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WCT - The Writing Competition Thread [Short Story Results]


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Holy shit, ubernym, I didn't know you were still around.

How's it going, dude?

Hey Taucer! It's going pretty well. I'm married, got a kid on the way, working as a business analyst for an international software company. I don't have a lot of time these days, but I like to keep my creative juices flowing.

How are you?

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...unless you're referring the literal minimum of a entry, which is kind of an odd thing to ask. :?

Actually, I was referring to the minimum. Flash Fiction is a very specified genre, where the author tries to fully convey a story in less than a thousand words, usually somewhere in the ballpark of 750. It's actually pretty big in the slam scene, and usually more challenging to write because of the limits you set for yourself. Most of the time people throw in adjectives that don't add anything to a story, which makes it drag on and usually hurts the composition. Flash Fiction is much more specified, and fun.

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I've actually considered submitting flash fiction (the sub-100 or 200 kind, as I tend to write short stories of the sub-1000 kind on a fairly regular basis) before, myself, but I could never think of a concept that worked well enough in such a short space. The closest I've come was my entry for last September's short story contest:


“What do you mean you don’t know what the problem is?”

“I’m sorry, sir. Everything looks fine from our end.”

“Well”—it’s nipping cold out here and you’re not helping because I don’t get reception in that hole of a room and that’s why I’m trying to set up this backward primeval landline in the first place seeing as how you claim to offer free service with this all-exclusive package deal I’m paying way too much for—“what could be the problem?”

“It could be any number of things, really. Frozen or shorted wires are out because you claim to have received telemarketing calls. The simplest explanation would be if your phone wasn’t compatible, sir.”

Not compatible. “Thanks anyway.” I’ll show you just how compatible my foot is with your—

Peter clapped the phone shut and stuffed his hands into the pocket of his sweatshirt. The exhale came long and drawn, a stream of pale smoke as if from some ancient car on the last mile of its life. It was only then he realized how rooted his legs felt on the snow-coated concrete. He was mildly surprised to find no jagged and menacing formation of inch-thick ice had developed during his half-hour on hold.

The previous week had recalled one night several months prior. A fire drill, rotating through every dorm, was announced to occur “shortly after 7:45 P.M.” An hour of dawdling, no one daring to be absent from an opportunity for candy points, and finally the alarms—weak and dreadful things that couldn’t portend to wake even the lightest sleepers when hidden behind their soundly muting room doors. A fire drill, of all things!

It was out and back in; everyone fell prey. Maybe the heat of a real blaze would have helped them, but no. Not yet winter and still a cold front no weatherman had predicted stalked its way in. The whole process became truly counterintuitive, with the boys who meant to evacuate returning to grab coats, jackets, blankets. The last one of them slipped out fifteen minutes later.

Now winter was three months gone, the unseasonal weather was just as bleak and Peter was wearing the very same sweatshirt, which he paid $20 for at some long-forgotten concert. At the time, sure, it was the singular experience of his life, but before a month he moved on. The garb was only the only remnant.

Remnants. That was essentially all he had: experience and moving on. Claiming the club frisbee championship and moving on. Dark horse victory as valedictorian and moving on. Only now, where had he moved?

Expansive winters catching the witless unawares. Frozen wires and fire drills. He turned and ambled back inside.

Anyway, as they've kindly pointed out, there is no minimum requirement except that whatever you submit still qualifies as a "short story." And given that's a loose definition, you should find plenty of freedom to submit most whatever you might have in mind.

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You mean a story set in a fictional universe of your own design? If so, yes, of course it's allowed. It's not fan-fiction, it's an original piece of work.

... It had better be allowed, because all of my entries thus far fall under that category in one way or another. :-P They're all an extension of the Eternal Legends universe. (By writing them, I sorta consider not writing EL itself for so long to be excused... sorta.)

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You've asked this before, just64helpin, and this was my response then... it hasn't changed.

As long as they're your original creations, if you can introduce characters and work a story with them in the contest limit (2500 words), feel free to submit it. Just don't rely on the comic book to explain the story or anything like that.

EDIT: My reasoning for this, in case anyone is going to ask, is that the regulations of the contest stipulate that "you should write something new within the time frame of the submission stage" (emphasis added). This has no bearing on whether or not your ideas are fresh during that time frame. That would, after all, be a ridiculous rule, since it's fairly difficult to a) come up with any completely original idea, no matter how long you're given, and B) do so on command within just a few short weeks (and then write a polished story with the idea). So, since it's quite a challenge to convert a full-fledged comic book (the idea) into a independent short story (writing the idea), given the time and word constraints we have here, I would allow it.

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Personally, I often try to start completely fresh with these competitions, not using any "old ideas". I do this not because I think it's cheating (I don't), but because it forces me to be really creative.

My last entry was completely made up and written and completed within about four hours. Is it my best work? Probably not, but the point was for me to do one thing from concept to complete. Even though I won the compo, it wouldn't have mattered to me if I was dead last because practice itself was so rewarding.

So while it may be within the rules to write something from your originally authored universe, I would personally recommend NOT doing that and forcing yourself to do something completely original, even if you're worried it might not be that good.

Maybe I'm alone in thinking this, but I view these competitions as opportunities to really practice the craft of writing, specifically the important skills of expediency and flexibility.

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When you constrain your brain in different ways, it produces material you wouldn't expect it to, and sometimes is amazing because of it. Try writing a nonfiction piece about yourself in the third person without using pronouns for example, it's one of the most annoying but surreal exercises you can have to force yourself into new places creatively.

Speaking of which, my submission is coming in the next 12 hours.

