50 Word Fiction Competition: how to make an impression

Category: Writing

The 50 Word Fiction Competition encourages writers of all levels to tell a story in just 50 words. This is a huge challenge for any writer; you’ve got such a short space of time to grab your readers so every word is vital.

But what are we looking for? Here's five unfailing guidelines:




Use the prompt creatively

This might seem like an obvious starting point, but it is worth remembering. Once a story takes root, it’s easy to get caught up in the excitement of it all before realising that it doesn’t quite fit the prompt. Always keep the prompt in mind and if the story doesn’t fit, put it to one side to use another time.

Also, be creative. The best entries have taken the prompt and looked at it from a slightly wonky angle. Don’t just go with your first idea, jot down a few and see which idea excites you the most.

Involve character

We know that fifty words isn’t a lot, but character is still very important. What we really want to see is a hint of a character; don’t tell us the whole story, but do give us something to chew on. This could tie into their actions, relationships or even unfinished dialogue, anything which gives us the sense that their story is far richer than the word count.

Don’t forget plot 

But we can’t neglect plot either. Again, it’s a tough ask in such a small word count, but as our previous winners have proved, it can be done. We’re not looking for complete exposition but rather a scene which feels complete but could also suggest something more. Don’t be afraid to be bold, make us scramble to piece together what’s happened.

Play with style

It’s important that the story is in your style, but don’t be afraid to experiment too. We read a large number of entries, so anything which makes your story jump off the page stands a good chance of getting noticed. For example, the winning story for April used an unusual email format and we all spotted it immediately. But don’t do something weird for the sake of it - the story has to be good too.

All’s well that ends well

Everyone knows that a strong opening line helps, but remember to end your story well too. Often we’ll get hooked by a great opening line but the story sadly fades near the end. Make sure that you continue to grab your reader’s attention in the final moments of your story; think about swapping or scrapping your last line - you might be surprised at the results.

But my main piece of advice? Go for it! Whether you’re a seasoned writer or you’ve always wanted to try, take up the challenge and have fun. You never know, you might win.

The 50 Word Fiction Competition is now open for entries. Find out how you can enter here