Posts Tagged: Prompt


There is actually a term for NSA agents spying on love interests

If there isn’t a story in this…


Dear all

This post comes to you in two parts, so lets get right to it!

Part one! Inspiration Waystation

So I am frustratingly aware of the fact that I have been really bad when it comes to updating the blog for inspiration waystation. There are plenty of good reasons for this, but the main one is just called “Life”. I’ve been super extra busy of late, for good reasons. I’ve had some job interviews and been sorting out samples to write for other jobs. It’s been crazy, and so I havn’t been as involved here as I would have liked to been.

But you don’t come on here to hear my life story. You come here to get inspired, and so that’s what I’m going to do. Here are six potential points of inspiration for your stories. But please don’t feel limited by them! If you’ve found something better, please, take it away!

Link One - Anti Secrecy Activists

What’s kind of fascinating and also terrifying about Bradley Manning and Edward Snowden is that they didn’t act out of a sense of nationalism, or in aid of a specific group or ideology, they acted because they thought that a government simply shouldn’t keep secrets. We know this in part because if Manning had been interested in simply revealing the US’s military wrongs, he would have been much more selective about what he gave to Wikileaks.

This is very much a 21st Century phenomenon. In the information age, people are beginning to take issue with the concept of privacy as a whole. So what does this issue mean? Can you imagine a story about such a thing? A story that delves into the discussion of the rights and wrongs of a government keeping secrets. Is someone a hero for simply letting out information? Even if that information doesn’t compromise anything? So why is it secret? What does the government have to hide?

For another source on this, here is a blog on the subject from the Federation of American Scientists project on Governmental secrecy.

Link Two - Women in Politics. Same old, same old?

There’s an old joke about the etymology of the word “Politics” which I’m sure many of you have heard. Poli - Means many, and tics- tiny blood sucking parasites. Corruption, scandal, abuse of power and people. These are often traits associated with politicians. The question is, is this a trait about power, or is it a trait of men being in power. The article I here link to discusses the question of whether women in power in general behave less dishonourably, and maybe that in general women get into politics for different reasons.

So here’s an idea for a story. What/How/Why would things be different about a corruption scandal involving a woman? Would anything be different? Do women fail in their morality for different reasons? Or are we all subject to the same power-plays? What is it about power that makes us do these things? Look at the article, and maybe some other places, and find out.

Link Three - A trip to the Martian lakes

If you’re watching Sci-Show regularly this may be moderately old news to you. Back in March of 2013, the Curiosity rover made a string of discoveries that confirmed, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that Mars once had liquid water on its surface. In fact, it was liquid water that was good enough to drink!

My question then is, and the question I’d love to see someone try and tackle with a story is, what would have life been like when that lake had water? What if someone travelled back in time and went to see Mars in the days when it had water? Would they see life? Were there aliens on Mars in the past? What would that life be like? And if there was life, why aren’t they there now? And why is there no remnants of their civilisation at all? Or was Mars just empty? If so, what would someone travelling in time use it for.

Here’s Hank’s video on this.

Link Four - The platform of the future

Back in 1997 BP released the following advert for their petrol stations. The idea for cars is somewhat facial, although for planes it has sometimes been a necessity, but what if we could do this with trains, except rather than refuelling, we take passengers on and off. The idea of a moving platform for high speed trains to “dock” with to take passengers on and off, so that the more powerful trains wouldn’t waste energy stopping, allowing smaller ones to take up the slack. How would this change our understanding of how transport functioned? What would chasing a criminal on such a system look like? What if we applied this internationally?

And of course, the future of trains has been very much in the news this week with the discussion of the hyperloop. Elon Musk’s idea, if employed in Britain, would make it possible for you to travel from London to Birmingham in 8 minutes! That’s quicker than it takes me to drive from my house to my university! This is an insane game changer, and what’s more it can be powered entirely by solar (according to Musk’s schematics, but some engineers remain unconvinced). How would this change culture? I’m sure you can imagine a million different ways that a technology like this could change everything about what it means to live somewhere. Suddenly the people you regularly socialise with could be from much much further afield. You could live in Exeter, and have a girlfriend/boyfriend who lives in Abderdeen who you get to see much more than every weekend. But how much would using this transport cost? Would it create a class of people who traversed the entire country in a day, and others left technologically shackled to a much slower form of travel? And what affect would this have on relationships. What would it be like to know that people who you never thought you’d see again are less than an hour away from wherever you live. You can’t seriously tell me that such an idea isn’t ripe for story potential.

