The theme of the competition is to write something sparked by one of twenty photographs you will find linked to the main competition page. The photos, along with these related prompts and tips, are there to trigger ideas and creativity rather than as a theme you must strictly stick to.
We are looking for imagination, originality and a good flow to a piece of writing. Be it poetry or story, we want to be surprised by your ideas and how you bring them to life. Excite us! Make us laugh, make us cry, scare us, or simply make us think… Some of this might come about by careful editing to get it just right, or sometimes we are lucky enough to write something straight off with very little editing needed. Either way, after you’ve written something, give yourself time to make it as good as it can be by going through this final check list which you can download below.
Connecting with a photo
The creative process often begins in one place and ends up somewhere completely different, so we are not prescriptive about how a photograph might trigger or influence your writing. It could be that you want to tell the whole ‘story’ of a photograph, in front of or behind the eyes of the lens, or that the photo has sparked something else that you’d rather pursue. A photo could influence your setting, plot or character. Something from the photo could just make a cameo in your writing.
There might be very little of the photo influencing what you write. That’s perfectly fine and won’t affect the judging of your entry. Likewise, great if you found a photo a real source of inspiration, we’d love to read how.
Remember, this is fiction not fact. It’s about you and your imagination. You make the rules and you can even control the weather! Don’t worry about where or when an image was taken – you can decide that yourself. If you end up moving it to another country, or even another planet, that’s fine too. You might also be unsure what a particular image is about, which is not a bad thing because then you will interpret it in your own way. As a writer, you’re here to imagine your own conclusions about the themes and the contents of a photo and the bigger picture you can’t see.
Have fun and if you’re not sure how to start, check out the below resources to help you get writing!
Flash fiction & Short Story
In the words of writer Lorrie Moore – A short story is a photograph; a novel is a film.
The word count for flash fiction is 200 to 500 words and short story is 500 to 2000. Flash fiction tends to be the name given to stories under 500 words. For more about flash, see the further help links.
Although 2000 words is quite a lot, avoid trying to write an epic tale with too much going on and too many characters. Try focusing in and amplifying a small idea – a moment, a snapshot, a glance – something that you can give time and detail to.
Start in the action – as close to the end as possible, that way we’ll be jumping in at the most exciting point. Very often our first few paragraphs of writing are warming up and contain too much description and explaining. When you edit you can check if you’ve implied enough in the course of the story for the reader to understand more than needs to be told?
Poetry & Spoken Word
All styles of poetry are welcomed. The only thing we’re not keen on is poems written for the sake of the rhyme rather than the content of the poem. Poetry, of course, can rhyme, but the rhyme should never be forced. Rhythm, on the other hand, and the sound of words, are important in a poem so it’s always a good idea to speak your poem out load and listen to the way it flows when you edit it.
You can write something more focused on it being heard/read aloud, or something written for the page, where line breaks are particularly important. Or you can write with both in mind!
Bringing ideas and concepts into the real world via concrete imagery will strengthen your poem and conjure visuals in the mind’s eye (one of the main aims of most poems). For example, you could make grief or anger or love (ideas that are difficult to pin down) into an actual person and describe them: what do they look like, how to they speak, what would they say, what do they wear?
Unlike a story, a poem doesn’t need a narrative structure but you can give it one. Read it aloud as you edit to help tune into the ‘voice’ of the poem, but never try to sound like a ‘writer’.
Have fun and do check out the below resources to help you get writing!
Also, we run free, friendly, supportive and relaxed young writers’ groups across South Yorkshire if you fancy checking one out to get you writing more. More info here.