Saturday, August 10, 2013

My Entry in the "Your Story" Writer's Digest Contest

Writer's Digest Contest Entry

I recently entered a short story contest run by Writer's Digest. The contest had the following rules:

"Write a story of 750 words or fewer based on the prompt below. You can be funny, poignant, witty, etc.; it is, after all, your story."

(Prompt: Begin your story with the following line of dialogue: "Heads, we get married; tails, we break up.")

Depending on font size, line spacing, dialogue, etc., 750 words is usually no more than 1-2 pages, so what I like to do is only give pieces of a fully formed plot and focus more on detail and alliteration. Here is my entry:

Lucky Penny 
By: Carrie Watson

“Heads, we get married; tails, we break up.” Those were the last words Haley remembered speaking as she flipped a coin into the air. Minutes before her wedding was about to start she snuck out into the church’s courtyard for a cigarette. She wasn’t used to so many people constantly surrounding her and making a fuss. It made her claustrophobic.
She would be happy when this day was over. She loved Tim and wanted to marry him more than anything, but it was all the grand wedding traditions that bothered her. She could feel a blister forming on her foot from the penny her mother insisted she put into her shoe. She bent down and removed it.
She pulled the penny out and examined it.  She knew Tim was the one she was meant to be with, so she decided to test whether or not fate was real. She balanced the penny on her thumb and forefinger, flipped it in the air, and said the words, but knew that no matter what side it landed on she would be walking down the aisle in the next few minutes. The penny flipped through the air before falling to the ground, bouncing and clinking on the stone walkway. That was the last thing she remembered before everything went dark.
As Haley began to wake up what felt like only minutes later, she tried to focus her mind. She was struggling to concentrate. No matter how wide she opened her eyes, everything was still dark. She was lying on a mattress. Her arms, tied above her head, seared with pain.  Her feet were tightly bound and duct tape covered her mouth.
The darkness was so still that she could hear the soft footsteps of someone walking towards her. She heard a click and was blinded as light burst through her corneas. She blinked her eyes and tried to see the figure standing in the doorway.
A man she didn’t recognize walked in towards her. Next a woman who Haley knew well walked in behind him. They both stood over her.
“Did he find the letter?”
“Yes, but he doesn’t believe she ran away.”
“Do you think this one’s too risky?”
“I don’t pay you to ask questions.” The woman said as she pulled her ringing cell phone from her pocket and answered it.
“Hi, Honey, how are you today? I know it’s hard. When your father left me I stayed in bed for weeks, but I promise it will get easier.”
Haley knew it was Tim on the phone. She tried desperately to yell from beneath the tape, but it was too muffled.
“I’ll be there soon. Can I bring you anything to eat? Sweetheart, you have to eat something. Ok.” She hung up the phone and looked at the man. “Cut the dress off of her. I’ll put it with the others.”
He knelt down beside Haley and grabbed the top of her strapless wedding gown. She watched him pull a knife. She felt the cold steel slip between her skin and the satin and slide down her side cutting through the dress like it was tissue. Haley tried not to tremble with fear. The man pulled the dress out from around and under her and she lied there in only her underwear.
“Give me the dress.” The woman said as she glared at Haley. The man handed her the dress and then she gave the order. “Do it.”
The man turned back toward Haley. She began to scream from beneath the duct tape, but was cut off when he plunged the knife into her chest.
The woman watched with pleasure. “I have to go. Finish up here and I’ll contact you again when I find another one. One more bride-to-be should do it and then she’ll just be another unfortunate victim in a series of connected murders.”
Haley looked from her once soon to be mother-in-law to the man. She struggled to take a few more shallow breaths and then closed her eyes.
        That same morning, Tim sat at the kitchen table drinking a cup of coffee. He stared at the letter and knew Haley couldn’t have written it. He played with a penny on the table. He found it outside of the church the day before while he was looking for Haley before the wedding. He picked it up thinking it was a sign of good luck finding it on the ground heads up.

The Top Five in the contest:
I went onto the Writer's Digest website to see which stories were picked by the judges to be the top five out of the tens of thousands of entries. I liked three out of the five, although one of them had a spelling error. Mistakes happen, so that story was still the one I chose to vote for because I honestly liked it the best.
Looking Back:
If I could go back and resubmit this story, I would changed the order of two of the paragraphs. I might have Tim's scene occur after everything went dark for Haley and before she woke up in the darkness. The story would end with, "She struggled to take a few more shallow breaths and then closed her eyes." 

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