SDMB Short Fiction Contest, late 2011/early 2012 edition - Logistics Thread.

Hello and welcome. We’ve had seven Short Fiction contests so far, in May 2010, September 2010, over the holidays between 2010 and 2011, February 2011, April 2011, June 2011 and September 2011. They’ve been tremendously fun, and there has been interest expressed in doing another. I’d like to congratulate our past winners once again -

The Hamster King, May 2010, for Quarrantine
Spoons, September 2010 for Homeward By Polaris
Spoons, Holiday Edition 2010 for He Knows a Lot of People
Justin Credible, February 2011 for Happy Valentine’s Day, Sweetheart!
MsWhatsit, April 2011 for The Brickites
Savannah, June 2011 for The Summer Place
jackdavinci, September 2011 for T-shirt Junction

So, I’d like to suggest the following - the contest will run from 9 AM EST, Tuesday, December 20th, 2011 until 10 PM EST, Sunday, January 8th, 2012. That’s an extra-long period which covers Christmas holidays and school break for most regions. Any writers interested in participating somewhere within that time can send an e-mail to sdmbpoetrysweatshop at gmail dot com - the required photo and the obligatory three words will be in an out-of-office auto reply. The writer will then have 60 (sixty) hours from the time and date of that auto-reply to submit a story of no more than 2,000 words.

The story can be any style or genre, but it must centre around 3 randomly selected words and one randomly selected photograph. (These requirements are partly to ensure no one dusts off a story they’ve been working on for months, and partly because it’s really interesting to compare what different writers do with the same source material.) No specific theme this time - let your imaginations run free.

Sorry, but the contest is open only to Dopers - Guests, Mods, Administrators, Members, Charter Members, Goats, Squids, people with funny titles - but contestants must have the right to post here.

I will start an Anthology Thread of all the stories I’ve received before the close of the contest - I can’t give an exact time, as I will be in and out of internet contact during the holidays. At 10 PM EDT, Sunday, January 8th, 2012, entries will be closed and I will establish a multiple-choice poll in the Anthology Thread. A week later, the poll will close and we will declare a winner.

A couple of editorial/logistics points to bring up. I will be doing some very minor editing - just for appearance on the computer screen, I will ensure that there are double returns between paragraphs. I would also strongly prefer that all the stories have a title, and if they don’t come with a title, I’ll refer to them as Untitled (First few words of the opening sentence.) If you use special text (italics in particular, but also bold face and underline.), please mention it in the return e-mail - the codes don’t always come through properly in gmail and I do try to respect writers’ conventions. Sometimes this means doing a search word by word to make sure the codes get written correctly.

Also for legibility and appearance, I would like to post the first ~ hundred words or first paragraph, whichever is most coherent, in the open reply. Then, I will put the rest of the story in a spoiler box. Then I’ll have another spoiler box with the author’s name. The reasoning here is to avoid the Gigantic Wall of Text effect. I’m open to other people’s suggestions here, though I thought this worked very well the last few times.

I quite like the multiple choice polls and I would like to keep that as a feature of the Short Fiction contests. Placing the writers’ names in spoiler boxes also seems to be a good compromise between giving credit where it is due and keeping the voting based on the merits of the individual stories, to the extent that is possible.

I think that’s everything - I’m hoping many of you will be interested in giving it a go sometime in the next few days.

Best wishes,

Le Ministre de l’au-delà

Excellent. It’s been too long since I’ve started a new story. :slight_smile:

For a very long time I’ve wanted to try my hand at writing, but dragged my feet. Maybe this is the perfect excuse to finally do it.

I’ll do my best to battle the dreaded sophomore slump.

Will it seal the deal if we promise you it’ll be fun?

I’ve never attempted one of these before…can’t guarantee that I’ll get something done to submit, but maybe…

Could you expand on what exactly:
it must centre around 3 randomly selected words and one randomly selected photograph*


Yay! I’m in.

Well, from a previous participant’s point of view…

When you send your email to Le Min’s gmail address for these contests, you get an autoreply email with the three words and a link to a picture somewhere on Flickr. Everybody gets the same words and the same picture.

