Mini-Contest #23

The 23rd mini-contest was held in April 2014. This mini-contest asked contestants to write one piece of terrible prose, then revise it into something much better. The problem was, our instructions were too vague, and in several instances we preferred an author’s “bad” prose to the “good” version.

So, we aren’t going to present “good” or “bad” labels when showing the winners. We’re labeling the two pieces of prose as “A” and “B.” What really mattered in this contest was the distance in quality between “A” and “B.” The biggest distance between “A” and “B” won. (And we did tell people about the “biggest distance” criterion, so we feel like we’re still being fair to the contestants.)

Here are our winners, then our honorable mentions.

Third Place ($5) by Donna Ring (new OTP author)

A) While he sat on the bulldozer in the construction yard, he observed the children playing at the fenced-in day care playground across the street.

B) He is on a big yellow powerful bulldozer with dual controls. He sees the kids. Everything is cool, man, cool.

NOTE: One co-publisher would rather read a story beginning with “A.” The other would rather read a story beginning with “B.” We agree, though, that they would be very different stories. One co-publisher finds “A” bland and “B” creepy as hell. The other finds “A” effective and “B” too hipster-y. What really matters, I suppose, is the prose that follows either beginning.

Second Place ($10) by Raazia Sajid (new OTP author)

A) She loved him too much to ferociously love him, because whensoever she deprived him of love she would devoid him of sanctified love evermore.

B) She truly loved him, but wasn’t that exactly what she’d said the last time? Maybe it was time to finally save someone from herself.

NOTE: We hope there’s no debate on this one.

First Place ($15) by Tracy Davidson (new OTP author)

A) As his freedom begins, I stare at the prison behind him and wonder if my own freedom has come to an end.

B) My scumbag husband’s outta the big house. Boy, am I screwed.

NOTE: The prize judges prefer “B” over “A.” To us, “B” has voice and style, and it hooks us immediately. By comparison, we find “A” overly formal, and it doesn’t place nearly as strong an image in our heads. True, the character represented in “B” could be considered a cliché, but at least the character is an interesting cliché who is immediately placed into an interesting and potentially dangerous situation. In “A,” the situation is the cliché and the characters are too vague to grip us. Also, we found it hard to believe that the narrator in “A,” who seems to be detached, careful, and someone who thinks far ahead, would be in the situation the prose describes.

Honorable Mentions (no money, just fame)
Three other entries scored highly enough to earn honorable mentions.

A) Grandma, even though she’s really dead, talks a lot to me about stuff that didn’t happen yet. How you ask? Because she is a GHOST!!!

B) Grandma died in 1981 but she still has plenty to say. Protective and caring, her whispers in the night often warn of things to come.
(by Andrew Cohen, who had entries published in mini-contest #9 and #16 too)

A) On five dark and stormy nocturnal evenings, the notorious, mysterious, Jack, the Ripper, mercilessly murdered women who plied their trade on the streets of London.

B) During the winter of 1888, Jack the Ripper killed five prostitutes in the East End of London.
(by Clare Goldfarb, new OTP author)

A) The ghost’s eyes were dark, like someone had pushed them out. It was very scary. Mary screamed. Then it all got dark, and she stopped.

B) The ghoul’s eyes were darkness itself, deep sockets black with hatred and decay. Mary’s scream died in her throat as the shadows swallowed her whole.
(by Rebecca McDowell, new OTP author)

Congratulations to the winners and our sincere thanks to everyone who entered the mini-contest.