A couple of years ago we introduced the idea of a Writer in Residence for the competition, a couple of lovely ladies volunteered but only one could do it. That honour went to Bridget Whelan and we decided against including it in the 2015 competition.

But the idea proved so popular that we decided to reintroduce it going forward and invited our other volunteer, Sophie Duffy to take on the role. Sophie has a huge amount of experience as a writer and with the Hysteria Writing Competition having judged the for the competition twice, in 2014 and 2015.

Over the coming months, Sophie will be writing and sharing blog posts that get us all thinking about how we can write and present the best Poetry, Flash Fiction and Short Story to enter into writing competitions. In last year’s anthology she shared this piece of advice for all entrants in the Short Story category which she was judging…

Thoughts after judging the short story category

A story needs some kind of narrative structure – usually a beginning, middle and end. A story also needs a shape – if it is too loose, it is just an incident or an anecdote. Also, something has to happen! It sounds obvious but there were a few entries that just rambled about not much or were the writer’s thoughts.

Does the story have a strong character/narrator? How rounded is the main character? How believable? The characters that stayed with me after I finished reading were the stories I really enjoyed.

For me the voice is the most important thing and the aspect that makes or breaks a story for me.  The voice is the individual style of a writer – I want to read a story with a distinct voice, something that makes that writer stand out from the others. Think of Raymond Chandler’s short stories which are very sparse, and where not a word is wasted. It could be comic, or dark, or menacing, or frivolous but the winners should stand out from the rest as being unique.

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