The Writer staff is finishing its selection of the 25 finalists in our current
short-story competition. We’ll be sending them along shortly to our “finals”
judge, novelist Michelle Wildgen, who is also executive editor at the literary
magazine Tin House. She’ll choose the top three stories.
first reads on 150 or so of these contest entries (that’s just my share) has
been an instructive experience. Look at that kind of quantity and you
eventually reach some conclusions about what separates the good short stories
from the bad ones. Here are a few observations:
• The best
stories I read had, well, a real sense of story. There was something at stake,
some kind of fuse burning under the surface, a through line of some sort that
mattered and that made the stories more engaging. The lesser stories often did
not rise above mere description.
• The best
ones typically made skillful use of characterization, scenes and dialogue. The
weak stories were too full of narration.
• Some of
the weak stories were too contrived and sentimental and word choice was
lackluster. I got the sense their writers had read very few high-quality short
looking forward with interest to Michelle’s picks. Look for the winning story
(which pays $1,000) in a future issue of the magazine.
--- Ron Kovach, senior
editor, The Writer
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