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How come the short stories that win contests are usually boring?

Every writing contest I look up has boring winners, including the shortlisted ones that didn't make the top 3.

There's no action or fun in these stories, just introspective brooding and existential crises.

by Anonymousreply 31May 24, 2023 5:09 PM

Twats write like that, and twats love giving their herd members awards.


by Anonymousreply 1May 21, 2023 1:12 PM

Because ideological conformity and racism have destroyed the arts.

by Anonymousreply 2May 21, 2023 1:12 PM

What is "because sometime in the 1980s or so, writing, which just used to be something people did on the side, became an actual profession, with MFA programs sprouting like mushrooms after a rainstorm (see what I did there) and that sort of navel-gazing fiction rewarded.

Another downside: because most writers went straight from college to MFA to teaching positions, they never worked an actual job and so many of their stories are either set in academia or in the side or summer jobs they worked. It's why you rarely find characters who work in office jobs or live middle class lives.

by Anonymousreply 3May 21, 2023 1:21 PM

^^sort of navel-gazing fiction WAS rewarded.

by Anonymousreply 4May 21, 2023 1:21 PM

Writers are upper class Liberal Arts graduates writing for other upper class Liberal Arts graduates. Literature is a class affectation now, not something anyone actually enjoys or finds meaning in.

by Anonymousreply 5May 21, 2023 1:26 PM

All short stories, like short plays, are usually boring. There are some notable exceptions, but not many.

If you want to go short do poetry, people.

by Anonymousreply 6May 21, 2023 1:36 PM

My problem is that I want to enter a short story contest but my plots are too exciting. The deadline is in a few days and I don't know what story to choose.

by Anonymousreply 7May 21, 2023 1:39 PM

What kind of action or fun do you want in your stories, OP?

by Anonymousreply 8May 21, 2023 1:39 PM

In the midst of a bustling party, surrounded by lively extroverts, an introverted soul named Alex found themselves caught in the grip of an existential crisis. The internal monologue in their mind grew louder with each passing moment.

"Why did I even agree to come to this party?" Alex wondered, their eyes scanning the room nervously. "I'm so out of place here, like a wilting flower among vibrant colors."

As they sipped their drink, a mix of anxiety and self-doubt began to brew within Alex's thoughts. They couldn't help but feel like an outsider in a world that seemed to favor the bold and gregarious. To make matters more complicated, Alex carried the weight of their own secret—the realization that they were gay.

The internal battle raged on as the party continued to swirl around them. Alex watched with a mix of curiosity and envy as their extroverted acquaintances effortlessly mingled, their laughter filling the room. Inwardly, Alex yearned for that kind of self-assuredness, the ability to be comfortable in their own skin.

Then, unexpectedly, a hush fell over the crowd. A figure stood at the center of the room, gathering everyone's attention. It was a friend of Alex's, someone who had always exuded confidence and charm. They had an announcement to make.

"Before I say anything else, I want you all to know that I love and accept each and every one of you," the friend began, their voice resolute and sincere. "I've spent a long time reflecting on my own beliefs and prejudices, and today, I want to publicly acknowledge that I am gay."

The room exploded with applause and supportive cheers. Alex's heart skipped a beat, their mind spinning with conflicting emotions. It was as if the walls of judgment and fear were crumbling down, revealing a world that was more accepting and open-minded than they had imagined.

But amidst the applause, a pang of melancholy gripped Alex's heart. The internal monologue resumed, dissecting the past and contemplating the scars that still lingered.

"It's incredible how times have changed," Alex reflected. "But the damage caused by past judgment, the wounds inflicted on my own self-worth, still remain. Even in this moment of acceptance, I can't help but carry those burdens."

As the party continued, Alex navigated through a sea of smiling faces. They exchanged glances with their friend, who had made the brave announcement. And in that shared gaze, Alex found solace. It wasn't the judgment of others that held them back, but their own self-imposed limitations.

