Hello everyone and welcome to the sixty-ninth month of this competition. There were 48 entries from 22 authors for the theme of ‘going round in circles’, a particularly strong month this time. 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. 🙂
One was disqualified for having ‘over grown’ instead of overgrown, taking the story down to 99. It actually started as 101 but had ‘carry on’ as a noun (a carry-on) – it’s a verb as two words, so connected it took the story down to 100 but then I go to ‘over grown’ and it was game…er, over. 🙂 Another (from the same author) had a comma separated so when conjoined it brought the story down to 99. Fortunately the third story was 100 so that went through. It’s always worth sending three, just in case. One entry was submitted twice so the first was accepted, the second deleted.
Another story was disqualified for only being 99 words. There was a section separation asterisk which is punctuation so not counted as a word so this must have been the reason. The author had sent two other stories but one was 98 words because of an asterisk and …ellipses. The third story had two words hyphenated (double-doors in addition to ‘double-door louvre’ which was correct) where they shouldn’t have been, making it 101 words so all three stories were disqualified. I have to be fair to everyone to stick with the correct grammar. 😦
Almost the same thing happened to another author; two 99-word stories, one with a dash, the other ellipses. The third story went through.
One author submitted one story which was sadly disqualified for ‘high top trainers’ where ‘high top’ should have been hyphenated, bringing the story down to 99 words. The easiest way to tell is whether ‘high trainers’ or ‘top trainers’ would have made sense on their own. This is why I always recommend submitting three stories. Another solo entry was disqualified for have Facebook as two words.
I always recommend reading and rereading your stories several times. One story started as 100 words but had a ‘a’ or ‘the’ missing (I have played xxx record). The entrant had submitted two other stories so they went through.
One (of three) story lost a brownie point for having ‘bother’ instead of ‘brother’ but it was disqualified anyway for being 99 words (incidentally had two sets of ellipses). Ditto another story with ellipses which originally sat separate to a word which regardless doesn’t count as a word so made the story 99 words. The author had submitted two other stories so they went through.
- When speaking to someone and using a name, nickname or term of endearment (which counts as a name), generalisation (guys, ladies etc.), you’d need a comma before the name, i.e. ‘Do you know John?’ is asking if the person knows someone called John. ‘Do you know, John?’ means that the character is speaking to someone called John but asking them if they know something. A subtle difference but you want to avoid confusing the reader so they jump out of the story.
- When referring to family, mum/mom, dad, gran, uncle, aunt etc. should be capitalised when used as a name, e.g. “I know, Mum/Mom.” When used as a ‘job’, e.g. my mum/mom, my dad, my doctor etc. then it should be a small m, d etc.
- Although grammatically correct, I recommend that 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.
- 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 there are only two people in a scene chatting, you don’t need too many ‘said’s (or equivalent). Once it’s been established who’s first to speak, the reader can follow for a while. You can then use description, e.g. have a character do something before needing to add a said ‘tag’.
- Be careful of having too many paragraphs (or indeed sentences) starting with pronouns (e.g. I, he, she, the character’s name). Even if they’re quite long paragraphs so they don’t leap out, it’s something to be mindful of. So if a section feels a bit flat, it could be that you have too many sentences / paragraphs starting with a pronoun, e.g. ‘Barry did this…’ or ‘He did that…’, or that you have too much narration (Andy was angry) vs. dialogue or the character ‘doing’, e.g. “Get out!” Andy slammed his fist onto the desk.
- One story had the main character’s name nine times. 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) but the only other characters mentioned were ‘parents’ so have the relevant name instead of he/she next but ‘she’ from then on. A story might be marked down but certainly not disqualified for this. The story in this case though had less of a connection to the theme than many of the others so unfortunately missed out for that reason.
- teatowel / tea-towel is another error I come across occasionally. As https://www.lexico.com/definition/tea_towel shows, it’s two words so a story missed out for therefore being 101 words.
- Stopping something or someone ‘in his / her tracks’ is a big cliché (as would be ‘stopping dead’).
- A comma is generally not needed where ‘too’, ‘al/though’, ‘n/either’, ‘then’ and other conjunctions / conjunctives ends the sentence. It would if the remainder of the sentence made sense on its own, e.g. ‘Tom wasn’t finished in Glasgow, though he only wanted to go home.’ Commas slow the pace but I generally include them where a reader would take a breath.
- I love stories with a twist but do recommend not have the title of the piece giving away that twist, as a couple of the stories did this month. Also leave the twist until as late in the story as possible for the ‘oomph!’.
- I try to chop commas where I can, i.e. where there wouldn’t be a natural pause (adjectives before a noun) but there are times when they’re needed to avoid confusion. In one story there was ‘pulls a lever, they notice he has no face’. Without the comma it could be read that they’d noticed a lever.