Link Five - Gender imbalance writ large

I have talked about this one before, but wanted to re-emphasise it because its something that is not going away, and is something we should all think about. For a variety of reasons, all of them bad, there is wide scale infanticide/sex selective abortions going on in India, China, and many other parts of the world right now. The upshot being, there will be a lot more men in these places than there are women in a few decades. What will that mean for those societies? What will it be like for a man living there? What will it be like for a woman? Will women being in higher demand put more social pressure on men who can’t find a partner? Will the abundance of men for women give them something to be happy about, or something they deeply resent? And what about people outside the hetro norm. How will the QUILTBAG communities in these places respond to these demographic shifts? What will this all mean? Settings like this, the future, look like science fiction, but just because a story is in the future and is speculative, doesn’t mean it is SF. So don’t think “I don’t write SF, I can’t write this”. Because the S in SF isn’t always science. Sometimes people prefer the word “Speculative fiction” as in “If the world was like X, what would it be like”…

Link Six - Digital Aristotle

This is an idea penned together by CGP Gray for this video, but others are working to turn it into reality. Things like project Halo and Wolfram Alpha are steps in this direction. But what would it really be like. There is lots of research out there on the effectiveness of video in learning, and how we can use new technologies to better our education system. So what would be working/learning in such a school be like? Would it make our citizenry more educated, and thus provide us with a better future? Or would it do something to our socialisation? Would it change people if they used interactive but non-interpersonal learning systems? What would our society look like in such a world?

Part Two - Disturbingly low take up.

Here’s a problem I’ve got. We have so far had very very few submissions for this year’s contest. I’m worried that if things don’t pick up soon, there may not be able to be an anthology for this year, and that would suck a lot. If this is about the prompt, if you’re confused or don’t know where to start, or you’re worried about making a mistake, let me just say not to worry. We here at the contest understand the prompt is more complex and so we’re very open to people asking about it. We’re also going to be very lenient in terms of acceptances. You would have to go very very far outside of the prompt before you got disqualified. If you’re feeling befuddled or baffled or bamboozled about any part of the contest, please ask. It would be a monumental shame if we didn’t get an anthology this year.

Thank you all, God Bless, Best Wishes, and DFTBA


Greetings all!

Enclosed here is the second of our blog posts from the judges. Marcy Collier - A judge who took part in our debut contest, last year. A professional critic for the Western Pennsylvania branch of the Society of Children’s Books Writers and Illustrators as well as being the editor of the Golden Penn newsletter (a blog she regularly contributes to can be found here and her twitter is here).

Applied 21st Century Research Creative Nonfiction - What?
by Marcy Collier

"The prompt for the DFTBA Short Story Contest for 2013 is to write a story about something that was proposed, researched, discovered, developed or invented in the last 13 years. Many of the contest applicants have found the prompt confusing. If you haven’t read a lot or any nonfiction lately, the theme is no doubt daunting. But let me ease your fears and give you a few suggestions.

Having a background in journalism, I find straight nonfiction easier to write and have sold these types of stories to magazines for the children’s market. My current work-in-progress is based off of a lady from a community near where I was raised who accomplished some pretty amazing things in the 1930s.

The possibilities for story topics are endless. Personally, I think the key is finding a subject that holds your interest. Many people don’t read nonfiction books because they associate factual books as boring stories. They think of those awful books their elementary school teachers made them read. But a great nonfiction book is far from boring. It can bring a story and real events to life.

When you read the newspaper today or watch the news, think, really think about the stories you’re hearing. I’ll bet you wouldn’t have been able to make up some of the things you hear.

Now, think about a subject that interests you. Use your favorite search engine to do a little research. What books come up on that particular subject? Go to your local library or bookstore or download a sample of a story that sparks your interest. Delve into many more subjects until you find that particular one which excites you. The best writing stems from a topic that you as the writer will get fired up about because your passion for the subject will show through to your readers.

