Hello everyone and welcome to the seventieth month of this competition. There were 56 entries from 22 authors for the theme of ‘the tourist trap’. 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 with no obvious reason for the extra word. Another had too but original included as one word (catch’em) so increased when separated. Fortunately in both cases the authors had submitted at least one more story of the correct word count so they went through.
One story was submitted twice (with a slightly different title and a few days apart) so the first one was accepted, as per the rules.
An author’s final story (submitted a few days after the other two) was only 95 words but with a five-word title (coincidence?) so was disqualified. The other two were 100 exactly so a sad blip.
A piece was disqualified for having ‘chewing gum’ hyphenated. Making them two words took it to 101. Had they preceded a noun, e.g. ‘a chewing-gum smile’ it would have been fine. The same went for ‘already deceased Philip’. I’d placed this joint second then noticed and disqualified it, a real shame.
The easiest way to know whether something should be hyphenated is to check whether each word would work before the noun, e.g. ‘a chewing smile’ or ‘a gum smile’ in this case. They don’t (in theory) so it would need the hyphen. The complication is when one of the words is an _ly adverb.
Another was disqualified for having ‘slow moving vehicles’ instead of ‘slow-moving’. There were still two stories to choose from. ‘to’ is a very simple word but also simple to get wrong. A story lost a brownie point for having ‘I don’t want too’ instead of ‘…to’ and had a full stop at the end of dialogue preceding a dialogue ‘tag’ (whispered) but that’s easily done.
- 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. One story was disqualified for having ‘Seventy-eight year old’ which when conjoined then made 98 words. Sorry but I have to be fair to everyone.
- Decades, when written in digits, don’t need apostrophes because they’re plural rather than something belonging to them, e.g. the man’s wife. Had it been, say, a 1970’s car then it would have an apostrophe because it’s a car belonging to the 1970s or someone being in their 20s (which is better as twenties so the text blends rather than stands out). As full text they’re a standard noun so seventies, eighties, nineties etc.
- https://www.lexico.com/en/definition/hoard is ‘a bulk of items often kept secret’ whereas https://www.lexico.com/en/definition/horde is ‘a large group of people’. A misspelling may lose a brownie point but it’s a cruel judge who disqualifies your story because of it.
- 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’.
- Where the speech has an unrelated dialogue tag, e.g. someone laughing, moving, smiling, waving, blushing 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.
- 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’.
- Like ‘dear’, and other endearments, ‘sir’ is only capitalised when used as a name, e.g. ‘Thank you, Sir Lancelot.’ rather than ‘Thank you, sir.’ Ditto madam – see https://www.lexico.com/en/definition/madam.
- If you’re going to have a twist, I recommend leaving it until the last sentence, especially with such a short word count. Plus the shorter the sentence the more impact they make which is especially important at the end of a paragraph. Also the stronger the final word the better as the nearer a word is to the end the more memorable it is / impact it has. Where there’s dialogue and narration, I usually recommend the narration going first so what’s said has more impact.
- 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. If you wanted a secondary adjective emphasised then use the first comma but add a second (a ear-piercing, continuous, scream) so the secondary adjective is highlighted. I recommend having neither.
- The drink Coke is a trademark name so should be capitalised. The generic equivalent would be cola with a small c. Ditto coke as in cocaine.
- ‘that’ – like ‘that was’, ‘which was’, and ‘who was’ – can often be chopped. If the remaining text makes as much sense with or without it, it can come out.
- Where you have two (or more) 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. ‘Denny lacked a white horse, but he’d parked his motorbike’, as an example from one of this month’s stories could be read as the horse parking a motorbike. Animals are usually ‘it’ rather than ‘he’ or ‘she’ until we know the gender but anything that could potentially pull a reader out of the story is best avoided. In another story there was ‘I speak Italian to the gondolier, tapping the sides of the vessel. I smile when she looks at me…’ where the ‘she’ meant the narrator’s companion but again the gondolier could have been female, we’re not told.
- It’s always difficult, as a writer, to know how readers are going to interpret your writing. In one of my favourite stories there was ‘There was no hot water and the welcome package, a selection of cheeses and nuts, was missing.’ It made me wonder – as it’s missing, how the narrator knew what it was. It is, however, the perfect opportunity for me to mention that negatives work really well. We often write about what’s there but rarely what’s missing. This was a nice touch.
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 July is ‘an unusual healing’ and you can submit your entries (and do send three) at any time up to midnight (UK time) on Saturday 31st July. 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.
First place (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). This story can be read downwards as two separate entities (columns) or one horizontal piece. Very clever.
James A. Beaumont with ‘The Tower Plot
I’m sealed in This bloody tower! I’m here
and there’s nothing I can do to score points with her
but think about what I’ve done so that maybe tomorrow, if I’m
to deserve this treatment, about how un lucky, maybe I’ll get laid.
Prepared we all were. Caught in Hell, I’ve been learning
the act: there were twelve of us, and they’re history, the gunpowder plot,
celebrating now probably, planning different dates – all stuff to impress her with.
schemes – never had one to begin with. But man, this place, this waiting
This bitter end of Death is so god damn boring.
Joan Reed with ‘Travelling Back’
A weekend in ghostly York. Exciting. I explored everything from Castle Museum to markets.
I noticed an intriguing antique shop with dimpled windows, in a busy street below the shadow of the Minster. As I opened the door, a bell tinkled, and I shivered at the coldness.
A small girl sat on the counter dressed in white. A blue sash matched her eye colour. Her face, pale and unsmiling seemed to search mine.
The doorbell tinkled. I glanced round. Nobody entered.
Looking back, the girl had vanished.
I moved to leave the shop. Locks clicked into place.
The bell tinkled.
Nicholas Marshall with ‘Caught’
When the animals hear a plane landing on the airstrip they begin to gather behind bushes near the dirt road.
Soon a safari minibus carrying ten tourists bounces towards them and a cheetah lies down in the road with legs in the air.
The vehicle skids to a halt and the tourists cautiously gather round the big cat which appears lifeless.
Suddenly the other animals rush out from behind the bushes and throw a large net over the tourists.
The driver of the minibus winks at the cheetah which stands and stretches.
Eventually the tourists will become used to captivity.
- David Filce with ‘Return to Childhood’
- Douglas Goodrich with ‘Interplanetary Knock-Off’
- Gemma Roche with ‘The Entrepreneur’
- Isabel Flynn with ‘Will I, or won’t I?’
- Jeremy Chotzen with ‘Beware of the girls at the gates’
- Sue Massey with ‘We never complain’
- Wendy Howard with ‘The Trapper’
Honourable mentions (not winning anything but only narrowly missing out and still looking good on their CV) – in alphabetical order:
- Denise Bayes with ‘A Family Business’
- Helen Sant with ‘Knight in Shining Leather’
- Kyle Barratt with ‘Exit Through the Gift Shop’
- Lestie Mulholland with ‘Parisian Gewgaws’
- Liz Hardie with ‘The Look Looked Man’
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.