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 June is ‘the tourist trap’ and you can submit your entries (and do send three) at any time up to midnight (UK time) on Wednesday 30th June. 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) in alphabetical order:
Colleen E. Kennedy with ‘The Cave’
All of a sudden, you knew that this wasn’t the correct way. The twisted woods became darker and more menacing with each step. The path ended abruptly at the mouth of a yawning cave.
Yet, you knew this place: you’d been here before. And you recalled you had died in this cave before, and you had died many times before. But you knew that you would always find yourself at the forked path again, able to choose left or right.
To explore the cave, please turn to page 39.
To turn back the way you came, turn to page 87.
Darren York with ‘Mind the Plot Holes’
Sheila kills John in chapter one but he reappears in chapter two talking to their neighbour.
So I turn him into a ghost, but he appears in chapter three, in a divorce court sat opposite Sheila.
Sheila shoots the neighbour to cover up the murder; but drinks coffee with her in chapter seven.
Alternatively, John kills Sheila in chapter one which leaves Derek in chapter five still waiting for Sheila at the bar for the entire novel and their unborn daughter jailed for John’s murder.
Derek kills John in chapter one, then meets Sheila, who kills Derek for killing John…
Joint second place (each 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) in alphabetical order:
Julian Cadman with ‘Going Round In Circles’
It was the first time Harry had been on a plane. And being allowed to sit in the cockpit was awesome. The racing car was cool too. Ella’s highlight so far was sitting on a unicorn. Riding on a horse for the first time was also brilliant. Why do days like these have to end?
Jenny waved at her children as they passed by, and then looked across at her husband, back turned, playing with his mobile phone. Had their relationship gone from carousal to carousel?
Were they going round in circles as the attraction was coming to an end?
Nicholas Marshall with ‘Railway to hell’
Two passengers sit in the small railway cart as it trundles by itself down a gentle slope.
At a bend there is a sign with an arrow and the word “Hades”.
The cart then gathers speed for a while before coming to rest where the track divides.
“Which way?” the passengers ask a uniformed man who merely shrugs.
As he approaches them and pulls a lever they notice he has no face.
The cart speeds off along the track leading to a loop on which they will circle forever, endlessly stopping at the same stations and confronting the expected abominations.
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) in alphabetical order:
David Filce with ‘Wake, Work, Eat, Sleep’
Wake, work, eat, sleep.
Wake, work, eat, sleep.
Repeat, repeat, repeat.
Life is like sitting on a roundabout. Spinning, turning, round and round. The days are no more than a blur, merging into one seamless mess.
It wasn’t always like this for him.
Before she became ill life was fantastic. There were surprise trips, candlelit dinners, long walks and snuggles on the sofa.
But that was then. Then he lost her. That part of his life ended as she slipped so sadly away.
Now he fills his world with that mundane cyclical sickness.
Wake, work, eat, sleep.
Repeat, repeat, repeat.
Gemma Roche with ‘Loneliness’
Tumbledown stone archway, check. Large jutting rock, check. Dilapidated faux castle, check. Finn was retracing his regular circular route. As he got older, it seemed to take longer each day and remembering the order of the comforting features increasingly tricky. The wider landscape also seemed to be diminishing, everything beyond tarnished a dull decaying green. It had been a long time since he’d had visitors. These days he was lucky if they dropped the measly stale golden flakes, which apparently provided him with sustenance, more than once a week. But still he continued to swim, round and round and round.
Joyce Bingham with ‘Where did it say I could speak to a human?’
‘Please press one to hear the menu again.’
I look at my phone, bring up numbers.
‘Please press one for your balance, two for your fitness level, three for your vital signs.’
What were they again?
‘You have sixty calories remaining in your daily allowance. Choose carefully.’
I swear at the phone.
‘You have not reached your activity goal today, go for a run.’
Jabbing at the screen I hiss through my teeth.
‘You have raised vital signs, please install Calmness app.’
Press four, why not.
‘Please press one to hear the menu again.’
Not worth the calories I decide.
- Isabel Flynn with ‘Our Inner Circle’
- Kyle Barratt with ‘The Funeral’
- Sue Massey with ‘Amazing Maize’
- Teresa Heeks with ‘Pigeon Pie’
- Tracey-anne Plater with ‘Forever Train’
Honourable mentions (not winning anything but only narrowly missing out and still looking good on their CV) – in alphabetical order:
- Helen Sant with ‘Dressed To Kill’
- Jane Broughton with ‘Lock-down List’
- Julie Gavin with ‘Exasperation’
- Philip Kingsley with ‘Never A Cross Word’
- Wendy Howard with ‘First Ride’
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.