Here are a few books that have moved me to read more on certain subjects. I write for children, so my picks are from the children’s market. 
We Are the Ship by Kadir Nelson

(Book blurb as noted on amazon)

The story of Negro League baseball is the story of gifted athletes and determined owners; of racial discrimination and international sportsmanship; of fortunes won and lost; of triumphs and defeats on and off the field. It is a perfect mirror for the social and political history of black America in the first half of the twentieth century. But most of all, the story of the Negro Leagues is about hundreds of unsung heroes who overcame segregation, hatred, terrible conditions, and low pay to do the one thing they loved more than anything else in the world: play ball. Using an “Everyman” player as his narrator, Kadir Nelson tells the story of Negro League baseball from its beginnings in the 1920s through its decline after Jackie Robinson crossed over to the majors in 1947. The voice is so authentic, you will feel as if you are sitting on dusty bleachers listening intently to the memories of a man who has known the great ballplayers of that time and shared their experiences. But what makes this book so outstanding are the dozens of full-page and double-page oil paintings - breathtaking in their perspectives, rich in emotion, and created with understanding and affection for these lost heroes of our national game. We Are the Ship is a tour de force for baseball lovers of all ages. Winner of the Coretta Scott King Book Award 2009 – author award and illustrator honor; Winner of the Sibert Medal Home Page Award 2009.

You can find the link here

This book is absolutely amazing. As a kid, I grew up near where the Homestead Grays played baseball. Today, I look out the window of my office and can see the Homestead Grays bridge. Local history is fascinating to me. This book is beautifully written and illustrated depicting the heroes of the negro baseball leagues. I’ve read many books about the Homestead Grays and the story of their struggles of overcoming adversity to do what they loved most – play baseball. You could take any character from this book (players, managers or fans) and start asking yourself questions. Draw up a character sketch and a story outline. Relate their accomplishments to current ball players and the struggles they face. Think of the stories you could come up with!

Strong female protagonists fascinate me. When I take a step back and see how much women have done to progress equal rights over the last 100 years, their stories inspire me. This next book kept me up at night reading.
Amelia Lost: The Life and Disappearance of Amelia Earhart by Candace Fleming

(Book blurb as noted on amazon)

From the acclaimed author of The Great and Only Barnum—as well as The Lincolns, Our Eleanor, and Ben Franklin’s Almanac—comes the thrilling story of America’s most celebrated flyer, Amelia Earhart.

In alternating chapters, Fleming deftly moves readers back and forth between Amelia’s life (from childhood up until her last flight) and the exhaustive search for her and her missing plane. With incredible photos, maps, and handwritten notes from Amelia herself—plus informative sidebars tackling everything from the history of flight to what Amelia liked to eat while flying (tomato soup)—this unique nonfiction title is tailor-made for middle graders.

Amelia Lost received four starred reviews and Best Book of the Year accolades from School Library Journal, Kirkus Reviews, Horn Book Magazine, the Washington Post, and the New York Times.

You can find the link here

I’ve read many stories on female fliers. This narrative is both compelling and interesting with a lot of heart and soul. The accomplishments made by young fliers like Amelia Earhart and many women you’ve never read about are unbelievable. Most of these women died young. The breakthroughs they made for women in aviation in a boys’ only club were compelling and admirable. Consider taking a young aviatrix and placing her into a steampunk story or futuristic encounter. Let your imagination fly away!

The third book on my list is Blizzard!: The Storm That Changed America by Jim Murphy.

(Book blurb as noted on amazon)

With his powerful and intriguing narrative style, Newbery Honor Book author Jim Murphy tells the harrowing story of the Blizzard of 1888. Available for the first time in paperback.

Snow began falling over New York City on March 12, 1888. All around town, people struggled along slippery streets and sidewalks — some seeking the warmth of their homes, some to get to work or to care for the less fortunate, and some to experience what they assumed would be the last little snowfall of one of the warmest winters on record. What no one realized was that in a very few hours, the wind and snow would bury the city in nearly 21 inches of snow and bring it to a ferocious standstill.

You can find the link here

I was fortunate enough to sit in on a five-on-five session last year with Jim Murphy at the Rutgers One-On-One Plus conference. He is as brilliant as he is nice. His books are fast-paced and the stories and characters he brings to life are both compelling and intriguing. I read this particular story during a snowstorm, which made it even more frightening. The what if scenarios are endless. Think of all the weather disasters we’ve had recently. You could take any number of these scenarios and write about what happened during or after the storm.

I hope that I’ve given you some things to consider when choosing your subject for the contest. Don’t allow the theme to scare you. Use it to launch real-life characters or events into an exciting story that only you could write. Let your mind carry you off into new and fascinating worlds. I can’t wait to read what you’ve written!”


