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Washing up competition

edited January 2007 in - WM and WN


  • February's short story competition 'Washing up' has to be about a fourteen-year-old girl called Mary. According to The Guinness Book of Names, it wasn't in 1993's top fifty. Come on, where are the Rebeccas, Charlottes, Lauras, Amys, Emmas and Jessicas?
  • Hmmm. Maybe that is something that could add to your story though? Someone that has a fairly unpopular name; what are/were her parents like? What was/is her upbringing like? I've actually found the oddest ways of coming up with stories! Ha-ha.
  • If they had any sense Jay they'd be somewhere else, miles away from washing up.
  • Maybe she was named after somebody.
  • Perhaps she has much older parents so is an only child- hence the old fashioned name.
  • Jay, you forgot the hugely popular Sophie, Chloe, Emily & Megan. Not working from a list here, but from personal experience, having produced my daughters in 90 and 92.

    As for Mary: my greyhound was called Mary when we got her. No wonder she didn't win a lot of races. It's not a name for a high achiever, is it? - I actually find it really hard writing a story from a brief which includes the character's name. My characters tend to arrive in my head with personality, past and name already in place.
  • I know what you mean.  I can never start writing until my character has a name, it just doesn't feel right. 
  • Those last two posts rang bells with me.  I think I'd like to use HF from my first ever published short story for the main female character in my novel.  At the moment, she's simply A (others are B, C, D and so on...)

    She suits the story, the part, the places, events, everything.  I don't suppose there's anything to stop me as she's my copyright in any case.
  • My characters - unless there's a compelling reason for a particular name - start life as XXX and YYY (so the computer can do a search & replace). I've just had a look at the book, and Emily comes in at 13th; Sophie 14th; Chloe 26th; and Megan 49th for 1993. Rumour has it that Chloe means something rude in Turkish.
  • Ooh, I like the idea of XXX, YYY etc. I find it really difficult to write if my characters have names that don't fit so the triple letters and 'find & replace' sounds like a good solution for me.
  • When doing search & replace, use the 'match case' option. I think that was my downfall when I changed a character's name from Rob ... and ended up changing probably, problem and wardrobe.
  • I don't know if I'm alone in finding the themes in general have a dull, dated feel. Maryish sums it up really. I sometimes think it's deliberate to keep the entries down or force extremes of creativity.
  • Therein lies a dilemma, Ana. Do you write what you think will be a winning story or do you write what you believe to be good literature (which some of the prizewinning stories and stories published in women's magazines are not)?
  • Then there's Muscle Mary and Maryanne (I tried to check I'd got the right words, but they weren't in the dictionary - although Mary can be impolite in Australia, apparently).
  • Ana, I agree - the competition themes are very mundane. I've only recently taken out a subscription to WN/WM, and am disappointed both with the competitions briefs and the quality of some of their winning entries. It feels as if they aim only at the people who write for the women's weekly magazines. Nothing wrong with that, but there's more to literature!
  • Do you not think you could perhaps 'spice up' some of the themes though, Anyanka? Isn't that the whole point of writing; start with something basic and expand on it?
  • Monkeynuts, of course one can take any theme and bend it - I did enter the 'painter & decorator' competition - but the mundaneness of the briefs and the standard of some of the winning entries just makes me doubt that the judges are looking for quality stories. It all gives me the impression that they want a mediocre rehash of the cosily familiar.
  • Maybe they should ask for readers to write in with some ideas then? I'd look forward to reading yours, Anyanka! What would you suggest?
  • Anyanka - glad I'm not alone. When I look at the themes I'm always reminded of Rimmer on Red Dwarf with his Hammond organs and telegraph poles - sort of makes you lose the will to live.

    Apologies to all Marys. It does also strike me as a Kook's name, like Phoebe in friends - I'm sounding like a TV addict here.
  • Rimmer ... now there's a name to conjure with.
  • Perhaps that will change now that the competitions are going to be controlled by WN/WM.
  • Reminds me of an exercise I was set in a creative writing class about a romantic hero called Tim.
    None of us could write a word - just couldn't get past that Tim thing. Apologies to heroic Tims.
  • If I were in charge of posing the competition themes, I'd be inclined to go for more open briefs with less detail given, perhaps just one instruction, aiming at inspiration rather than limitation. E.g. write a story set in 1975; something blue; alien encounter. The latter clues could be taken literally or not, giving much more scope.