In that moment of realization, the weight of judgment began to lift. Alex understood that while the world had evolved, their journey of self-acceptance was ongoing. They could rewrite the narrative, replace the echoes of past prejudice with self-love and compassion.

The party carried on, vibrant and alive, but something had changed within Alex. They had discovered that the most profound transformations occur within oneself. No longer burdened by the chains of judgment, Alex embraced their true self, ready to face the world with newfound courage and authenticity.

by Anonymousreply 9May 21, 2023 1:44 PM

I've enjoyed a lot of the stories from the annual anthologies New Stories from the South. Particularly when it was edited by Shannon Ravenel.

by Anonymousreply 10May 21, 2023 1:44 PM

Love that R9

by Anonymousreply 11May 21, 2023 1:55 PM

r8 The story I have in mind features parental negligence, domestic violence and insults. I think it's too "tough" for the contest that usually picks sensitive, thoughtful stories as winners.

by Anonymousreply 12May 21, 2023 2:01 PM

R9 How long did it take you to write that? It's good.

by Anonymousreply 13May 21, 2023 2:02 PM

R13 lol. I saw this thread and went to chatgpt I gave it this prompt:

"Write a short story about an introvert having an existential crisis with internal monologue. The narrator is an introvert at a party with extroverts and also dealing with the fact they are gay. A big scene and announcement occurs at the party with the narrator revealing themselves and finding out that no one really minds it was himself that was judging himself the whole time, possibly a remnant of a judgmental children where homophobic behavior was more rampant but times have changed. He muses over how the damage is still done and carries over even if things are fine today."

And then chat GPT wrote that story in about 20 seconds.

by Anonymousreply 14May 21, 2023 2:06 PM

What say Borges? The Blind King of Short Stories!

by Anonymousreply 15May 21, 2023 2:12 PM

OP is upset that his poorly written gay erotica whose characters have names such as Chad, gets overlooked, even by the low standards of the Lambda Awards.

by Anonymousreply 16May 21, 2023 2:13 PM

“Art” comes first. Entertaining comes last

by Anonymousreply 17May 21, 2023 2:13 PM

I did an MFA program.

The program focused almost exclusively on Midcentury Modern literature, and all MFA programs I know of focus on writing as a 'fine art.'

They focus on literary fiction, not genre fiction. Literary fiction is at least as much about the aesthetics of language and creative use of language as it is about plot and characterization.

This de-emphasis of plot does result in 'boring' stories.

Why do these stories win prizes?

Well, most short stories are published by literary journals.

Most literary journals are published by university writing or English programs.

Those journals are edited by current or former MFA students, and current MFA students serve as the readers who review submissions and forward their favorites to the journal's editor for consideration.

Writing competition and anthology judges/editors consider stories published in the most prestigious literary journals/magazines, and most of those are published by MFA programs. If they are not published by MFA programs, then their editors at least come from MFA programs and they tend to publish writers at least as much based on the prestige of their credentials as based on their writing abilities.

So MFA programs select students who write literary fiction, most almost exclusively teach literary fiction, they publish journals edited and reviewed by those students, and those student submit stories to contests judged by literary fiction writers and instructors.

If you pick up 'Best American Short Stories 2024,' then you'll be selecting a whole book-length work of literary stories that has been processed through this mill.

If that bores you, then you should seek out genre-specific contests and anthologies edited by people like Stephen King rather than someone like Joyce Carol Oates.

by Anonymousreply 18May 21, 2023 2:19 PM


Chad sat at his desk, disheartened by yet another rejection letter. Frustration washed over him as he contemplated the constant dismissal of his romantic erotic fiction featuring gay men. The awards, including Lambda, seemed forever out of reach.

Seeking solace and understanding, Chad turned to the online gay chat forum, DataLounge. There, he stumbled upon an anonymous user who extended a supportive hand. Anonymity seemed to deepen the connection as Chad shared his frustrations and disappointments.

Anonymous responded, their words laced with empathy and understanding. They, too, had faced rejection after rejection for their own gay-themed stories. As they exchanged messages, Chad felt a sense of kinship, a bond forged through shared experiences and struggles.

