Hello everyone and welcome to the sixty-first month of this competition. There were 53 entries from 22 authors for the theme of ‘the swimming pool’, a popular one this month. And as you’ll see more successful entries. (You’d think I’m feeling particularly generous but actually just less able to lose some great stories!)
One was disqualified for having an ‘any more’ (quantity) where it should have been ‘anymore’ (time). I have to be fair to everyone… sorry! It was the only entry from that author so they were disqualified*. What a shame. Another was disqualified for having ‘into’ twice which, removing one would have made it 99 words. Fortunately the author had submitted two other stories. NB You can all send in three stories for a better chance of being picked.
All three stories from one (regular) author were disqualified for being 97, 98 and only 81 words which was a shame. Another story, the only one by that author, was only 95 words. I can’t stress how important it is to ensure your story is the correct word count. They’re only 100 words long so you can do it manually or copy/paste onto something like www.wordcounter.net.
One story had full stops as ellipses (i.e. . . . instead of …) but fortunately the author hadn’t counted these as words and the story was 100 spot on. Another also had an ‘any more’ that should have been ‘anymore’ affected the word count (thankfully it wasn’t my favourite of the three submitted). ‘anymore’ is time whereas ‘any more’ is quantity so the latter is correct here. The easy(ish) way to remember is that quantity is usually followed by a noun, e.g. ‘Do you have any more cake?’ And anymore often appears at the end of a sentence, e.g. ‘I don’t want this anymore.’
One solo entry was unfortunately disqualified for having a hyphenated word that shouldn’t have been. Had the words been before the noun then it should have been. An example is: ‘the doctor on call’ vs ‘the on-call doctor’. https://www.lexico.com/definition/on_callprovides other examples. Tricky but again I have to be fair to everyone.
A new entrant had, on first view, sent four stories. The maximum is three so I was going to submit the first three only for judging until I saw the third was a resend of the first story with the title’s incorrect spelling corrected. Another entrant had sent two versions of the same story (with very minor alterations). The first version of a story goes through and a spelling error won’t see a story disqualified (that’s usually only for non-100 words – for no reason other than too short or long, or if a word is missing so would go over if added, or if a piece has not been written to the theme) but it’s always worth creating your story in another format first and reading and rereading it before you copy/paste it into my page’s form. If it’s a good enough story it won’t make a difference but does lose a brownie point. Another had ‘Mum’ (the name) as ‘mum’ (my/a mum) rather than capitalised. Again not disqualified for that but worth mentioning.
One story had a title that should have been hyphenated (A Girls-only Holiday). Titles aren’t included in the word count so that’s okay. The same author though had a word within a different story (cold induced) that should have been hyphenated so when it was corrected, it dropped the story to 99 words. The easiest way to know if a word should be hyphenated is whether either word can stand alone as an adjective. In this case it was ‘cold induced heart attack’. ‘cold heart attack’ wouldn’t make sense. Ditto ‘induced heart attack’. Although the latter is better, we need to know what the induction was. In this case it’s ‘cold’ so needs to be ‘cold-induced’.
Although one of an entrant’s three stories appealed to me the most, I chose a different story because it focussed more on the swimming pool rather than a brief mention. I’m sure (like to think) the stories were written for this competition but the closer to the theme a story is, the more likely it is to succeed over those who may have already existed but be tweaked for the relevant theme. Also, try not to make your story too cryptic. There were a couple this month where I read them and went “Huh?” Still the same reaction the second time so they sadly didn’t go through to the final judging.
Another story (one of two submitted) had ‘sole’ instead of ‘soul’. Again, not something that would disqualify a story but more losing a brownie point. I preferred the other story anyway so that went through. Another had ‘dove’ which https://www.lexico.com/definition/doveconfirms is the North American spelling of the past tense ‘dived’ so no error, although I always recommend having the spelling correct for wherever the story is set (if we know). Other observations:
- Where the speech has an unrelated dialogue tag, e.g. someone laughing, moving, smiling etc. (with it capitalised: “That one?” He laughed as she picked up the mug.) the punctuation should be a full stop rather than a comma. Had it been related description, it would be a comma (“That one?” he asked as she picked up the mug.). Note: that the ‘he asked’ would always be small ‘h’ even after a question mark, exclamation mark etc.
- 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.
- I also recommend not inverting dialogue tags (and there were some), e.g. ‘said Simon’ instead of ‘Simon said’. ‘said’ tends to blend so also better than more flowery expostulated, cried* etc. https://www.proofreadingservices.com/pages/said is a list of 272 (reasonable) alternatives, although it includes coughed, laughed and chortled where they aren’t directly speech verbs. *this is very much a personal preference but I do think ‘cried’ should only be when someone’s shedding tears.
