Short Story Competition
Mount Saint Michael runs an annual Short Story Competition, open to all, with both Junior and
Senior Categories. Prize money was kindly sponsored in 2011 by
•O’ Dea’s Costcutters
•Get Fresh Catering
You can read last year's winning short stories by clicking on this link: http://msmwriters.wordpress.com/
We would also like to thank Jean Twomey at Castlebar Writers Centre for judging the competition.
Here are the guidelines for the competition:
•Stories can be about anything – there is no set topic.
•Guideline length is 1,000 – 1,500 words
•There is a junior category for 1st., 2nd. & 3rd. yrs. with prizes for 1st, 2nd and 3rd places.
•There is a senior category for Transition Yrs, 4th. yrs & Leaving Certs., with prizes for 1st, 2nd and 3rd places.
•Shortlisted stories in both categories will be published in our online blog (provided we have permission from students and parents).
•All entries must be typed and emailed to email@example.com Please save a copy of your story on your computer in case it gets accidentally deleted or needs to be sent in a different format.
•Please include your name, age, year & class group on your story. If these details aren’t included we won’t be able to find you if you win and then we’d have to keep the prize money and spend it on ourselves – what a shame ;-)
•We will be asking an outsider to judge the competition & all shortlisted stories will be sent to the judge anonymously.
•Closing date for entries varies from year to year – keep an eye on noticeboards.
•This is not school work. You do not have to enter. Your story will not be ‘corrected’ nor will it be returned to you. So go on – you’ve nothing to lose!
If you’d like some advice on writing short stories read below or click on this link:
•Provide a slice of life. They usually deal with a single event and therefore have quite a simple plot and take place over a relatively short time span.
•DO NOT begin the story with lots and lots of background details – these need to be worked into the story gradually. DO NOT end the story by summarising what happens to the characters for the rest of their lives.
•Stories are expected to have a clear beginning, middle and end but not necessarily in that order.
You can begin at a moment in time but use a flashback to fill in background details or use a
flashforward to add tension.
•Try to avoid a predictable ending!
•Where & when the story takes place.
•Clearly describe the surroundings so that the reader can imagine being there.
•Try to create a specific mood & atmosphere – lighting, weather conditions, sights, sounds, smells…
•Only have 1 or 2 main characters to avoid confusion.
•A character’s personality is revealed through what they say, what they do, how they look and from other people’s opinions & attitudes towards them.
•These details need to be revealed gradually and to be worked naturally into the act of telling the story.
•You can also reveal their thoughts and feelings, which gives the reader a greater insight into the character’s true self.
•Writers generally use the PAST TENSE when writing short stories but some very popular recent novels (Skippy Dies, for example) have been written entirely in the present tense. Just don’t jump between tenses – pick one and stick with it!
There is no formula for writing a short story. Some of the best short stories ever written break ALL the ‘rules’. However there are some guidelines you can follow.
When we read a short story we are looking for
• an opening that rouses our curiosity
• a middle that draws us in emotionally
• an unexpected twist at the end
Hemingway once wrote a story 6 words long that contained all three of these elements:
“For sale: baby shoes, never worn”
Legend has it he claimed this as his greatest work. Notice also how it manages to reveal something tragic & true about the lives we lead.
Other people suggest that there are four elements to writing a short story:
1.EXPOSITION - set the scene, describing the place where the story takes place
- introduce the main character(s)
2. DEVELOPMENT OF PLOT - usually (but not always) one character wants something. They try to get it but something goes wrong. These complications form the body of the story as a series of events which prevent the main character from achieving his/her aims.
3. CRISIS / CLIMAX - often the main character has to make a difficult decision
- the climax is the dramatic high point of the story
4. RESOLUTION - the conclusion of the story: this is often the hardest bit to write!
Many great stories end with a twist, an unexpected event which shocks the reader.
Some people like to tie up loose ends but don’t overdo it – a short story is a slice of a person’s life, not their complete biography.