Dear all

This is very slightly late, but my sleep schedule has been very mucked up lately, for various reasons.

Before I continue though, I see we have a large number of new followers of late! Welcome one and all. So glad you could be here to join us on this great literary adventure.

So, today, we announce the prompt of the DFTBA Short Story Contest 2013. And that prompt is…


No, not drums, it’s -

Applied 21st Century Research

At this point, one or two of you may be scratching your heads slightly, and its true that this prompt is a little more elaborate than last year’s one so let me explain.

What I’m wanting you to write this year is a story about, or somehow involving, research or discoveries or inventions or developments that have happened in the last thirteen years. I want you to find an article about something that was discovered, or developed, or researched, or proposed, or invented in the 21st century, and write a story about it.

To give you some idea of what I mean, here are some examples.

A story about interstellar travel based on the warp drive proposed in the following Sci Show video.

A story about how it came to be that Richard III’s body was buried in what became a car park.

A story about people with artificial limbs being allowed to compete in the Olympics.

A story about the cure for AIDS being developed, and what that might mean.

A story about how the conquest of the Mexicans by the Aztec Empire changed them so radically.

A story about just how much you can learn about someone from their face and what that kind of thing could mean.

A story about the Higgs Boson and/or CERN, and how they both might do things in the future.

A story about travel in the Roman world that we can now better understand thanks to research.

A story that looks at immersive, collaborative gaming now, and sees where it could go.

I hope this gives you some idea of what we’re looking for this year. Basically, we want a story that takes something that was invented/discovered/proposed/developed/researched since 2000, and use it to make a fiction narrative.

Just one point of clarification, this does not necessarily mean stories about the research itself. The anthology isn’t looking to be filled with fictionalised accounts of research from this century. Its more looking for stories that take the subject matter of the research (or the applications of the technologies etc) and make stories out of that.

To be clear, this could be any field. Maybe a new interpretation of a particular event was published in this century. Maybe there was a survey that suggested something strange about the way society functions. Maybe there was some proposed political idea, or some way of regulating society that was proposed or researched in the last 13 years. There is a lot of scope here, and I’m really looking forward to seeing what people do with it.

The one rule that this prompt does bring into the equation is sourcing. To prove that your story is based on something that was actually developed/researched etc in this century, you’ll need to provide a source that shows and discusses the topic of your story. Also, Wikipedia does not count. It’s a great place as a hub to find such research, but its no good as an actual source in and of itself. Specifics will be discussed in detail later, but I’d like to think that most of our readers here can tell the difference between a credible and non-credible source.

What is being asked for here could be broadly described as “science fiction” since it is all fiction that is being inspired by new developments. But the crucial point is that those new developments arn’t being made only in the science field. There are all kinds of fields that had made all kinds of advancements in the twenty first century. Sociology, psychology, history, economics, art theory, literature… so many different fields have grown and changed that there is plenty to go out and inspire you. And crucially, you’re not limited to writing about the changes themselves. Those are an important starting point, and depending upon your choice of research, the discoveries themselves may be your principle focus. But equally, you could say “what did these theories mean if applied in X way in the future” or “how does what we see here interact with what we know already?” These, and many other questions, are very possible to discuss with this prompt. 

Naturally, I expect some of you will have questions and ideas about what to do with this, so please feel free to ask. You can send me an ask, or you can drop me an email at


Although please make it clear if you send an email if you’re comfortable with me discussing the answer to your question on the tumblr.

Speaking of the email, I’d also like it if you could use it for other things too. We’re still looking for judges, we’ve had one or two people apply, but we’ll need more if we want to make this really work (At least one judge from last year is up for taking part again, so that’s good news)

Also, we’ll be starting the logo design contest soon. I’m attempting to get DesignersOfTumblr on board, and we are discussing the particularities of the deadline as we speak. The brief is as follows:

"A clear, bright and bold logo, incorporating the themes of Nerdfighteria (the hand sign, French Llama’s, etc), creative writing, and the specific prompt of this year - applied 21st century research (of any field). The words "DFTBA Short Story Contest 2013" must be included."

If you want to submit logo designs right now, please email them to


and make it clear in the subject line that your submitting a logo. Also, remember, the winning designer will also need to be available to design a front cover for the anthology.

This links into another important point, and I need to say this in bold.


