Dedicated to Jane Wenham-Jones, a great friend, wonderful lady who always had a smile on her face. I hope she knew how much she was loved and will be missed.
Hello everyone and welcome to the seventy-first month of this competition. There were 61 entries from 27 authors for the theme of ‘an unusual healing’. NB You can all send in three stories for a better chance of being picked.
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 being 101 words; two sentences together with no space so when separated, the last/first words became two. Another was the same and simply had an extra word. It was then resent at the correct word count but sadly the rules state that the first version is the one accepted so both were disqualified. Another was 99 words as ‘finger nails’ is one word (https://www.lexico.com/definition/fingernail). That entrant had sent in five stories, where the max in one month is three, so the subsequent two were disqualified. One would have been anyway for having ‘ten year old boy’ instead of ‘ten-year-old boy’ which brought the word count to 98.
Another author’s submission was 99 words. There was a hyphenated word (after-lunch) so that could have been counted as two. Another was 101 for having ‘each other’ hyphenated.
One story lost a brownie point for having ‘clock strike’ rather than ‘clock strikes’ but an easy mistake to make. Another (same author) lost a point for ‘a air’ (an air) but it was disqualified anyway for having ‘with head wound’ rather than ‘with a head wound’ which makes it 101 words.
- 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’.
- some stories had ‘no one’ as two words or ‘no-one’ as one word. Both are acceptable.
- careful of unintended repetition. One story lost a point for having two ‘now’s close together. technically, ‘now’ (‘by now’, ‘just now’, ‘right now’, ‘at the moment’, ‘at this moment’) is present tense, which is fine in dialogue but not in past tense narration. Had the narration been present tense, we still don’t need the ‘now’ because it’s technically happening now. All, now, very and just are often overused so I recommend, especially in a longer piece, seeing how many you have and chopping where possible.
- 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’.
- indirect (detached) action is where something is done by or to an object rather than character. i.e. have the character (Ted) throw the ball rather than say ‘The ball was thrown by Ted’. Also instead of saying ‘Ted saw the train speeding towards the car’, having the train speeding towards the car means you’re closer to the action.
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 August is ‘an odd pairing’ and you can submit your entries (and do send three) at any time up to midnight (UK time) on Tuesday 31st August. 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.
Joint first place (each 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 £30 / $42):
Coralie Kavanagh with ‘The Stranger’
‘Shall I jump with you?’
Startled, she realised someone was talking to her. Her feet dangled precariously over the cliff edge, her body rigid, her face set.
‘Do what you like.’ She couldn’t care less.
‘I’m sick of living, just heartbreak. Let me come. Please. Better to go together. I’ll hold your hand.’
‘Hold my hand?’ That broke her. Emotion flooded her being, tears streamed from her surprised eyes, and she understood. She wanted to live! So determined had she been to end it all.
Carefully swinging her legs to safety, she turned to her stranger.
There was no-one there.
Jane Broughton with ‘Cultivation isn’t always civilised’
He called her ‘Rosebud’, stroked her satin and cradled her potential with cupped hands. The smell of loam embraced and nurtured her. She swelled, growing steadily as she arched towards the sun. The day she blossomed she burst like a supernova. Her fragrance swirled, escaping the confinement of her crimson corset.
The garden was slick with rain. He sighed as he plucked her. Rain bounced down, pebbles pounding the parched flowerbed. Petals cascaded, bruises bloomed. In her dreams there were always thorns, rusty red spikes hidden in everyday detritus. She tasted blood and welcomed the quiet healing of his absence.
Second place (winning free access to two of my online creative writing courses (currently worth £40 / $40) or a free edit and critique of up to 1,500 words (worth £22.50 / $31.50):
Fiona McKay with ‘An Unusual Haunting’
My mother comes back to haunt. As a fly. Every time I eat outside – a melting ice cream cone or bag of vinegary chips – there she is, buzzing me, in circles.
In the end, I buy a sticky fly-strip and drape it beside me as I tuck into an aromatic garden meal.
When the buzzing stops, I set the paper beside a perfect web and watch as the fly is slowly coated, crisscrossed, laced up with silk – then eaten.
I’m less hungry now, less alert for her buzzing: concentrating on the conversation. But what I eat, I now enjoy.
Joint third place (each winning free access to one of my online creative writing courses (currently worth £20 / $20) or a free edit and critique of up to 1,000 words (worth £15 / $21):
Denise Bayes with ‘The One You Left Me For’
I knew you would be here. Find you across the gaggle of mourners, balancing cups beside tiny plates of cake.
I have never met you. And yet I know you.
Our eyes lock.
I have hated you for so long. Sunday nights when the children returned full of how much better your cooking was, how much kinder you were. Their careless comparisons poked deep into my heart.
Like that first time. When he said he had found love with you.
You smile. The people move apart as I walk towards you.
We embrace each other, joined in our grief.
Nicholas Marshall with ‘Slimy and Yucky’
“Will it be us today?” Slimy asks.
“Might be,” Yucky replies.
Suddenly a scoop is plunged into their tank and they are lifted out so fast it makes them feel giddy.
Carried with many strangers in the darkness of a box, they hate their long journey.
At last they arrive at the hospital and know it is time for work.
Soon they are busy and slowly becoming bloated.
After forty minutes they fall back from the healing wound.
“Wow, we did such an amazing job,” Yucky says.
“Try to get this into proper perspective,” Slimy responds. “We’re only medical leeches.”
Highly commended (winning my Entering Writing Competitions course worth £20 / $20) or a free edit and critique of up to 1,000 words (worth £15 / $21) – in alphabetical order:
- Jim Latham with ‘Carnitas Tacos’
- Joan Reed with ‘Beside the Sea’
- Liz Hardie with ‘Puppy Power’
- Sue Massey with ‘Ouch’
- Tracey-anne Plater with ‘Sylvester’s Gone’
Honourable mentions (not winning anything but only narrowly missing out and still looking good on their CV) – in alphabetical order:
- Anthony Ramsawak with ‘The Gift’
- Christine Law with ‘Jemma’
- Dillon Trinh with ‘Roger and Roger’
- Douglas Goodrich with ‘Here Comes the Rain Again’
- Wendy Howard with ‘Loco-motive’
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 can’t discuss forthcoming entries unless it’s a general query.