- Where you have two characters of the same gender in the scene, it can be confusing with just ‘he, she, him, her’ etc. They should always refer to the last character mentioned, e.g. Emma and Tim went to visit her grandfather. He thought the man looked tired. = Tim thought…
- ‘feet’ should be foot when preceding a noun, i.e. a ten-foot pillar vs the pillar was ten feet tall.
- 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’.
- Technically, ‘now’ (‘by now’, ‘just now’ and ‘right now’) 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 in a piece and chopping where possible.
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 October is ‘creep’ and you can submit your entries (and do send three) at any time up to midnight (UK time) on Saturday 31st October. 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.
Darren York with ‘A Dead Cool Pool Party’
“My glass is empty man, fill her up now,” barked an inebriated Sinatra, irking Bogart and Monroe canoodling together on a sunlounger.
“Over here, waiter, without delay,” bawled an impatient Noel Coward, causing me to spill his martini.
Stan Laurel calmed him with a joke and he dived into the pool to cool off, watched by Kennedy, suspecting anyone and everyone. “Relax, John,” I said handing him a cocktail, “you’re dead now.”
Liberace plonked himself down at the piano and, ignoring a cacophony of groans, let rip with eager fingers.
Vera sang her song. We’ll meet again? I hope not.
Oliver Barton with ‘Left Behind’
Behind the Methodist chapel is the swimming pool. Was. There is only the chapel in the village (now a holiday cottage), the Post Office (closed last lifetime), the pub (the Last Resort). And this ex-pool, an insolent donation to the villagers by the self-appointed squire of yesterday. Now it is full of stuff: a shopping trolley, aspirations, dreams, abandoned hope. From a crack in the middle, springs a tree. Sycamore? Yggdrasil? Into its boughs, local youths have flung pairs of trainers that hang dangling, votive offerings to Lastbus, the God of Getting Away From Here. Alas, he went, aeons ago.
Sue Massey with ‘Fantasy Swimming’ (a tough choice between this and ‘Bikinis and Boys’)
Carrie dangled her feet over the edge. Cool water lapped at her calves. Through blue-tinted goggles the swimming pool became the Mediterranean Sea. She plopped into the water, took a gentle breath, and submerged. Little bubbles escaped from her nose and mouth. She was a submarine. Carrie loved that first gentle length. Tight muscles released, aching joints creaked into life, and her body tingled. After a thirty-minute swim, she took off for the Bahamas to soak up the heat of the sauna, then showered in the monsoons of India, dressed, and cycled off to work. Tomorrow she’d swim with dolphins.
Liz Aiken with ‘Who Defines What A Swimming Pool Is?’
It is the two-legged ones, the ‘hoomans’, I call them.
They like this game. I play to please. Finding, retrieving, and returning the ball. He tells Jo she will never be a bowler with her erratic throwing.
Exhausted by running, chasing the red ball. Panting with the heat instinct takes me towards…
NO! – resonates loudly through the air. With deaf ears, my four legs ignore the command. Water’s allure is irresistible – jumping into the pool I swim. They see a stagnate water, I see a cooling paradise.
Wagging my tail joyfully as they tell me I am a filthy dog.
Valerie Fish with ‘My Water Baby’
Living on the coast, we’d be in the water all year round, whatever the weather. We knew the tides, the dangers; you would have thought we’d be safe in a public swimming pool…
If only swimming caps hadn’t gone out of fashion. If only she’d tied her hair back…
The coroner concluded there was a fault with one of the filters; the council was heavily fined, and we were awarded compensation, but no amount of money could bring my precious girl back.
Now my little water baby is swimming with the angels.
I will never go in the water again.
- Anne Maguire with ‘Drained’
- Bailey Winters with ‘Endless’
- Dhananjay Bapat with ‘Primal Rage’
- Jane Brown with ‘Changing Colours’
- Jennie Cordner with ‘In at the Deep End’
- Joyce Bingham with ‘Be Careful What You Wish For’
- Julian Cadman with ‘The Ripple Effect’
Honourable mentions (not winning anything but only narrowly missing out and still looking good on their CV) – in alphabetical order:
- Cath Barton with ‘Moonlight Serenade’
- Clare Law with ‘The Pool in the House on the Island’
- Flissie with ‘Solly O’Sullivan’s Last Words’
- Laura Besley with ‘Chatter on the Sidelines’
- Lesley McLean with ‘The Drowning’
- Paul Mastaglio with ‘Horror by the Sea’
- Stef Smulders with ‘Cupcakes’
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.