1000 Words IV - Contest Results

Welcome, folks! This year's "1000 Words" contest saw wider participation than ever before: twenty-five people from seven different Internet mailing lists entered the contest, fifteen of whom actually completed and submitted stories by the deadline. Thanks to everybody who participated for helping to make this latest contest a success!

Those of you who may be unfamiliar with the contest can go here for details. For the rest of you, let's move on to the results...

The Picture | Grading System | The Stories

The Picture:

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Grading System

Let me say, first off, that I have not read any of the feedback or replies that other people have posted to these stories, so as not to corrupt my own judgments of them with anyone else's thoughts. What you see in the following text is entirely my own opinion and analysis.

The stories were judged in five categories, on a letter-grade scale of E through A (1-5 points, respectively). Scores midway between letter grades were ranked as a "minus", so, for example, a B-minus was worth 3.5 points. The categories were then weighted by a multiplier based on how important I thought that category was to the overall quality of the story.

Spelling/Grammar (x1): This is a measure of the author's skill at the most basic rules of English. Typos, usage of the wrong word or the wrong tense, subject/verb disagreements, and similar errors will result in deductions here.

Technique (x2): This category encompasses the other technical aspects of good writing. Run-on sentences, poor paragraph structure, punctuation errors, and other technical problems not directly related to spelling and grammar will lead to lower marks. An "A" in this category means that the person has effectively mastered the tecnical aspects of writing.

Creativity (x3): This is a measure of how original and interesting the author's ideas were. Important details here include an engaging plot, interesting and well-developed characters, the richness of the story setting, internal consistency in the story elements, and originality (i.e., avoiding clichés).

Artistry (x3): This category evaluates how well the author's ideas were executed. Whereas Technique covers the technical, mechanical aspects of writing, Artistry is about the less tangible factors: Does the story maintain a consistent tone? Does it evoke the emotions it's trying to evoke? Does the technical approach used (e.g., viewpoint character, first- or third-person, present or past tense) work well with author's ideas? Does the story have a clearly-defined beginning, middle, and ending? Is it the right length for the story the author wants to tell, or did it run too short or too long? Most of all, how fun, interesting, thought-provoking, and/or exciting is the story to read? A thousand intangible factors fall into this category. If the story takes place in an established shared story universe, like Tales From the Blind Pig or Metamor Keep, this is also where I will judge the story's consistency with the themes and established guidelines of that story universe.

Applicability (x1): This category is a measure of how well the story fits with the contest image. Ideally, the characters and events depicted in the image should play a major, if not central, role in the plot, and the scene should be described well enough in the story that a person would not need to see the image in order to visualize the event in his or her mind. Obviously the amount of detail given should not be so excessive that it disrupts the flow of the story, but the reader should be able to make sense of what's going on without looking at the picture -- and, for that matter, a person looking at the picture should feel like it is truly relevant to the story, and not just an inconsequential image with only tangential bearing on the plot.

The maximum score a story could achieve was 50 points. Keep in mind that there's some rounding inherent in this system: any letter grade assigned to something implies a range of performance, so someone need not be 100% perfect to get an "A" -- one just needs to hit that nebulous "95% or better" mark. A score of "A" in any category means that the story achieves everything that could be expected of it, and would be worthy of an "A" if I were grading these stories in an academic setting. A "B" indicates something good, but which did not really fulfill its true potential. A "C" indicates average -- not bad, but not really all that remarkable or inspiring. A "D" indicates subpar performance, and an "E" is something that is rife with errors and problems.

Grading systems like this one are always somewhat subjective, and I won't claim that a score received in this year's contest is 100% directly comparable with a score received in a previous contest. Because of the large number of submissions this year, I've tried to be more discriminating in certain categories; in particular, I'm grading quite a bit harder on Creativity and Applicability than in previous contests. Don't worry if a story that you think is worse than your own got a higher score in a previous year's contest -- your submission is only being judged against other entries in this same batch.

The Stories:

Stories are presented as they were received for the contest, without editing, so as to accurately convey the technical skills of the authors. Edited versions of some stories may appear at a later date, if submitted by their authors.

My comments for each story are listed separately on that story's page. Authors' email addresses have been spam-protected.

And now, let's begin the countdown...


15th Place: Going on the Northwest Passage, by Miss Histhe

14th Place: The Cataclysm, by Senta Johnstone

13th Place: Untitled Story, by Robbie Clyde

12th Place: Shadows of Our Past, by Serilyn

11th Place: Past Glory, by B. Rich

10th Place: Untitled Story, by Curtis Ingram

9th Place: Untitled Story, by Illadvised Ninja

8th Place: Command Decision, by Leo Spitz

6th Place (tie): Mother, by Aaron Springer

6th Place (tie): Requiem of a Lost Civilization, by W.T. "Shatter" Hughes

5th Place: For Art's Sake, by Quentin "Cubist" Long

3rd Place (tie): The Camera Never Lies, by Allen Kitchen

3rd Place (tie): Kyrean Life, Sort of, by Michael "Mystic"Olson

2nd Place: Silent Bells, by Charles "MattRat" Matthias

1st Place: Being a Patrolsentient, by Michael Bard

Congratulations to Michael Bard, who narrowly held on to his title as the reigning champion of 1000 Words! He wins a $20 gift certificate to Amazon.com. In addition, he and each of the other top authors -- MattRat, Mystic and Allen -- will receive permanent enshrinement of their stories on Raven's Lair, as well as nifty award logos which they can use for bragging rights on their own webpages.

Thanks again to everyone who participated -- and, as always, thanks to you for reading!


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