The reason for this is that since we don’t have a logo (because I couldn’t really ask for a logo without giving the prompt away), I didn’t want to be setting up the events and tickets without one, and so we haven’t got an eventbrite thing up yet, so you can’t buy a ticket, so you can’t submit yet. Rest assured though, when we’ve got a logo, very shortly afterwards you will be able to submit. I am just letting you know now, not to send them to me by e-mail. As some of our newer followers may not know, we raise money here not only through the sale of the anthology, but also through a very small entrance fee that is then donated to the foundation to decrease worldsuck. But while you can’t submit yet, you can definitely start work on your stories. So get writing!

One final piece of news, we are upping the word limit. You now have between 1000 and 5000 words to write your story. To be clear, you don’t have to reach that limit, but this way you have some extra space to really let your story fly!

Thank you all so much for being a part of this. I’m really looking forward to seeing what everyone submits this year.

God Bless, Best Wishes and DFTBA


Yes, its finally here! You’ve all been waiting patiently, (I know I wanted to know how I did!). We started this eleven months ago, we got some great judges, we’ve had a logo design contest, we sold thirty tickets, received twenty one stories, raised 150USD for the foundation to decrease World Suck, and now finally, we’re ready to tell you whose won… Ready? We’re going to get to the big main prize, and the list of anthology accepted stories later. Right now though, we’re going to have some of the other prizes.

The judges were asked, when they made their deliberations, to consider several different categories. You may remember them from the rules list. SPAG WC (Spelling, punctuation, aesthetic, grammar and word count), format, style, characters, plot, originality, interpretation of the plot, and judge’s discretion. Making an award out of SPAG WC or formatting seemed kind of redundant, and questions of style or judge’s own discretion seem too subjective to be included on their own. So instead, we’re going to have awards for the following categories

Best Plot

Best Characters

Most Original

Best Interpretation of the Prompt

And in each of these categories we’ll be giving the top three stories, and their scores. We don’t have any specific prizes for these people, other than honourable mentions of their victories in the Anthology, but we’ll be e-mailing people some lovely certificates in the coming weeks.

And now, onto the first award

Best Plot

In joint third place, with scores of 35/50 each, “A Twist of Fate" by Luzia Leifheit and “Still Reading" by Alissa Charvonia

In second place, scoring 37/50, “The Machines are Talking" by Jerry Patton

And in joint first place, with scores of 39/50, “Indianapolis Awaits" by Jack Tindle and “The True Spirit of Christmas" by Michael Trimmer

Well done everyone there. Now we move onto…

Best Characters

In third place, with 36/50, “To Live Forever" by Dan Taflin

In second place, scoring 41/50, “The Machines are Talking" by Jerry Patton

And in first place, totalling 43/50, “Indianapolis Awaits" by Jack Tindle

A hearty congratulations to everyone there! Now, the next category

Most Original

In third place, with a score of 40/50, “Still Reading" by Alissa Charvonia

In second place, scoring 43/50, “The Machines are Talking" by Jerry Pattona

And in first place, managing 44/50 “The True Spirit of Christmas" by Michael Trimmer

Close fought there! Now onto our final category before the big two!

Best Interpretation of the Prompt

In joint third place, each scoring 42/50, “A Strange Kindness" by Lily Stanicek, and "Still Reading" by Alissa Charvonia

In second place, with 43/50, “The Machines are Talking" by Jerry Patton

And in first place, with 44/50 (our closest contest!) was “Indianapolis Awaits" by Jack Tindle

That was very very tight! And now, we’re about to move into the final overall prize, where we see the top three stories, when considering everything we’ve mentioned here, along with style, formatting, spelling, and of course the judge’s own discretion. So here we go, the winners of the DFTBA Short Story Contest, 2012…

In third place, with scores from each of the judges of 64, 70, 70, 80 and 86, totalling up to 370/500, we have “Indianapolis Awaits" by Jack Tindle. A marvellous first person piece, dealing with questions of terminal illness, people we leave behind and life’s many moments of “What If?”

In second place, with the judges scoring it at 65, 69, 74, 80 and 90, giving a total of 378/500, “The True Spirit of Christmas" by Michael Trimmer. A science fiction piece asking the question of just how we would go about explaining the concept of charity to a totally alien mind.

