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Thread: So, why did the winners win?

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    Senior Member Involuntarily Committed RJHubbard53's Avatar
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    So, why did the winners win?

    For me, the best way to learn is to study others and what makes them successful or unsuccessful. So I'm not asking why you voted for whom you voted but why, in general, made this set of stories "winners"?

    I voted mainly on story. I'm not impressed by flourishy prose; in fact, I find it obnoxious. I like a good story and even in horror fiction, I get irritated when the story doesn't make sense. Anyway, I didn't originally vote for many of the final 10 so I wonder what I'm missing... help me out!

    thanks

    RJ
    It ain't braggin' if you can do it. . .

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    Senior Member Involuntarily Committed
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    I struggle with this, and I'm not certain what the answer is. I tend to agree: story is key, above all. But if there isn't at least a little poety to the prose, what will an editor think? Should the voice be totally flat and full of reportage, or should it have something to it, even if it's merely a juvenile, cocky, posturing attitude?

    To specifically answer you question, I can't necessarily say what factors went into the final selection. I think concept came into play with some of them, solid yarn-spinning in others. Yet, a couple of my favorites didn't make it. "Red Rings of Death" was really good; I was surprised it didn't make the final cut. But I salute the winners nevertheless...

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    Senior Member Receiving Daily Medication C.W. LaSart's Avatar
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    I counted 7 of the final 11 that I personally voted for in their own groups. For me, there were a lot of things I take into consideration: story-it has to grab me, style-I do a lot of editing so I notice mistakes-sorry, but at this level there is no room for mistakes, and format-I know most people will groan about this, but we were instructed on how to do paragraph breaks and if it wasn't done, I didn't read it. No one wants to go blind trying to read. Some of you will be pissed about this and say it's not fair, but let's face it, the publishing industry isn't fair. This is an important lesson that you MUST learn, you need to submit things in the correct format. This will vary from publisher to publisher, but they will state what they want. If they request a 12 pt Times New Roman done in an RTF format and you submit a 14 pt Courier in word doc, they will toss it out unread. I know that for many of you, this was your first submission and I applaud you for taking the step, this is much harder than letting a faceless editor read your story. But I never lost sight of the fact that the winners would be published alongside some serious professionals, and I subsequently went for what I felt was the most professionally written story, both creatively and technically. I really enjoyed reading the stories and look forward to the possibilities of more contests. Though I don't necessarily plan to participate, I will most definitely want to be in on the votes. Good luck to all on their writing, and thanks to those that thought my story was good enough to make it!

  4. #4
    Senior Member Ok, I really can't come up with anymore of these stupid things... srboone's Avatar
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    I voted based on the strength of emotional response I got from a story. In that vein, more than three sections in a story of this size causes the response I get from a story to be relegated to the final section; so if it comes down to a story that terrifies me, horrifies me, repulses me, thrills me, etc for the 5-10 minutes it takes to read; or sets me up simply for a last second payoff (especially if that payoff is predictable, but even if it isn't), I will go with the former every time.

    I will say, that all 11 stories in the final round are very good; only 3 of the ones I voted for originally made the cut, but I tried to look at each one in the finals from a fresh perspective. And the one I ultimately voted for was not one I voted for in the first round.

    Weird, I know, but a story that makes you want to read it a second time, and then find something new in it the second time round speaks volumes to me.
    "I'm a vegan. "

    ---Kirby Bliss Blanton , The Green Inferno (2013)

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    Senior Member Involuntarily Committed Craig Wallwork's Avatar
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    It's very subjective, RJ. And I can understand your frustration. I've been there. Not in this contest, but when I've been told about how great a novel is, and then when i buy that novel, only to read it and think it's average at best, it makes me question literature on a grander scale. There will always be stories/novels published that are not to everyone's liking. What captures the attention of one person will turn off the next. The final 11 were there because the people here saw something in them. That may be, like Squire mentioned, something that pulls them in on a emotional level, or perhaps it was far-reaching, by which I mean, it could be re-read and still have an impact.

