Hello everyone and welcome to the sixtieth! month of this competition. My apologies for it being so late this month… it’s been a manic one.
There were 41 entries from 22 authors for the theme of ‘update’, with the complication of not being able to start a sentence with a pronoun (the characters’ names, I, You, He or She, A/The (thing or person)).
Three, unfortunately all from the same entrant, were disqualified for being 98, 99 and 101 words. The lower two had punctuation separated from words so when reconnected, they brought down the word count. Another was disqualified for having a word missing (‘what they WERE talking about’) which would have made it 101. It’s a simple error and should have been detected before submission. Fortunately the entrant submitted another story which went through to the judging. This wasn’t the case however for another entrant who was disqualified for the same reason (cruel as TO take) and it was their only story. This is why it’s always worth submitting three.
Another entry had a word (https://www.lexico.com/definition/spaceship) as two words so when conjoined made the story 99 words. I have to be fair to everyone so it’s always worth checking sites like lexico.com if you’re in doubt. And another story had a ‘that’ missing. I’m all for chopping ‘that’s but not when the rest of it is incorrect or doesn’t make sense. 😦
I noticed that a few stories had inverted dialogue tags, some where the verb isn’t a dialogue verb, e.g. smiled, laughed, coughed… basically any action that’s directly connected with the speaking. While a publisher is unlikely to reject a story for that reason, I highly recommend
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.
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 ‘the swimming pool’ and you can submit your entries (and do send three for a better chance) at any time up to midnight (UK time) on Wednesday 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.
Carmina McConnell with ‘Befriended’
Thank you for your purchase of the update for household robot ‘Dreamer’. Model 2023 has a host of new features surpassing any other on the market. Let me talk you through these. First: a flying control so your ‘Dreamer’ can now keep your ceilings spotless alongside the former floors and upholstery cleaning facilities. Next: the new culture button ensures you will never again venture outdoors into unhealthy arts venues. Finally: the ‘companionship’ mode is now so sophisticated that all former friendships become obsolete. Don’t worry about the update payment: ‘Dreamer’ Model 2023 has already taken control of all your finances.
Stef Smulders with ‘Mail Order’
When she first presented Robbie to her friends, they were thrilled.
“Wow, Carrie, you found the ideal man! Where? How?”
“Through mail order,” Carrie answered.
All burst into laughter.
It hadn’t been all that easy. Searching the dark web for hours, days, weeks on end. Copy-pasting Chinese texts to Google Translate. But it had been worth the effort.
Although the instructions clearly stated that the robot was not programmed for sex, Carrie couldn’t resist the perfection of Robbie’s body, his muscles, the smooth skin.
“What are we doing?” Robbie asked, Carrie on top of him.
“Just updating your software, Rob.”
Darren York with ‘A Job Worth Doing’
Blue jeans; red top; blond hair, glasses and slight limp. Shops every morning after dropping his wife off at work. Quick hello, before one slice across the throat does the job. Step back before a crimson fountain stains the shoes. Escape in car.
Message update: do not kill. Abort job.
Return to scene stemming bleed with scarf. Target still breathing; still alive. Call ambulance; he’ll live.
Message update: good to go again.
Follow ambulance to the hospital. Wait around posing as doctor; turning off life support. Get out. Another bloody update… drop my phone into river… updating my curriculum vitae.
‘Just a flying visit,’ she’d texted, ‘on our way to the coast. Be with you for coffee at eleven. Don’t go to any trouble.’
Knowing how particular my sister was, I went to considerable trouble and baked biscuits, iced them too.
At 10.45 on the day she sent a message: ‘Delayed setting off. With you by lunchtime.’
Panic stations! Shop-bought was never good enough for Yvonne. More baking, with me getting hotter than the oven.
At 12.45 another update pinged in: ‘Sorry, no time to stop, children mad for the beach.’
Mad didn’t begin to cover the way I felt.
- Carol Allison with ‘The Home Office’
- Joyce Bingham with ‘The Hit Man’
- Laura Besley with ‘Awakening’
- Lestie Mulholland with ‘Incommunicado’
- Wendy Hayko with ‘After Life’
Honourable mentions (not winning anything but only narrowly missing out and still looking good on their CV) – in alphabetical order:
- CJ Nicol with ‘King of the Castle’
- Elena Canty with ‘A Different Kind of Virus’
- Patricia Cooksley with ‘Introducing Eric’
- Yvonne Mastaglio with ‘Waste of Time’
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.