    For example, I've just sent off a story for a competition with the theme 'vision' (it was in the WN opportunities).  I found that one word beautifully inspiring because it left so much room.
  • I have to agree; having the scope certainly makes things easier. Maybe they are just looking for specific entries then? I suppose if they had a wider scope then maybe more people would enter. That may just mean too much eye strain for one or two judges!
  • Funny how the name 'Tim' conjures up for me, a thin, neatly dressed computer operator type of bloke when the one and only Tim I actually know is a whiskery, pot-gutted, hard drinking labourer - also as far away from superhero status as I could imagine. :)  They really shouldn't allocate names to the competition requirements.
  • What kind of guy does STANLEY conjure up in your mind?
  • A cheeky pastor of a Baptist church in Bedfordhire.
  • Or even Bedfordshire!
  • One of our neighbours who is a builder. Very warm person, in a cuddly way. That's my impression only of any Stanley.
  • I agree with Ayanka and MonkeyNuts! If they`d just said "Washing Up" and left the rest to us, that would have been fine. I was thinking of entering this one, but somehow I feel a bit restricted in trying to solve Mary`s problem....

    Stanley?  Stan Laurel: hair standing on end, big grin!
  • This month's competition is a bit more open though! Maybe they agree that the washing-up comp. is a bit too specific.
  • Laurel and Hardy - I just love the old black and white movies. We have several on video.
  • Jay I've got "He's Arnold, Arnold, Arnold Rimmer" song going through my head now thank you very much!!!!!
  • Don't blame me - it was Ana who started it.
  • Thanks a bunch, now I've got the Rimmer song in my head too. There is only one remedy, but it's a desperate one - 'Yellow Submarine', the song that evicts all others.

    There's only one Stanley, as mentioned above, and he should whenever possible be accompanied by Oliver. As for Tim: he is a weedy flaxen-haired boy with a dog, battling the forces of evil in Arizona or Dorset.

    Finally, this lengthy discussion about the Mary comp has resulted in An Idea, for which I thank ye all. If I hadn't joined in this thread, the washing up theme would not have stayed in my head, and Mary would still be a non-winner, whereas now she's Quite Contrary.
  • The scales have fallen from my eyes. I now see Mary as a slave in a Fred West style household, contemplating the suspect stains she has to wash up. I'll be really interested to read winner now.
  • Sorry Jay, I actually didnt see Ana's comment. I had to go and dig out that episode after I'd been on here (not so I could sing along - honest)
  • That's OK. I thought the bane of everyone's life was Bob the Builder. (Especially for any builders unlucky enough to be called Robert.)
  • Would you like me to sing the Bob the Builder song? Oh, please, let me sing it!!
  • Sing away Stan

    *sticks cheese in ears*

    Actually its anything by the Tweenies in our house!!!
  • 'Bob the builder, can we fix it, Bob the builder ...
  • I thought I'd remind Stan how it starts, just in case he's forgotten.
  • Can he build it? YES, he can!
  • Does he want to though?
  • not if the weather is as bad as yesterday, he doesn't.
  • Here am I to nag again I see some are commenting on the theme's set for competition:  I'd like to slip in one of my favourite adages:  "There are no dull subjects - only dull writers" so rise to the challenge
  • Strangely the name didn't put me off, nor the topic.  thought I'd give this one a go. It stimulated my thoughts via my son's lack of washing up skills. He finds ways to make it better for me to do it than him - hmmmm I think he does it delibrately but maybe not!!!
  • Like dropping a few cups accidentially on purpose?
  • Among others!
  • Now that reminds me of advice given to me by a Great-Uncle on the in-laws side.

    "Start your married life with enthusiasm. Be enthusiastic about all household chores, insist on helping. The first time you help with washing up; drop at least two of the best pieces of chinaware. It will hurt but have courage, she'll never trust you with chores again but will thank you for your support."

    Needless to say, I did not follow the advice.
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