1st: Euphoria by Natalie Wu
2nd: Two Envelopes by Sam Parry
3rd: Holding Hands with Giants by Sean Webster
The winning story will be published in the Sheffield Telegraph on Thursday 25th October
The other stories on the shortlist were:
Taste-and-see by Clara Mukuria
The death of me by Andrew Senior
Twelfth Night Show by Phillipa Howell
Blackbird by Hannah Whiteoak
To the Front by Tim Gait
Lost by Ayesha Heaton
Water by Sue Day
Connections by Claire Walker
One for the road by Beverley Ward
This document contains the judges feedback on all the stories that were entered:
You can see last year's shortlisted stories here
Short story top tips
What makes a good short story?
Well, it’s a very personal thing. Last year, there was a degree of consistency amongst the judges, with a broad consensus over an approximate ranking, but there was no immediately obvious winner. The judges argued for their own favourites – and some of them were read aloud to try to persuade the others just how good they were. What moves one person, based on their own life experience, may leave another under-whelmed.
That said, here is our top tips:
- You don’t have words to waste in a 1000 word story – every single word has to do its share of the work. If it doesn’t, get rid – your editing time could well equal your writing time.
- There needs to be some “thing” that provokes a response in your reader: something they weren’t expecting (or possibly were expecting once they're part way in), a revelation, a discovered truth etc. That “thing” can make you laugh, move you, kick you in the gut, make you want to curse, or even just roll your eyes or raise an eyebrow. But what you don’t want is your reader to think: "So what?"
- If that still leaves you a bit puzzled go back to your favourite short stories and try to work out what that “thing” is in each. Or read a few Chekhov short stories: he was a master of the form. He said reading a short story “feels rather like swallowing a glass of vodka.” (What do you think he meant by that? An opening up of the senses followed by a warm glow? – can't beat a slug of vodka and a story at bedtime!)
- Julia Casterton has a good take on it in her, highly recommended Creative Writing – a Practical Guide. She reckons all good short stories have an element of change at their root: “like an insistent bass line. Something always happens and someone always has to deal with (or avoid) what has occurred. The character can meet the change head on, in which case we might feel gratified – or sidestep the new knowledge, try to behave as though everything is the same as before. Either way the change sits there for the reader, fascinating, not to be ignored.
- Once you have written it and edited it, read it aloud to yourself or a friend. If it reads clumsily, or you trip over your words, revisit them.
- If you can make you story "really Sheffield" whatever that might be, so much the better.
- Get the balance right between revealing and retaining. If your reader doesn't get it, they'll think either you're being a smart arse, or they're too stupid. Neither is a good outcome. You want your reader to think: "Ooh, that was clever, but I got it."
- Similarly, give your reader some credit. You don't have to include a "did you get it/did you see what I did there?" line. If you've told it right, they've got it. It is satisfying thinking you've guessed what happened without being told explicitly. But don't leave the ending with no possible explanation either, because that is unsatisfying.