The EWF Short Story Contest deadline is almost here! (In case you’ve forgotten, your entry needs to be postmarked by Wednesday, April 6…).
No doubt your story is well underway. Or maybe it's still in the "thinking stages." In any case, it might help to have a little motivation and inspiration. So, we asked some of our contest judges to answer this question: What do you look for in a good story?
Here's what they said:
(Educator, editor, and author of Writing Fiction: A Hands-On Guide for Teens as well as numerous novels and stories for young readers)
For me, a good story is the complete package: a compelling opening that makes me want to read more, real characters (even if they're elves or owls) that have both good and not-so-good qualities and whom I'm sorry to say good-bye to at the end of the story, and a plot that has a beginning, a middle and an end.
(Award-winning author of Skink on the Brink and A Moose Goes A-Mummering)
It seems like such a simple idea but I love a story that gets me into a character’s head. If I know what the main character is thinking, what she’s feeling, and what’s important to her, then the plot–and everything that happens to her–grips me all the more because it’s happening to someone I care about. When I’m reading through a pile of wonderful contest submissions, that’s what is going to make one stand out over some of the others I receive.
(Author of The Secret Life of Money and Why We Live Where We Live, which won the 2015 Norma Fleck Award for Non-Fiction)
I look for a story that makes me feel something, whether that’s happy, sad, angry or uncomfortable. And the best stories? They make me think, ‘Wow! I SO understand what the writer is saying! This person has put something into words that I’ve been feeling for years — but never knew how to express to myself.
(Author of The Other Child and A Fold in the Tent of the Sky)
A good story changes the way the reader looks at the world. It brings fresh insight to the commonplace, and transforms what at first seems peculiar and unconventional — foreign, if you will — into something intimate and personal.
(Writer, editor and journalist with almost 30 years experience in community daily and weekly newspapers in Ontario, a Canadian Community Newspapers Association and Metroland Media award for editorial writing)
I don’t think there’s a formula for a “good story.” Entice the reader with something exciting, original or unique. Good stories are usually about people, so make them interesting -- write characters with real motivations and feelings, not stereotypes. Don’t mumble, Stephen King says. Be honest. Reach for something no one’s done before. Experiment -- I’d rather read a story that strives beyond itself and misses a little, than an utterly competent retelling of the same old thing.
(Guelph poet and short story writer)
My advice: Write from the heart. Then use your head: let others read and edit your work. Then rewrite, rewrite, rewrite.
Find everything you need to know about the 2016 EWF Short Story Contest here.
Story ready to go? Mail it to EWF Short Story Contest, c/o Elora Arts Council, Box 3084, Elora ON N0B 1S0. Youth and Teen categories, no entry fee. Adult category, $15 entry fee (cheques made out to Elora Arts Council - thanks!)
And if you need one more nudge, remember this advice from American writer, Mary Heaton Vorse:
"The art of writing is the art of applying the seat of the pants
to the seat of the chair."