Judge’s Report: Hilarie Lindsay Short Story Competition 2023

SECTION 1: Senior Secondary

General comments 
Whilst plot lines were often imaginative and the themes had a moral twist, too many stories appeared to be first drafts with no revision.
Often there was an excessive use of adjectives and similes that seemed cliched or forced.
Some wrote in the present tense, which can bring immediacy to the storytelling, but too often, the author dropped into the past tense unnecessarily for parts of the story – always a danger when choosing this tense.

Specific comments 
The winning, highly commended and commended stories were very different yet they had these qualities in common. They were more polished, more tightly told and didn’t ramble in the middle. They kept within the word limit. The imagery was fresh and appropriate, while the characters were revealed through their actions and their themes were more subtle. All three stories commenced with a short attention-grabbing statement – “To live is to be fluid, ever changing”; “It began so simply” and “My mother always had a lot of male friends.” 

SECTION 2: Junior Secondary

General Comments 
Overall, the stories were imaginative and creative, but often not so good in the execution. Some were rambling and many used unsuitable description, cliched imagery or too many adjectives, too many characters, even too many ideas all jammed into one story. When the writers of descriptive passages avoided these pitfalls, they were very good. 
Some stories used time shifting through portals or holes in walls to another realm, which created imaginative possibilities. There was other evidence of Harry Potter-like ideas with owls carrying letters and parallel worlds with unconventional means of travel. 
In this section, there was one outstanding story and three good stories. 
The winning story was well written, used correct grammar and spelling, was tightly constructed with a lovely twist at the end. Of the three commended stories, two were fantasies and the third speaks apparently factually of war and its effect on children. All are well told using good English and story structure.
By this level, I would expect writers to set out dialogue correctly with a new line for each new speaker.
A good short story uses only two or three characters, uses dialogue and action to demonstrate mood and personality rather than telling it, and doesn’t introduce any details unnecessary to the telling of the story. The ending should come logically, but if possible, with an unexpected twist. 

Primary School Entrants:

In general, the primary stories over-used adjectives, especially large words, until some stories were almost indigestible. The best stories avoided this and were more simply and directly told as a result. Some included a moral.

SECTION 3: Senior Primary

The winner of this section wrote from the point of view of a fox. Opening with a cry of “The hounds are coming! The hounds are coming!” it grabbed the reader’s attention. Short sentences for fear and dramatic action continued to keep the reader right there. It was an action-filled and dramatic story with a happy ending.
In the runner-up, the narrator is an ant. Just as he thinks he has won against the humans and their bug spray, he is felled in a sad ending.
In the commended story, excellent English expression is wound around a highly moral tale of redemption.

SECTION 4: Junior Primary

These stories displayed exceptional imagination, especially the winning story which used fruit as its characters and the highly commended runner-up where the characters were Lego men and pelicans. The commended story depicted the underwater city of Atlantica with elegant description and ended with a goal for the higher purpose of safeguarding civilization.

Posted in Competition Results