But the winner, with the amazing scores of 66, 69, 71, 90 and 94, arriving at an overall score, head and shoulders ahead, with 390/500, was the excellent “The Machines are Talking" by Jerry Patton. A superbly original, emotional, descriptive and inventive tale dealing with themes of old age and autism that leaves you at its end with a wonderful haunting twist.

Congratulations to all the victors in all the categories, and a special congratulations to Jerry Patton for a brilliant work of written fiction. Special thanks to all the judges who put in considerable time and effort into their deliberations (and a personal thanks from myself, for their high praise of “The True Spirit of Christmas”)

But we’re not done yet, oh no! There’s still one very important part remaining.

The Anthology!

That’s right! The time’s come. We’re going to reveal the final list of stories that have made it into our illustrious collection. Each of these stories will soon be available to read on an e-reader near you!

Before we release the list, a word about the process. The judges, as you have probably noticed from the scores given in the top three positions, have had lots of widely differing opinions about the collection of entries we sent to them. To give you some idea of just how differing some of there thoughts were, here’s one particularly interesting fact. The story with the highest score from a single judge didn’t actually make it into the top three. Although one judge gave it a whopping 95, another gave it 47, and yet another 35, putting it second from bottom in their own personal listing.

Now this is the very reason we have multiple judges. If we only had one or two, things could be missed, and true value potentially ignored. But it also means that when it comes to selecting potential members of an anthology, my task becomes very difficult. A simple mathematical cut off point wouldn’t do justice to the complexity involved in making these decisions, but at the same time, at some point, that cut off does have to come. So I made the decision to put it to a vote, after a fashion. A story would only be accepted into the contest if a majority of the judges believed it should be entered. Each judge had a “y/n” section of their judging sheets, and cast their vote that way. This was as fair as I could manage, being both reasonably accepting and appropriately discerning. As an interesting point, only two stories in the entire collection received a unanimous approval from all five judges, “The True Spirit of Christmas" and "The Machines are Talking

So without further ado, and in alphabetical order, I present to you the list of entrants to the 2012 DFTBA Short Story Anthology. Fifteen wonderful stories that I’m sure all of you are looking forward to reading. They are:

A Strange Kindness" - By Lily Stanicek

A Twist of Fate" - By Luzia Leifheit

An Evening in Soledad" - By Ali Zayaan

Blind Hope" - By Jenni Herd

Indianapolis Awaits" - By Jack Tindle

It Goes On" - By Anni Clark

No Good Deed" - By Nicole Sherman

Reformation Through Deception" - By Emily Unger

Squaring the Circle" - By Josephine Arnoux

Still Reading" - By Alissa Charvonia

The Body" - By Emily D’Elia

The Machines are Talking" - By Jerry Patton

The True Spirit of Christmas" - By Michael Trimmer

To Live Forever" - By Dan Taflin

Your Story" - By Alex Suggs

A really big thank you and congratulations to everyonethere, and I look forward to seeing your names in the overall publication. Commiserations to those of you whose stories didn’t make it, but thank you so so much for taking part in what’s been a really amazing enterprise.

But it’s not over, oh no!

This contest is only the beginning. Not only have we got the anthology on the way, but there’s next year to think about to. And the next, and the next after that. What wondrous prompts, crazy logos and intrepid authors will come our way. Who knows, and who dares dream! Me! That’s who, and I bet plenty of you out there along with me! So let’s dream big and go on together. Because as they say, the best, is yet to come…

God Bless, Best Wishes, and of course DFTBA!


Greetings fellow Tumblrers! Today’s post comes to you in four parts, so lets go!

Part 1: Sorry

No, not that one

That’s it

Okay, so I know that I was meant to have done this post last week, and am very sorry that I did not. There are all kinds of reasons, but none of them really explain anything, so I’m just going to apologise. Sorry. But hey! We’re back now! So lets get on

Part 2: The Criteria

Our judges aren’t this mean…honest…

So as we’ve been discussing over the last few months, the judges are going to have criteria by which to judge this contest. You’re not going to be sending off your submissions to them blindly, we are going to have a system. And its my privilege now to be able to reveal to you part of that system. I will say that this isn’t the whole thing, because we are still in the process of discussing some parts of it, but this is most of it by a long way. So without further ado, here are the criteria that you will need to be thinking about when you write your story for the contest.