    There were some stories that I felt should have been in the final but didn't make it. There were some in the final that I think were lower in the pecking order that should have been higher. Why that is is because of preference. Nothing against Nikita, but I believe, and maybe I'm wrong, that story got instant attention, and more "reads" in the first round because of the title. it was a GREAT title. It pulled you in, which meant people remembered it, and read it, and if you got a reader, and the story was good, then the chances are they were going to read it again in the final stage and vote. some stories had average title, mine included, but the stories were outstanding - and no, I'm not referring to mine there.

    No one can be bitter about this because everyone had a choice to vote or not to vote. Like you, RJ, you didn't vote. If the stories were that bad, no one would have voted, or if they did, each story may have had only 1 vote to show for it. It didn't go down that way. The people spoke and the best won out.
    Last edited by Craig Wallwork; 07-01-2011 at 02:43 PM.

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    Senior Member Involuntarily Committed RJHubbard53's Avatar
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    perhaps my post was written poorly as I am not bitter, Craig. I actually did vote; I voted for a story titled 13.

    I never said that these stories were not good. What I'm trying to figure out is what makes them good since apparently, the once I voted for in the original vote were not the ones that made it to the final round. I'm wondering what I am missing that others are seeing. I believe it comes down to, as you stated, subjectivity.

    sorry if my post came off as bitter or alluded that the finalists didnt deserve it, that was certainly not the intent. I enjoyed all the stories in the final round; all were deserving.
    It ain't braggin' if you can do it. . .

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    Senior Member Involuntarily Committed Craig Wallwork's Avatar
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    Thanks, RJ.

    I think, and i'll add this now before i forget, a name has swayed me into reading a story too. Not the title of the story, you understand, but the name of the author. C.W. pulled me in right away, so did Draven. MLD, too. For a long time I believed a name can help you get noticed and was thinking of writing under a pseudonym. But i had quite a few stories published by that time, which meant my theory was wrong, and also, I didn't want to lose any kudos I may have gleaned in the process of being published. it's strange how the mind works.

    But yes, let me extend my thanks once again for the vote. Too cool of you.

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    Senior Member 1st Electroshock Session TerryE's Avatar
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    Personally, I looked at the stories very harshly for an amateur contest. Once the story count got above 70, and I knew time was going to be tight, I went with Caren's method of giving the ones with horrible formatting only a cursory glance. I can understand an editor's frustration; they were difficult to read after a while. I looked at them, but if the first couple paragraphs didn't hook me, I moved on. In the first couple days, I read every story and took detailed critique notes. By the second week, I wanted to get through every story and it came down to a yes, no, or maybe in my notes.

    I agree with Craig, half of the appeal of Meat Socks was the title. But Nikita did follow that with an interesting story. I've posted critiques for a few of your stories, and mentioned each time that I can be hyper-critical. That said, I found little things I didn't like with almost every story submitted, even though I liked most of the stories. For me to like the story, I needed some style to the language, not a simple recitation of the facts. The story also needed internal logic, decent grammar, and some originality. Caren had a great story, but my original critique of mentioned that it was the 3rd or 4th story I read that had a doctor or psychiatrist who didn't believe their patient. That's not a weakness of Caren, but had more to do with the order that I read the stories. Also I had just finished reading the comics version of Stephen King's "N", and was feeling similarities to that in all of those doctor stories. Again, something I wouldn't have thought about if I hadn't just finished "N". But things like that can always cloud a reader's judgement. Heck, I even think I subconsciously didn't rate Richard Thomas's "Rudy Jenkins..." story higher because it had some very basic similarities to my story.

    I think I voted for 2 of the finalists in the first round, so my taste doesn't agree with the majority either. There were a few "extreme" stories that only repulsed me. I want more than just something shocking. My vote went to "It Roars", just because it was so unique, bizarre, and fun. I usually hate the dream sequence as a story, but at least she told us right off the bat that it was a dream and had fun from there.
    "Dance until your feet hurt. Sing until your lungs hurt. Act until you're William Hurt." - Phil Dunphy ("Modern Family"), from Phil's-osophy.

