1st – Gary Kuyper – The Water Hole
2nd – Wendy Greeff – Klippies
3rd – Grahame Wilson – Exploits of Arnoldus “Frikkie” Veldsman
As ever, immersing oneself in the worlds created by fertile imaginations is both pleasure and privilege. This crop of stories, though small in number, was filled with talent.
Set the daunting task of recreating through tall stories the exploits of one Arnoldus Frikkie Veldsman, the bold authors ventured into very different arenas. Through stories of romance, camaraderie and horror, we experienced the world of this voorlooper and agterlooper on the Great Trek. Short stories are difficult to write. One has to say a lot in a short space and so the essence here is to write evocatively without wasting words. It is also important to prevent reader fatigue when long paragraphs are used, unbroken by, for example, dialogue. Where the vehicle for telling a tale is a long monologue, as in some of these stories, it is also beneficial then to break it up in some way, possibly by questions or comments from other characters.
In this competition, the storytellers were asked to include authentic dialogue. Good, authentic dialogue is extremely difficult to write, and even more so when writing dialogue for a character that speaks a different language. It is obviously more than simply adding in a few words from that language. One needs to take into account the sex, age and cultural environment of that character as well as the speech patterns and idiosyncrasies of each individual. Good dialogue brings characters to life. Frequently in some of these stories, it was the voice of the author one heard through the words and one did not get a sense of the character. The prose was solid but, at times, that is a problem when writing dialogue as it is too “perfect” and, as few people speak like that, it becomes clinical and lacks the spark of ‘real’ life.
Choosing winners is always a difficult task, but I decided on “The Water Hole” as the winning entry because it is so different. It is an amusing tale, with expressive dialogue, filled with tall tales of Frikkie’s exploits viewed through the lens of a man from a different time and culture.
Klippies, in second place, I chose for its poignancy. I am a soft touch as far as animals go! It describes the recklessness of youth, especially when love comes calling, but also the bond between a young boy and his dog.
Exploits of Arnoldus “Frikkie” Veldsman in third place, weaves historical characters into the amusing story. I think, for example, Charles Darwin might have been amazed (and, no doubt, amused) to find himself in it! Even though at times the terminology of the modern world intrudes too much, I did enjoy the story and its lively hero.
In conclusion, may I thank and commend all the storytellers who poured their hearts and souls into creating these entertaining worlds for us to visit. Please persevere, nurture your talent and hone your skills, even if your story was not chosen as one of the top three. Each of you displayed a unique interpretation of the topic and it was indeed a pleasure to read your stories.
- The Water Hole
An entertaining story that uses modern characters on a quest to discover the “truth” of the tall tales of history, and what tall tales were told! The dialogue is snappy and the contrast between the “fey” wealthy English lord and the rough but savvy Afrikaaner is cleverly shown through the dialogue and in the foil of the intermediary, the translator. I loved the choice of nom de plume! The opening sentence is very strong but the use of parentheses in the opening paragraph is a little overdone and borders on the annoying. Also avoid small but important grammatical errors like “Yank’s do”.