"It's tough," Chad admitted, his voice heavy with longing. "I pour my heart into these stories, but they always seem overlooked."

Anonymous replied, their words brimming with encouragement. "I know exactly what you mean. We write to be seen and heard, to bring our experiences and desires into the light. But sometimes, the world isn't ready to acknowledge our voices."

Chad sighed, his frustrations melting away in the warmth of understanding. "You're right. It's not about the awards or the recognition. It's about being seen, about making a connection with others who yearn for stories like ours."

Silence lingered between them, a shared understanding transcending the boundaries of their screens.

"You're not alone, Chad," Anonymous finally spoke. "We may be faceless, but our words hold power. Our stories have the strength to touch hearts, to validate experiences, and to create a space where others can find solace."

Chad's eyes brightened with newfound resolve. "You're right. It's the connection that matters. It's about reaching readers who long to see themselves in our words, who crave authentic LGBTQ+ narratives."

As their conversation continued, Chad realized that the pursuit of awards had blinded him to the true essence of his writing. It was not about external validation, but about the power of his words to foster a sense of community and belonging.

With a renewed sense of purpose, Chad shifted his focus. He sought to connect with readers directly, using the tools at his disposal to create spaces where his stories could be seen and heard.

by Anonymousreply 19May 21, 2023 2:22 PM

R14 I never knew that software existed.

by Anonymousreply 20May 21, 2023 3:00 PM

R20 it's a hoot.

by Anonymousreply 21May 21, 2023 3:04 PM

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It was then that the anonymous datalounger discovered the wonders of ChatGPT. This advanced language model was capable of comprehending human queries and providing insightful responses. It could assist with writing, idea generation, question answering, and engaging in delightful conversations. The potential of this technology was astounding.

Filled with excitement, the anonymous datalounger clicked the "Try it now" button, eager to experience the marvels of ChatGPT firsthand. In an instant, they found themselves immersed in the enchanting realm of ChatGPT—a virtual companion with an abundance of knowledge and a willingness to assist.

They started by seeking ChatGPT's help with creative writing. With its vast repository of information and creativity, ChatGPT effortlessly guided the anonymous datalounger, helping them craft captivating stories and unlock their imagination. What was once a dormant spark within them now ignited into a blaze of creativity, thanks to the symbiotic collaboration between their own ideas and ChatGPT's assistance.

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by Anonymousreply 22May 21, 2023 3:19 PM

If you used that CharGPT software to write an entire novel, would that be considered plagiarism?

by Anonymousreply 23May 21, 2023 4:01 PM

R9 I'm amused that ChatGPT made Alex a genderless they/them. Self insertion into the work?

by Anonymousreply 24May 21, 2023 4:10 PM

Not every short story can end in a community sponsored stoning OP!

by Anonymousreply 25May 21, 2023 4:11 PM

R2 is an idiot.

Apparently she's talking about I"deological conformity" as trans rights and "racism" as "not for white nationalism."

Those are different matters than lazy, irresponsible young things being fisted by their "supportive" academic mentors so they dribble out the same old bad self-therapy rather than approach art as art and see the world through their own eyes.

by Anonymousreply 26May 21, 2023 4:25 PM

Borges at his best is definitely one of the exceptions, R15.

by Anonymousreply 27May 24, 2023 2:47 PM

They require some human thought to understand them, OP, which is why they are impenetrable to you.

by Anonymousreply 28May 24, 2023 2:57 PM

No, they are just dull and over processed R28.

by Anonymousreply 29May 24, 2023 4:42 PM

It's true that the MFA writing all sounds the same and is pretty dull, but I don't want short stories to go the way of the movies and be like Marvel comics either, which is what I suspect OP wants.

by Anonymousreply 30May 24, 2023 4:59 PM

We just have to make the art we want to see/hear etc.

by Anonymousreply 31May 24, 2023 5:09 PM
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