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    Senior Member Involuntarily Committed MrRoland's Avatar
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    I tried to go strictly by story, but, like Caren, there were some with no paragraph breaks that I ignored. They were just too difficult for me to read and keep the story interesting to me. Also if I got jarred out of the story by wrong word usage and grammer errors too many times, I lost interest in reading those. There were a few that I voted for in the first round that moved on, not as many as Caren had though.

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    Senior Member Receiving Daily Medication C.W. LaSart's Avatar
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    Is Stephen King's "N" the story that you can only get on Kindle? I haven't read it yet and if that's the case, I suppose I never will. I don't have a Kindle :/

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    Member Part-timer lilbirdy's Avatar
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    I was torn between three stories and ultimately voted for "Meat Socks" for the win. The main reason was that the evil doers were a gleeful and happy-go-lucky group. If you are going to break the rules of a civilized society, I think you should have a good time with it!
    "I'm sick of following my dreams, man. I'm just going to ask them where they're goin' and hook up with them later."- Mitch Hedberg

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    Senior Member 1st Electroshock Session TerryE's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by C.W. LaSart View Post
    Is Stephen King's "N" the story that you can only get on Kindle? I haven't read it yet and if that's the case, I suppose I never will. I don't have a Kindle :/
    Hey Caren, I hope you know I wasn't slamming you or the story as being derivative. "N" was not the Kindle story. I think it was original to the latest collection, Just After Sunset. It was also adapted by Marvel as a video comic on their website, before the book was released, and then adapted again by the same artist and writer to comic book form. It's kinda Lovecraftian and features a man with OCD seeing the things from beyond. The shrink doesn't believe him, but finds himself catching the OCD behaviors like a virus, moreso after the patient's suicide. And King himself, said his story was inspired by Machen's "The Great God Pan".

    It's strange how some motifs just seem to latch onto the zeitgeist at the same time. Sometimes it's intentional (like the deep sea monster movies that were made to hit the theaters before James Cameron's "The Abyss") and sometimes just coincidence (like that summer there were 3 or 4 body switching comedies out at the same time). Like I said, there were several stories here that opened with a doctor not believing their patient has something paranormal happening. And they were all very different except for that little hook. And obviously no one had seen the other stories before they were submitted here.
    Last edited by TerryE; 07-01-2011 at 04:19 PM.
    "Dance until your feet hurt. Sing until your lungs hurt. Act until you're William Hurt." - Phil Dunphy ("Modern Family"), from Phil's-osophy.

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    Senior Member Receiving Daily Medication C.W. LaSart's Avatar
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    LOL-No worries Terry! I wasn't taking it that way at all! Now that you explained it-I did read "N" but had just forgotten. It was the one with all the events having to do with a clearing by the river or something, right? I get what you're saying though. When you get to reading similiar stories, it comes across as cliche. It's funny, when I sat down to write Dr. Johnson's Patient, I had intended for it to be about Sheldon, the patient. But, as often happens with my stories, it took off on it's own and decided to be more about Dr. Johnson and his patronizing attitude. Of course, we can't completely blame him, it would be hard to deal with a Sheldon. I don't know why I was so successful at picking the finalists, but maybe I have a decent view of what is marketable. Now to figure out which one of King's stories was the one only on Kindle.......

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    Senior Member 1st Electroshock Session TerryE's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by C.W. LaSart View Post
    It's funny, when I sat down to write Dr. Johnson's Patient, I had intended for it to be about Sheldon, the patient. But, as often happens with my stories, it took off on it's own and decided to be more about Dr. Johnson and his patronizing attitude. Of course, we can't completely blame him, it would be hard to deal with a Sheldon.
    I'm glad you mention that. My only complaint with your story was Dr. Johnson's unprofessional attitude. And, silly me, I didn't get that it was the whole point.
    Last edited by TerryE; 07-01-2011 at 04:50 PM. Reason: fix quote
    "Dance until your feet hurt. Sing until your lungs hurt. Act until you're William Hurt." - Phil Dunphy ("Modern Family"), from Phil's-osophy.

