Friday, September 25, 2009

Website: Writers Weekly 24-Hour Short Story Contest

Website: Writers Weekly 24-Hour Short Story Contest
I participated in this contest for the third time last weekend. As I mentioned yesterday, registered users (entry fee is $5) are sent a prompt on Saturday, and they have 24 hours to submit a story. Here’s the prompt for last weekend’s contest.
Weeks of obsessive tending and gentle turning ensured a blue ribbon for his biggest pumpkin next weekend. His chest puffed with impending pride as he fantasized about the envious stares of the other town folk, especially that pretty, stuck-up woman next door, who always looked through him, not at him.
The cold wind started again and he shivered, watching the sky darken too quickly. As bright, painted leaves rained on his crop, he instinctively turned his head toward an infant's cry. At the top of the hill, under the old Maple, his stuck-up neighbor was shielding a bundle from the wind, fumbling with her blouse…
I read the prompt, read it again, threw my arms in the air and thought, What the f---? How could I narrow this information down to fit into a story of no more than 1000 words (word limit supplied with the prompt)? I mean there's a man, a woman, a baby, a pumpkin-growing contest, the weather... As John McEnroe would say, "You've got to be kidding!"

Then I started writing some questions. Who is this man? Why is he obsessed with a pumpkin growing contest? Has he entered it before? How many times? Does he have a particular rival he wants to beat? Is he a native to the area? If not, where did he come from and why? What about the stuck-up neighbor? Why does he think that? Boring, huh. And not very original.

I need to share a couple of things at this point. First, the instructions make it clear the submission does not have to follow the prompt exactly, merely hinting at it is enough. Second, the comments provided after previous contests stated that many entries didn’t make it through the first round because they were predictable and too close to the ideas presented in many of the other entries.

So now my thoughts turned to how, given the questions the prompt raised, I could come up with a story that was going to be different. I decided my questions weren’t helpful, because they were likely to be the same ones that came to everyone’s mind. My next step -- as mentioned in yesterday’s quote -- was to simply begin writing. I did, and the “story” was blah. It was time for more reflection. Finally, I came up with a new idea, one I thought might set my story apart from the rest. Here’s the opening paragraph of my entry.
“Okay. Okay,” Carla said to the crying baby. “Lunch is coming.” A grin erased the uncertainty from Carla’s face as the tiny lips captured the nipple and suckled her breast. She swiveled on the wooden bench to protect Thomas from the breeze. “There. Is that better?” The unusually cool summer had migrated to an even cooler fall. At least, that’s what the weatherman announced last night on the six o’clock news. Being unfamiliar with the area, Carla didn’t know about local weather trends.
Yes, I decided to tell the story from the point of view of the woman on the hill. Who is she? Is the baby hers? Where is the father? Does she know the man at the bottom of the hill thinks she’s stuck-up? I hope it’s different enough, and isn't put in the didn't-make-it-out-of-the-first-round pile because the word pumpkin is nowhere to be found in the final tale. :)

The winners will be announced before Halloween. Once they are, I’ll post my entry on the blog so you can read the rest of it. Hey, maybe it’ll be a winner, and you can read it on the WritersWeekly site!

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