Thanks to all those who entered! We had hundreds of entries from all around the world, including Germany, Australia and even the Netherlands, and many were considered for the shortlist. However only a select few made it to the final cut, so congratulations to the skilled few.
Below, please find the judges comments and any highlighted story titles are available to read if you click on them.
SOUTHPORT WRITERS’ CIRCLE – SHORT STORY COMPETITION
CRITIQUE by Dennis Conlon
Thank you for asking me to judge your competition. It was an enjoyable task and good to see there are so many good writers around. The standard was very good. Naturally, even with a strict marking scheme, the result is always going to be subjective. Nevertheless, I am very satisfied with the choice of winner. Apologies to all those who didn’t win especially to those who thought they should have. There were many good pieces that didn’t make it for a variety of reasons. As with any competition of this nature, there was a great degree of differing styles and abilities. Some appealed, some didn’t. Some pieces were very well written but then, as may be expected, spoiled by the usual mistakes, POV being the most regular. It’s difficult to empathise with a protagonist if the writer suddenly jumps into another character’s head. There was a quantity of stories where the writer was unable to RUE, ‘resist the urge to explain’ and the usual smattering of over exposition. Having said all that, there was also a good deal of promise.
WINNING ENTRY – “DEAD SPACE” by David McVey
What I enjoyed most about this piece was the structure: very original. The writer uses an excellent device to separate the gaol location from the rest of the island and then brilliantly uses this device to execute the twist in the ending. At no point before the reveal is it predictable. The descriptive passages are very well done, giving a good flavour of place and time. Again, by use of the structure, the opening subtly draws the reader in without them knowing where they are being taken. The characters are confidently drawn and the action and pace evolves perfectly. Dialogue not only assists with characterisation it also enhances the plot without a hint of over exposition. Original and professional.
SECOND PLACE – “AT REFRIED BEANS” by Betty Weiner
Well-written story, perfectly formatted, always a good pointer to any publisher’s reader. Clever use of character to set up the plot, totally believable. The writing is of good quality, creating the page-turner this piece is. Subtle introduction of third character that later becomes important. The pace is very well controlled and the dialogue and language really suits the piece. There is a danger that the denouement is flagged too early, which could have spoiled the piece but the writer gets over this with a nice but simple twist at the end.
THIRD PLACE – “THE CAPE DOCTOR” by Carol Duncan
Beautiful piece, simply written or simple piece, beautifully written, either suits. Good title. Sets off at a gentle pace, true to life characters. Although not properly formatted, this didn’t make it difficult to follow or detract from the story. Would need to be addressed if submitting for publication; however, the clarity of the dialogue makes it fluent and easy to read. The plot demands attention and is strongly moving. The pace is effortless.
HIGHLY COMMENDED – “DYING TO SPEAK” by Andrew Campbell Kearsey
Effectively written piece, laid out professionally and well set up with good language and dialogue. However, I felt the wheelchair was revealed unnecessarily early. Given that it was the main point of the plot, it didn’t need to be mentioned until the punch-line. Nevertheless, the characters were confidently drawn, the style was good and the piece was engaging.
HIGHLY COMMENDED – “THE SHILLELAGH” by Sheila Clift
I couldn’t decide which piece should be highly commended so I chose two. I really liked this story and feel it could have been placed had the writer taken more care of the protagonist narrator; which was a shame because the other characters were true to life, credible and instantly involved the reader. However, I didn’t discover the character was female until three quarters of the way through, a vital point given the relationship with the other two male characters: in particular, the antagonist. Nonetheless, it was professional, the plot was handled assuredly and the language was excellent, showing the writer’s sensitivity with words.