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You're definitely not alone, ubernym. I try not to reuse old ideas for the competitions, either, although my process is a little different; I don't actually write nearly as often as I should, so I always have a mass of disorganized and unrefined ideas in my head. When I set out to do something for one of these competitions, I try to take the most recent and relevant (to me) of those ideas and work with that, either fleshing it out or doing some associative brainstorming, until I have something worth writing.

Of course, there are always the (vast majority of) times when I get lazy and simply submit something I've been working on during the time frame of the contest, but for other purposes. :tomatoface:

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This here be my submission, arr.

Persistence of Memory

Albert yawned with fatigue as he slowly walked up his front walkway. His thinning gray hair, which was parted to the left for as long as he could remember, fell into his bespectacled eyes. He wrinkled his nose (a match for his wrinkled face), but decided not to bother fixing it. His old Victorian house was as much a part of his life as his wristwatch, which told him the time, date, and when to take his medicine (sometimes the time in Prague too if he wasn’t careful).

He rattled a single key in his hand, struggling to remember why it wasn’t the one that opened his front door. Once he realized he’d changed the locks a few years back, and the brand did in fact match the key’s inscription, he slowly unlocked it. He couldn’t help but wonder what Agnes had for dinner for him, he wanted meatloaf. He hadn’t had meatloaf in months. He didn’t care that it got burnt on the outside, or that she changed the recipe every time she made it. He loved the crispy bits, and knew that every time she made it he’d have mashed potatoes and gravy on the side that he’d make into a volcano. Then he’d get to play Pompeii and destroy everything on his plate. Agnes’d look on with a sigh, but keep loving him anyway. He softly prayed to himself for meatloaf tonight.

Come to think of it, he didn’t remember having a mahogany wood door either. Maybe he’d traded keys with Jim Finley by accident at the office? That would explain it, maybe. He could just ask him for a ride back to his place, if it wasn’t too much of an intrusion. After all, they’d only worked together for the last twenty years. It’s not like he was a complete stranger. He clenched his teeth in anticipation of the questions. “Hey Al, what’re you doing here? Won’t Aggie worry? Want something to drink?” He gently pushed the door open.

“SURPRISE!” screamed fifty people he didn’t know.

He jumped in fright, but couldn’t help but notice that the Finley’s had the exact same model recliner he’d had for ages. Three people in their mid twenties rushed to him to give him a group hug, two men and one woman.

“Happy Birthday, Granddad,” chirped the small woman with a grin the size of a softball.

“Aggie, what’re you talking about?” he asked.

“No silly, it’s me, Julia,” she said, her grin turning sad. “My father is your son, Stowe.”

“It’s alright Aggie, we’ll talk about this later. Who’re all these people?”

The black haired man to the left took Albert’s hand softly.

“Granddad, it’s us. We’re all here for you,” said the man.

“So I see. Have we met?”

“I’m Justin, Julia’s brother,” he said.

“I don’t have a brother in law named Justin, and that’s Aggie. I don’t take kindly to liars, even in Jim Finley’s house. What’s all this about?”

“It’s about your birthday, we’re your family and friends. This is a surprise party, a party that caught you by surprise,” spoke the other man.

“Don’t be rude, dumb ass,” Justin spat at the voice’s owner.

“Birthday?” Albert questioned.

“Look at your watch Granddad, today is your 80th birthday!” Julia exclaimed, her grin returning.

Albert glanced at his watch, expecting to call their bluff, but saw that it was in fact April 19th, the very date that he was born on. Maybe its batteries were starting to go? He didn’t remember it being so late in the year, Christmas had just happened. It couldn’t be much later than early February.

“You sure?”

“Yep. An atomic clock said so this morning,” said the voice.

“Ben, stop being such a jerk,” Julia scolded him.

Confused and frustrated, Albert sat in the rather fashionable recliner to try to think. He couldn’t help but notice the groove in the cushion was just like his, only a little deeper. Agnes sat across from him on the edge of a couch.

“Granddad, you threw this party. You sent invitations to everyone here months ago, and told us not to tell you,” said Julia.

“Why would I do something like that?”

She sighed.

“About a year ago, your doctor told you that you had Alzheimer’s, one of the most rapidly spreading cases he’d ever seen. He said you had a little more than a year before you completely lost it. Then you got really depressed, and started making fun of it, until you decided to throw yourself a surprise party.”

Albert couldn’t digest the first part of what she’d said just yet, though the later was undeniably the sort of thing he’d do. Confused, he slowly smiled.

“I thought it was funny too, but I didn’t think you’d actually do it. Then you started sending out invitations, and gave me plans for how you wanted everything set up. You even told me to make sure I’d have meatloaf, potatoes, and gravy like Mom used to make. I’m really proud of how you planned it out,” she finished with a sad smile.

He mulled the words over in his head silently.

“Well, you don’t seem like a liar to me, and that does sound an awful lot like me. Should I just float around and introduce myself to everyone then?” he asked.

Albert took her nod to mean that whether or not it was true, he should at least pretend. He wandered to the closest person he could find that he didn’t know besides this new Agnes, and found a former coworker from the office, apparently he had a friend named Donnatello that worked three cubicles over from him. He giggled at this, and vowed not to forget Donnie. After deciding it was sort of fun, he continued this way. After about fifteen new faces, he encountered a woman named Lydia who apparently wanted to pursue him after the breast cancer finally caught up to Agnes, but decided not to. He did not enjoy the rest of the party.

When he woke up the next morning, he found leftover meatloaf, some cake, and a small stack of novelty items that he’d never seen before lying on his kitchen table, with a leather-bound journal on the top of it. He didn’t remember anything.

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