examples. https://www.dailywritingtips.com/7-types-of-hyphenation-that-may-seem-wrong-but-aren’t also makes interesting reading. The same goes for ‘semi’ where most connecting adjectives (https://www.lexico.com/definition/semi-professional) are hyphenated (and therefore count as one word in a competition). Used alone it’s obviously not. See https://www.lexico.com/definition/semi.
- ‘out of the blue’ is a bit of a cliché. Clichés are okay (to a point) in dialogue but best avoided.
- 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’. We wouldn’t say ‘said I’ so the same applies when there’s a name rather than ‘I’. ‘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!’ If you have the character doing something then you don’t need the ‘said’ (or equivalent) tag – have the ‘doing’ (narration), e.g. Tony shook his head. ‘That’s not right.’. Or if we know who’s speaking – because there are only two people in a scene and the other has spoken then just have the dialogue. You can have up to three exchanges (He said/she said/he replied/she replied/he said/she said) without anything – as the reader is clever enough to keep up – before needing some narration or a ‘tag’.
I did a poll on Facebook back in June 2020 about this topic (https://www.facebook.com/morgenwriteruk/posts/3089287701133219) and there was a fair split on not liking (with some agreeing they’re not natural), not minding, not noticing and not needing so many (or any!) dialogue tags. I’m all for authors having a certain style but what we want to avoid is running the risk of alienating some readers, certainly by having too many and there were a lot of non-dialogue verbs (nodding, smiling etc), all of which I amended. As Ernest Hemingway is quoted as saying, ‘Easy reading is hard writing.’ And we both want as fluid a read as possible, especially for the hundredth reader (out of a hundred) who will pick up on everything.
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 September is ‘Harold goes shopping’ and you can submit your entries (and do send three) at any time up to midnight (UK time) on Thursday 30th September. 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.
Nicholas Marshall with ‘Reflection’
They gather each 31 December in their finest clothes for the ball to welcome the next year.
Joanna, whose beauty is famous, always attends with an aged companion whose flesh does not seem human.
Between dances, when they rest, none of the other revellers choose to approach them.
For this year’s celebration, the ballroom is redecorated and mirrors are installed on every wall.
Joanna arrives with her companion and as they sweep across the ballroom others stand still and gasp.
Seen in the mirrors, her companion is a dashing young man, easily the most handsome ever seen at the occasion.
Darren York with ‘Driving Miss Dolly’
A risky job but I was desperate for money.
I picked Dolly up at eleven. A ten-minute drive to the bank. She shuffled inside dragging a shopping trolley containing the shotgun.
Polite and apologetic but she meant business. No mess or fuss.
I was young and fresh out of prison whereas Dolly was in her late seventies.
I helped her back inside the car then floored it.
Back at her house she made me a cup of tea and gave me my cut.
“Would you like to work with me again?”
Of course I did.
“Same time tomorrow then. Biscuit?”
Denise Bayes with ‘The Glove Counter’
“I’m so sorry. You see when my sister opened them, they didn’t match.”
Cora nods at the gentleman. She remembers him, of course. So handsome. A present for his sister’s birthday. She had covered the counter with shaped hands in soft kid.
He had asked her which she would choose, had looked into her eyes with such intensity. She had guided him towards the coral.
“I apologise. I don’t know how it happened.”
But Cora does know. As she had slipped a grey glove alongside the pink, she knew he would have to return.
She looks up into his eyes.
Marcelo Medone with ‘Rufus & Juniper’
Rufus was the tallest man in the world. He had never found anyone to rival him in stature. Unfortunately, he had never found the love of his life.
Juniper was the smallest woman in the world. She lived alone in her little house, as small as she was, just outside the town where Rufus lived.
Life has its twists and turns. That’s something Rufus and Juniper learned the day their paths intersected.
Wandering aimlessly, Rufus arrived at Juniper’s house. Her heart skipped a beat. He stared at her, anxiously.
A feeling of sadness washed over them.
They never met again.
- Fiona McKay with ‘My Harvest’
- Harry Ballantyne with ‘A Pair of Tubes’
- Laura Besley with ‘Seeing Red’
- Raymond Brown with ‘Working The Streets’
- Sue Massey with ‘Pièce de résistance’
Honourable mentions (not winning anything but only narrowly missing out and still looking good on their CV) – in alphabetical order:
- Ash Nazir with ‘Happy Ending’
- Jim Latham with ‘Getting a Jump on Oaxacan Cuisine’
- Julie Gavin with ‘My One and Only’
- Wendy Howard with ‘Odd tastes, yet even, for the record’
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.