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    Senior Member Involuntarily Committed RJHubbard53's Avatar
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    btw, Ur is the King Kindle story...
    It ain't braggin' if you can do it. . .

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    Senior Member Receiving Daily Medication C.W. LaSart's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by RJHubbard53 View Post
    btw, Ur is the King Kindle story...
    Thank you!

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    Senior Member Receiving Daily Medication C.W. LaSart's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by TerryE View Post
    I'm glad you mention that. My only complaint with your story was Dr. Johnson's unprofessional attitude. And, silly me, I didn't get that it was the whole point.
    It's all about perspective. Also, when faced with the sheer number of stories we had to read, we were prevented from completely enjoying them as we might if we just sat down to read them by themselves. When I buy a collection of short stories, I read them for enjoyment and am far less critical of everything than I was here. Of course, an obvious mistake would still bother me, but I tend to shut off the editor mode when reading for fun.

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    Senior Member Involuntarily Committed mlouisdixon's Avatar
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    I was surprised how little votes some of my favorite stories got. I've even asked one of the authors to submit to Dark Recesses. One of my favorite stories ended up in my own group and that was a bummer because I had to vote against it--even though I really liked the story. I felt that there were a couple of stories in the top that should not have been there. That's my opinion and that's all I'm going to say about it. There are probably people who were surprised I was there as well. Everybody has different tastes. I'd recommend to Dan that the next contest should have hidden polls but then that might be defeating the purpose of attracting people to the forum. Half of the excitement is watching the numbers.

    RJ, to address your question about why the stories won while other ones did not: I can't say specifically here. There were a bunch of good stories and a couple that didn't even belong in the group. (IMHO only) Out of them all, my favorite was Meat Socks. It was a fun story that made me laugh. It had nice creepy elements. It also was very well written making it believable to me. There were other stories in the top that I really liked as well. The common reason is that they managed to pull me in. They kept my attention. They gave me a promise of entertainment, be that via humor or thrills, and they delivered on that promise. They clearly had been thought through with great attention and craft. The other thing is their originality. Not every story can be a "brand new" idea, but did they do something new with an old idea? I read tons of stories and I just donít have time for poorly formatted/written pieces. Iíve got around 300 stories to go through for the final issue of Dark Recesses. I know that I will be rejecting most of them. I will be sending back form rejections after reading only three paragraphs or so on a lot of them. I will not even bother reading something that canít be formatted correctly. I will also find a number of stories that I really like but wonít fit our magazine. Iíll email the authors a detailed reply and may even suggest another venue. I will probably find stories that I really like that need improvement. Iíll ask for a rewrite and make suggestions. I will probably find stories that I want to print and pass it on to the rest of the staff only to be vetoed unanimously. Then there will be the few stories that we buy. These will be the gems that get into the magazine. Hopefully, these will be the stories that our fans will talk about for days on end. Hopefully, these authors will be so excited about the validation of their talents that theyíll keep writing and submitting and probably publishing.

    MLD

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    Senior Member 1st Electroshock Session TerryE's Avatar
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    And RJ, getting back to your original statement of trying to learn from the winners, you can't sit down and try to write for the masses. If you try to appease a section of the reading public, you leave out another section. The people going to see those Twilight movies are not watching Ingmar Bergman films, and that crowd isn't watching George Romero, etc. Write what you want, then see if there is an audience for it. Sure you can write on spec, but don't get to the point of pandering to the lowest common denominator. You'll recognize good writing and good story. When they overlap, there you have the gold.
    "Dance until your feet hurt. Sing until your lungs hurt. Act until you're William Hurt." - Phil Dunphy ("Modern Family"), from Phil's-osophy.

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    Senior Member Involuntarily Committed Craig Wallwork's Avatar
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    The worst part of writing is not the process of writing, or even the editing, it's the process of having to let your stories out into the world. I give up trying to write for readers and now I do my own thing. Sometimes it works for other people, sometimes it doesn't. Like Terry said, write what you want to read. The rest will happen when it happens. Of course, I sometimes think it is best to write what you want to read and read only what you write, too. in truth, there are days I consider never letting go of the story.

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