Exactly how you use the words and the picture is generally up to you. I don’t know if there’s ever been a submission thrown out of the contest because it didn’t use them centrally enough. The idea is to use them as an inspiring prompt, and to demonstrate that you didn’t pull out a story that you’ve been polishing for years and submit it to the contest.

Does that help?

Also, everybody got the same 3 words and photograph the one time I did it. Sounded strange to me too first time I saw that.

Last one was fun. This one is happening at a very busy time of year, which means if I have an entry, it will be flavored with late night sleep deprived madness. Sounds fun. I learned a little bit about writing from the last one.

I’ll chime in with the others - the words can simply be present. If, for example ‘Complete, Unleashed and Kinetic’ were the three words, you could write ‘Stan’s exaggerated, kinetic energy, when he unleashes it, completely repels anyone he’s dancing with.’ Notice that I didn’t feel compelled to stick with the words in their original form - I conjugated unleash as a verb, and turned complete into an adverb. Totally acceptable.

You can also use the words as an inspiration for the story - what is it that is ‘complete’? Is it about to be completed? Has it been completed? What will be the effect when it is completed? Is it really completed, or did I just think it was? Will it never be completed?

The combination of the three can give you an idea as well - for me those three words send me in a scientific direction, especially ‘kinetic’. ‘Unleashed’ with ‘kinetic’ make me think of some force suddenly set in motion by the completion of what? an experiment? a computer model?

The photograph also features in a similar way. If those really were the obligatory words, a picture of a laboratory would further send me in a scientific direction, whereas a picture of a dog might make me write a story about finishing a business deal and taking the dog for a run. What if it’s a picture of a glacier? I dunno, there’s something quirky about describing a glacier’s kinetic movement as being unleashed, but there might be something really interesting in describing the ‘mindset’ of a glacier that feels like ‘an inch an hour, two feet a day’ is a roaring pace.

If you like, take a casual glance at some of the past contests to see how different writers have approached the same material. Or an in-depth glance - there are some great moments in there.

Hoping this helps and encourages.

I believe that will be sufficient time for me to get something submitted again. I enjoyed it last time. Thanks for doing it again, Le Ministre de l’au-delà.

Okay, I’m giving it a go.

So I could, for example, describe a scene similar to the picture…but do not necessarily have to somehow copy/link the picture in the text?

And how specific do I need to be? For example, if the picture was a football game…would I have to refer to a game between the teams shown, or just any football game?

“Jerry sat on his barstool, contemplating whether or not her should have another beer. Sure, the TV over the bar was showing the Steelers game, and Jerry had a hundred on it; but at the same time, Christy was back at home, probably pissed at the fact that Jerry was again at the bar, getting drunk.”

There. See what is possible?

Looking forward to it, Le Ministre!

Yes, by all means describe the scene and make your story make sense; no, you do not have to copy or link the picture.

No, there’s no need to get that specific, though if the picture showed, say Michigan vs. Ohio State, that might give your story a different direction than a game between two unidentifiable high school teams or two teams in the CFL. Maybe the football game could be nothing more than the background to something that the words suggested.

It’s not far off some of the things that I’ve done or seen in writers’ classes or writers’ groups - it’s something to get you out of the habit of waiting for inspiration and into the habit of jumping in and putting words in order.

Le Ministre, is there a theme to this one?

It would probably really help you understand if you read at least one of the threads from the previous rounds, then you can see the picture and what people did with it. Here’s the last thread and the photo for it.

No, I thought we did quite well the last one without having a theme. There are still a couple of days to change that if enough people wish.

My apologies for a late response; I’ve been away from my computer for much of the day. Our show closes tomorrow, after which I have nothing to worry about other than Christmas shopping, cleaning the house, baking and figuring out what to do with two kids for the 18 days of Christmas break…

I thought about trying to organize a “continue the story” thread around a holiday song lyrics question that keeps coming up - what is meant by “scary ghost stories in ‘The Most Wonderful Time of the Year’?” (weird british TV tradition, turns out) - but I think it’s too late for that*. That’s the only sort of theme I’d be in favor of, but I doubt it’d garner a lot of support. We had a theme last December, maybe every other year is best?

  • but if people don’t think it’s too late for that, IM me and I’ll start if a handful of people want to do it still. But only if you’re committed to participating in writing such a multi-author story

I think that’s a great idea but should be a separate project.