We are delighted to announce the top five – yes, five this month! – stories from March’s entries are (in alphabetical order):
- An Open and Shut Case
- Blood Stained
- Made in Toledo
- Ties That Bind
- Veg on the Edge
These stories will now go through to the final judging and the top ten prize-winning authors (not necessarily the same as the top ten stories as no author can win more than one prize) will be announced at the 2019 BeaconLit literary festival on Saturday 13th July. As with most months, there were more stories that could have made the top selected but those that did were either closer to the theme or stronger (provoked more of a reaction after reading) so don’t be disheartened if yours hasn’t been mentioned.
If your story for this month isn’t listed above, you are welcome to do whatever you like with your submission hereon in. If your story is listed, it’s possible that it could be placed in the ultimate top ten* which will be published on this website (and on http://www.beaconlit.co.uk) next July so please do not send it elsewhere until after the literary festival.
If you have requested, and paid for, critique, this will be with you in the next few days.
Morgen’s feedback on the stories received this month:
A very interesting batch this month and one that I knew would make or break. I love giving objects a voice so this is one of my favourite prompts but it can be a confusing one. Here’s why:
Three stories were disqualified this month for not following the brief – one a first-person narration, the others were third-person point of view. The theme stated that the main character had to be an inanimate object. Therefore any stories with a human as a main character with the secondary focus on an inanimate object, wasn’t following the rules. Sorry but to be fair to everyone, this has to be strictly adhered to.
There were several stories that could have made the top ones, including some with clever last lines or the reveal of what the object was close to the ending, so the reader could be challenged (in a good way) to work out what it was. I chose the final four because I got to the end and went “Wow”. Others were just as clever, perhaps even more elaborate, but had less impact; they were funny, sweet or sad but just missed out on having the ‘punch’ of the finalists of this round.
Following the reading of these stories, I thought it might be useful to provide some tips:
- Wherever you have dialogue, read the exchange aloud without the description, e.g. no he said / she said etc. Does it sound genuine? We don’t speak in perfectly formed sentences. We interrupt each other. Have someone play the other person. They can give you feedback.
- 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’.
- anymoreis time e.g. I don’t want this anymore… whereas any moreis quantity, e.g. do you have any more cake? 🙂
- Technically, ‘now’ (and right now) is present tense, which is fine in dialogue but not in past tense narration. All, now, very and just are often overused so I recommend seeing how many you have in a piece and chopping where possible.
- I add commas where a reader would breathe if reading the piece aloud, which I always recommend the author do too, especially where a scene feels flat or you think it doesn’t work for whatever reason.
- Speaking of commas… Although grammatically correct, I recommend that you don’t put commas between adjectives. At least not so many. It slows the pace… really slows it where there are several. In my opinion, commas work best when the reader is supposed to breathe (or the writer wants to make the reader pause for a particular reason). They wouldn’t need to when describing an object and anything that slows what should be a fast-paced page-turning read is best avoided.
Although Morgen judges on the impact of the stories and the quality of the writing, it’s always disappointing when there are simple spelling mistakes or even simpler errors that should have been picked up during the editing process. Please do read your stories carefully before submitting and ideally show them to someone you trust for their opinion.
*Should you get through to the longlist of 30 stories (three per month over ten months), it doesn’t necessarily mean that your story won’t be chosen if it slips out of the top ten. No author will appear in the top ten twice so a story that came eleventh (or twelfth, thirteenth…) could be bumped up where there are author duplications.
And now you can also receive feedback on your story / stories at £5 per story with the optional critique service (given by the judge, Morgen Bailey, who is a professional editor for publishers and independent authors). This option is detailed on the main 500-word Competition page with an option to select critique within the entry form.
N.B. All the money from this competition goes to BeaconLit funds for the local libraries. Morgen is not charging for her time. Good luck!