NYC Midnight  100-Word Micro-fiction Challenge 2022

Another challenge…

I discovered NYC Midnight a few years ago and entered the 250-word challenge. I got the best combo of the genre, required word, and required action and placed like 9th, allowing me to move on to the next round where I didn’t place at all. That minor taste of victory has me thinking I could do it again, maybe even win, but that has yet to happen.

Part of the perk of entering the competition is getting feedback from the judges. However, it seems more and more that I am just wasting time and money. The fact is, the feedback is mostly a sign that the reader either didn’t like or didn’t understand the story. There are no helpful tips, or suggestions for editing… nothing helpful. That has been the case the last several entries. I’m all for constructive criticism, but what I got is not the best. However, I will admit that I have only entered the 250 and 100-word competitions. Perhaps there would be more to say if there were more to read?

Another admission: much of my story for this round weighed heavily on the reader having prior knowledge and experience in the chosen setting. If a person has never been to a place like the one in my story, then certainly they would not know what to expect. And yet, most readers have a strong imagination, so is it not fair to allow them to use it?

As a person who writes for a variety of reasons from ghostwriting business blogs to writing stories and poetry, I’ve had a lot of opportunities to test out styles and points of view. When I am writing creatively for myself and my intent is to publish a piece for someone else to read I always hope that my creative mind won’t interfere with the reader’s creative mind. I might have come up with the basic synopsis, but I will intentionally leave some to the imagination. Visualizing characters and settings are sometimes described, but most of the time I’ll give a little and allow to the reader to fill in the information with prior knowledge.

This especially comes into play with micro-fiction. When you have such few words to work with, every choice of word is not taken lightly. You can’t go “Herman Melville” with describing every minuscule thing. My strategy is to focus my words on the feeling of the character and the experience of the setting. It seems that strategy might have worked with my English professors, but not so much with the NYC Midnight judges. I guess it is high time to just let you read it and see for yourself.

The Last One Out

100-Word Micro-Fiction Entry, 2022

Requirements: Horror, Frowning, Hurry

One was grimacing, the other was frowning.

I looked down. Churning gears, laughter, and music filled me. I looked up.

More mirrors. The only way out is forward.

I took a few steps, dragging my hand along the mirrored wall. My friends must already be on the other side by now…

A few more steps ahead, the music became faint.

It’s time to hurry.

I tried to run, but a firm and freezing tinge ran up my fingers and into my arm. I couldn’t move. Another hand was on mine, jutting out from the mirror. 

I screamed; all went black.

The Feedback

Dear Lorri Crum,

The feedback from the judges on your 1st Round submission from the 100-word Microfiction Challenge 2022 is below. We hope you find the feedback helpful and you’re proud of the story you created for the challenge. Thank you for participating and we hope to see you in a future competition!

”The Last One Out” by Lorri Crum –     WHAT THE JUDGES LIKED ABOUT YOUR STORY – {2144}  The terror of a fun house is that the structure itself is disorienting, so the idea of something sinister hiding in a space when you’re already vulnerable is pretty scary. Mirrors especially create illusions, so they set up lots of spaces for something frightening to lurk.   {2209}  I really like stories involving magic or haunted mirrors because there’s so much potential about what could be on the other side of the mirror. The imagery of grimacing faces and hands reaching through the mirror to grab at the character are super creepy and scary.  {2092}  The dread of the situation is very apparent, adding to the story’s growing tension.   WHAT THE JUDGES FEEL NEEDS WORK – {2144}  I assume that this setting is some kind of fun house, but I would like a little more context to be added to the story with some exposition. Why is the narrator in this room? Why aren’t their friends with them? I think the reader would be able to understand the fear in the story a little better if it was easier to understand how the narrator ended up in this situation.   {2209}  I’m a little confused by the first line of the story. Are you talking about different reflections that are “grimacing” and “frowning?” Are they reflections of the same character? I don’t really understand where the character is or why, so I wonder if you could provide some more clues? For example, what kind of music is playing? Is it a carnival’s house of mirrors or a ballet studio?  {2092}  The ending lacks a strong impact. Currently, this is due to the detached focus from the reader. Adding a bit more atmosphere would improve the engagement.

My final thoughts…

Ultimately, I am glad I rose to the challenge and did the best I could with a genre that is far from my norm. I do feel like even if the reader pictures a ballet studio and the main character is the last ballerina out of the building with a music box rendition of Fur Elise in the background, the story would still work. Perhaps even the last person in a 24/hr gym…I mean, any instance the reader might have remembered a wall or hall of mirrors. But yes, the first judge got it right: my vision was a fun house at a carnival. It seems like the first judge got it for the most part, but I’m not sure the other two have ever had any fun. Who knows.

Well, that’s it for today. Did you enter any of the NYC Midnight contests? I’d love to read what you submitted. Feel free to comment below with links to your posts. I’m always looking for new things to read.

x Lorri

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