S.P.A.G. W.C (Spelling, Punctuation, Aesthetic, Grammar, Word Count) – 10pts max

Does the story go over the word count? (5-20 words over -1pts, 21-40 words over -2pts, 41-60 words over -3pts, 61-80 words over -4pts, 81-100 words over -5 pts, >100 words over -10pts)

Are there spelling mistakes? Are they minor/major? Are they frequent? Do they distract from the story? (both British and American spelling will be accepted BUT they must be consistent throughout)

Are there punctuation mistakes? Are they minor/major? Are they frequent? Do they distract from the story?

Are there aesthetic mistakes (in context this means malformed paragraphs – things like no indenting etc, is a new character’s speech always on a new line etc.)

Are there grammar mistakes? Are they minor/major? Are they frequent? Do they distract from the story?

Exact pointing system here is at the judge’s discretion – Minimum = 0pts (The only way to get this is if practically every word is spelt wrong, and grammar/spelling/aesthetic/punctuation errors are ubiquitous, or if word count goes more than 100 words over length)


Writing/Style – 10pts max

Is there a consistent writing style?

Does the style fit the story?

Is there a specific writing voice?

Is there wide use of vocab? Is the vocab level used appropriate to the story in question?

Does the language flow?

Exact pointing system here is at the judge’s discretion – Minimum = 1pts


Character development – 10pts max

Are the characters believable? Are they fully fleshed out? Are the three-dimensional? Do their motivations make sense?

Does the dialogue make sense? Does it seem believable?

Are accents (if present) portrayed believably?

Exact pointing system here is at the judge’s discretion – Minimum = 1pts


Plot development – 10pts max

Is there a strong plot?

Does it keep the pace well?

Does it interest the reader enough to keep reading for reasons above and beyond the fact that they have to?

Are the events of the plot believably strung together?

Exact pointing system here is at the judge’s discretion – Minimum = 1pts


Originality – 10pts max

Is the story an original take on the theme?

Are the characters more than tropes?

If the story does use tropes, does it use them in an engaging/interesting way?

Exact pointing system here is at the judge’s discretion – Minimum = 0pts (if the story is, in the judge’s opinion VERY obviously lifted from another story, without any kind of original take)

Side note – if the story is fan-fiction (using characters/setting/exact elements from an established franchise) it is automatically disqualified.


Theme/Prompt – 10pts max

Does the story use the theme/prompt?

Is the theme/prompt central?

Is the theme/prompt used in an interesting way?

Exact pointing system here is at the judge’s discretion – Minimum = 0pts (Only to be given out if the story has NOT followed the prompt AT ALL)

This gives you a total score out of sixty currently. There will be one or two more sections for the final version of this, I expect, but at the moment, those particular ones are not all that relevant because of part three.

Part 3: A practice run

As I promised, we will be doing a practice run at this point. A small version of the contest where I give you a prompt and you guys have to write a story to that prompt within the time limit of say two weeks (that gives us time to do this again before the real event).

Before we get into what the prompt actually is, lets just discuss how we will be doing submission and judging this time round. This time, to let you all have a feel for both writing and judging, to get you familiar with the criteria etc, we’re not going to be asking the judges for help directly here. What we’re going to be doing is judging each others work. After this post, I’ll be putting a smaller post with just a photo or two and a few lines of description.

If you’re wanting to submit a story to the practice run, please reblog the post and include a link to a tumblr post, where we can read that story afterwards (if you don’t want to post the entire story on your tumblr itself, then in the reblog post a link to a tumblr post containing a link to where the story can be found).

Once you have done that, have a read though some other peoples stories and if you want to judge theirs, reblog their tumblr posts and add the score you would give, outlining each section’s points and then their points overall.

So to summarise

1. Reblog the short post coming after this post.

2. Include in the reblog a link to a tumblr post either containing, or directing us to, your story

3. Read other peoples stories on their blogs

4. Reblog them, including your judgements based on the criteria contained within.

On the seventh of April, I’ll be announcing who won, based on a mean average of everyone’s scores. So please, to make the contest as fair as possible, please be taking part.

Now for the part you’ve all been waiting for though, the practice run’s prompt. And the prompt is…

Part 4: Prompt

The prompt is…


That’s right. In this practice run, I’m wanting you to write me a 1000-3500 word story about a battlefield. Before you start writing though, I want you please to have a little read of what I have to say here.

