NYC Midnight 250-Word Microfiction Challenge

Earlier this year I entered the NYC Midnight 250-word Microfiction Challenge, an international creative writing competition that challenges participants to write original 250-word stories by giving them a specific genre, action and word assignment, in 24 hours. Every writer is placed in a specific group based on the genre, action and word assignment they are given. The competition judges pick 10 authors (per group) to progress to a second round. I was assigned to write a story under the Fairy Tale/Fantasy genre, and had to include the action of drinking milk and the word ‘heart’.

A couple of days ago, the results of the first round were released. I didn’t make it to the second round, but I did receive feedback on my story.

My short story can be found below.

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The Happy Ending Machine

Once upon a time there was a little girl named Stella. Stella was happy, bright, and loved making things. One Friday at school, her best friend, Gina, told her that her parents were getting divorced and was very sad.

As Stella had a big heart, she decided that she was going to make a “happy ending” machine. The machine would have people insert a coin, tell a story of their problem, and what “happy ending” they wanted. On Saturday, after eating breakfast and drinking her milk, Stella got to work. It took nearly all weekend, but she successfully built the machine.

On Monday, she showed Gina the machine. Gina put a coin in and wished for her parents to stay together. On Tuesday, Gina told Stella that her parents were getting back together. Stella let the other kids at school use it and they got their “happy endings”.

The machine was used so much that it broke on Thursday. On Friday, Stella went to school and promised everyone that she would build another machine.

Stella tried her best to build another machine, but couldn’t, and cried. Stella’s mother told her that “happy endings” can’t be made in a machine but everyone finds one eventually.

When Stella arrived at school on Monday, Gina told her that her parents are still getting divorced, but they reassured her everything will be okay. Everyone else also managed to find their own “happy endings.”  Stella smiled, realising this news was her happy ending.

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A part of entry is receiving feedback from the judges on your story, whether you make it to the next round or not. The feedback I received from the judges on my story can be found below.

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WHAT THE JUDGES LIKED ABOUT YOUR STORY – {2085}  The topic pulls the reader into the story as we would all like a “happy ending machine” and the idea is creative. That the machine brakes creates a challenge for the main character, Stella. The moral of the story, that we have to make our own happy endings, adds depth to the ending.     {2068}  I like how you used the literal “happy ending” of  fairy-tale in your story.  It was very sweet of the little girl to want to help all her friends find theirs.  {1970}  I really like the happy ending of “The Happy Ending Machine”. It goes to show that there is more than one way to look at things, perception is important. You have wrapped this lesson up in just enough fantasy and magic to add a dash of the magical to this story. I love the friendship aspect, and the loving family dynamic of this story too. Even the divorcing parents have a loving family, and it’s clear that Gina recognizes this. Thanks for the the feel good tale.  

WHAT THE JUDGES FEEL NEEDS WORK – {2085}  To increase the tension and impact of the ending, consider brainstorming ways to make something about the how Stella receives the message about how we have to make our happy endings more mystical or mysterious. If author would like additional word count for that, consider reviewing for some detailed descriptions that could be removed or shortened.    {2068}  The part about the parents getting divorced then not and then in fact yes getting divorced was a little problematic.  It does not seem realistic for parents to over night tell their child that the divorce is cancelled, and then the next night carry out the divorce plans again.  I know you wanted to show two versions of “happy endings” but it seems forced almost if using that example.    {1970}  I stumbled slightly with a bit of syntax that strikes me as a little awkward. It’s this sentence:

‘One Friday at school, her best friend, Gina, told her that her parents were getting divorced and was very sad.’

Are her parents very sad? Or Gina? Despite the use of ‘was’ indicating Gina, there is something in the order of the words that implies that the sadness is applied to her parents. While they are probably sad too, I think that’s not the intention of the line. It’s not exactly wrong, but it does read as a bit clunky. Try the sentence using different ways to say the same thing, and see if you come up with something that flows a more smoothly. All this said, I did get the meaning, and I do think that this is a fine little tale. Thanks again.

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Overall I did enjoy participating in this challenge, however I did find this challenge more difficult than the previous one, which I think shows in the judges’ feedback on my story, as well as the fact that I didn’t make it to the second round or get an honourable mention.