Judge’s Report – Twist In The Tale – November 2015

What a great collection of stories, so varied. Sci-fi, fairy tales, murder…there is great imagination at work here. And some excellent submissions. I enjoyed reading all of them and had a pretty hard job deciding on the top three.

Amongst the stories in  general I noticed a lot of over-writing. By which I mean, too many writers took too many words to say something, resulting in stories of 2800 words which could benefit greatly from some severe pruning. By severe, I mean down to 2000 or even less.

Once you have written a story, put it away for a day or even a week and look at it again with the view to paring it down. You’ll be surprised at how much better it reads once you have done that. Look for repetition and flowery over-the-top descriptions and be brutal.

Something else I picked up in many of the stories was a lot of TELLING and not enough SHOWING. I’m sure you all know what this is! Just plain old Telling something can often be a bit flat- Showing is when you bring the same facts to life with conversation or body language. This sparkles up the page. If your story is a monologue this is difficult to pull off but it can be done by  the trick of remembering what someone said or did, and writing as live action.

The mandate was to write a Twist in The Tale. These can be any genre but the common thread in all of them is that the twist should be signaled in some subtle way before the ending. The ending needs to come as a surprise to the reader but who then needs to think to himself, “Oh! Of course! I should have seen that coming!” The trick is to be so subtle that the reader doesn’t .
For instance, in “Seeking Wild Women” the wicked little twist is signaled when the snake woman Umamlumba comments that having a demanding lover can be a good thing- so that, in the last line, when we find her in bed with the boyfriend  and she winks at Amelia, it all falls into place.
And in “Tweet Tweet” the twist is equally wicked  and surprising, mainly because the professor is so conservative and upright, but then his nephew mentioning MasterCard certainly got the professor thinking!
For a master-class in writing twists, treat yourself to a copy of The Twist in the Tale by Jeffery Archer. Twelve excellent twists, all a surprise, all signaled somewhere along the line in the story.

But there were too many entries, which although good reads and some of them really well written, just by- passed the Twist and went for Entertaining. (Always a good thing in a story!)
I hope some writers will take another look at their stories- cut the fluff, tweak them to your satisfaction, and submit them to a deserving market  such as another competition, an on-line e-zine or, if the word-count  and subject matter fits, to a magazine.  You magazine likes 1500 words. It doesn’t accept murder stories any more, and might frown on prostitutes even with delightful endings!

My choice of stories, chosen because they all featured a real twist at the end:
1.    Tweet Tweet
2.     Judge for Yourself
3.     Seeking Wild Women

VERY highly commended : Mountains large and Monsters little, and Thou Shalt not Covet. Both extremely well written but just missed being twists in  the tale.