It doesn’t have to be a real battlefield. It can be real, but it could also be entirely made up. It could be in Africa, Europe, North America, Narina (okay, not actually Narina, see the fan-fiction rules, but somewhere fantastical), Saturn, the horse head Nebula, the pond across the road, anywhere. But it has to be/has to had to have been/must one day be, a battlefield.

That’s another important point. The battle doesn’t actually have to be happening in the story. Maybe the battle was a long time in the past, or maybe it will happen in the future. That’s not the point of the prompt. The prompt is that it has to somehow involve the battlefield.

Even furthermore, if you feel that I’ve somehow let you down because you are no good at writing war stories, or even stories that involve wars, or armies or generals or fighting like that, take heart. I never said that it had to be a military battle. It could be the site of some particularly important confrontation of ideologies. Maybe its the hall where some great debate took place, or a very important, or perhaps not so important court battle. Or maybe its a couple, who look back at a particularly heated fight they had a long time ago, and where it took place. Maybe it isn’t looking back, maybe its something else. Maybe it’s the site of a long standing family dispute between two groups. Maybe its… all kinds of things.

The point is, the prompt is very broad. The only one negative piece of advice I would say, is not to let the battle overshadow the battlefield in the prompt. By which I mean, keep the setting, and the importance of the place, as a theme, important. Don’t let it simply become a story about a battle. That’s too easy. Make where the battle happens an important part of the story. What does it mean, how does it change things? All those sorts of thoughts.

So get writing! You have until 7th April to write and judge stories. Therefore, the sooner you get them in, the more people will be able to judge them.

Away you all go! Best wishes, God Bless and, of course DFTBA!


Greetings fellow Tumblrers! Today’s post comes to you in four parts, so lets go!

Part 1: Sorry

I know I’ve been away for a little while longer than usual and I’d like to apologise for that. Just to explain though, in addition to this project, I’m also writing a novel, working towards an Mphil, running a series of talks about the Bible, and directing a radio play which I wrote. In short, I’ve got a good deal going on, and while I’d appreciate your understanding, I also understand myself that those things are no excuse for project neglect. Having said that though…

Part 2: Thanks!

We’ve been receiving a steady stream of new followers over the last couple of days, and we’re now up to 313 at last count, so I’d just like to take this opportunity to say a specific welcome to those people who’ve joined in the last few days, and to say to you all that this current lull of activity is not to be considered typical of this blog!

Part 3: Tickets

So it’s been almost 20 days since I released the event of the contest on Eventbrite (if you are wanting to get a ticket, go here) for people to go over and buy their tickets, in preparation for the contest. And thus far we have seen…3…sales. And one of those was me. Now, I’m expecting that most of you are probably waiting until the prompt is released to part with your cash, which I understand, but I’m still a little nervous. So I’m going to make a post after this one, and if you could reblog it/like it if you ARE planning to enter, just so I can gage how many people I can expect to be taking part. If you don’t know if you’ll enter until you get the prompt, I understand, but I should say that the prompt will be very broad and allow for all styles of entry, so you shouldn’t fear being left out in the cold.

Part 4: Content ruling

Last night I was working on putting together the sheet that the judges will use when they look over each story, the categories they will consider, the important elements of the story to value (I will be making a post that reveals the exact detail of this in the near future). However, what I also had to do, I realised, was to ask the question of what the content limitation should be on things like sex and violence etc. I thought about it for a fair while, trying to balance the fact that this is a serious contest with the fact that we also want to make it a fairly broadly appealing piece of work.

So I came down to it, and I decided that the basic guidelines to use would be similar to those of the British Board of Film Classification’s rating systems for a film they would mark as a 15. For more information on exactly what that means, go here. This decision, I felt, struck a balance between allowing the maximum artistic integrity for our writers, but at the same time, limiting the more high end concerns so that we have something here that everyone can enjoy.

I also made a broader ruling which I feel I definitely want to make clear at this point. This contest is NOT for fan fiction. Any story that is found to be using characters or setting or any other elements from another story/franchise without first contextualising it in such a way to make it original, will be disqualified. There is a very simple reason for this. We are, at the end of the day, trying to make something which will be sold. If it’s being sold, it really can’t use others copy written material, not to mention the fact that it already limits your creativity significantly. I know that the community out here can write great stuff of off its own back, so go on! Do it!

That’s it for today, God bless, DFTBA and Best wishes.


A short video describing some the contest’s details thus far! Thank you Chris Dolman!