NYC Midnight 100-Word Microfiction Challenge 2022

Earlier this year I entered the NYC Midnight 100-Word Microfiction Challenge for the second time. The Challenge is an international creative writing competition that challenges participants to write original 100-word stories by giving them a specific genre, action, and word assignment, to complete within 24 hours of receiving it. Every writer is placed in a specific group based on the genre, action, and word assignment they are given.

The Challenge’s judges pick 15 writers (per group) to progress to the second round. This year, I was assigned to write a story under the suspense and/or thriller genre (the same genre I was assigned last year), and had to include the action of lifting a dumbbell, and the word ‘base’.

Last week, the results of the first round were released. I came in 8th place with my story, Acrimonious (Part II). Not only did I do better in the Challenge this year than I did last year (last year my story got an honourable mention), but I made it to the second round with a sequel to the story I wrote for last year’s Challenge. Knowing this, as well as the fact that over 6,900 people worldwide participated in the Challenge, and I originally wasn’t going to participate in this year’s Challenge only to change my mind at the last minute, this outcome feels amazing.

My short story can be found below.

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Acrimonious (Part II)

I had to kill her.

Everyone thought she was perfect, including me, but during quarantine, I met the real Annette. Bossy, controlling, not the meek doormat I agreed to marry.

Lifting a dumbbell off the stand in my home gym my first thought, hit her over the head with it? No, too obvious. Poison? No, she does the cooking. I settled on a hitman. He’d ‘kidnap’ her and finish the job after keeping her at his base for three days.

It happened on day two. All it took was one phone call and two words to ruin everything.

“She’s escaped.”

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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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”Acrimonious (Part II)” by Rach Loveday

WHAT THE JUDGES LIKED ABOUT YOUR STORY:

{2065}  Acrimonious (Part II) is a captivating microfiction story. The narrative is transparent and introduced with a powerful sentence, “I had to kill her.” The reveals that follow this are timely and in perfect sequence. Well done.  

{2147}  Fascinating title. Great opening line: “I had to kill her.” Immediately the reader is invested in unfolding what follows.

Spicy poetic metaphor: “Bossy, controlling, not the meek doormat I agreed to marry.”

It’s dark, thrilling, and comic all at once. Wondering what Acrimonious (Part I) was about. Certainly looking forward to Acrimonious (Part III). 

{2242}  Great story, very unique and it has a great punchline.   

WHAT THE JUDGES FEEL NEEDS WORK:

{2065}  It is excellent to reveal the wife’s name, Annette, but it is only used once—second sentence—in the story. It would be fantastic to replace the reference word she’s in the last sentence with her name. The outcome will significantly impact a more convincing narrative development in 100 words.  

{2147}  No need for the quote marks for kidnapping. It is what it is. Consider in compound sentences punctuation that illuminates clarity for the reader. For example, another way to punctuate these lines: Everyone thought she was perfect, including me. But during quarantine, I met the real Annette; bossy, controlling–not the meek doormat I agreed to marry. Lifting a dumbbell off the stand in my home gym, my first thought: hit her over the head with it? Great work. 

{2242}  I would consider chopping down some sentences to give more space to elaborate on the details of who these people are, what they look like, what their environment looks like. For example: “He’d ‘kidnap’ her and finish the job after keeping her at his base for three days.” you could try “He’d ‘kidnap’ her then three days later, finish the job .” This saves you six words that you can use to give us a bit more detail about Annette, what she looks like, and maybe a good quality about her. Also, possibly something about the Narrator. However you utilize it, the more you can give us in 100 words the stronger of a visual we have and the more immersed and connected with the story we become.

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As mentioned earlier, Acrimonious (Part II) was the sequel to the story I submitted in last year’s Challenge, Acrimonious. As I was given the same genre as last year, I felt this gave me an advantage in coming up with a story idea quickly, and I felt that the sequel to the story I submitted last year was perfect for this year’s Challenge.

Acrimonious was inspired by the 2014 film, Gone Girl. When I say it was inspired by Gone Girl, my intention was not to create a carbon copy or similar story to Gone Girl, rather I was inspired by the writing of the film, specifically the use of an unreliable narrator to make viewers question who is really guilty, or rather the greater evil out of the two characters.

In Acrimonious, a husband has hired a hitman to kill his wife, but his wife has managed to break free. However I also make it clear, specifically towards the end, that while her husband’s actions are extreme and abhorrent, she’s not an innocent person either. Both parties in this story are responsible for their marriage breakdown, but who is the greater contributor or evil party remains to be seen. This story was told from the wife, Annette’s, perspective (although her name wouldn’t be revealed until Acrimonious (Part II)).

I wanted to continue the ambiguity of who was the greater of two evils in the marriage with Acrimonious (Part II) by getting the husband’s perspective (I haven’t named yet, perhaps I’ll name him in Part III).

The husband’s perspective of Annette was both meant to be comical and realistic. Comical in the sense that it’s ridiculous in this day and age that he would have a problem with an ostensibly strong and assertive wife, but also realistic in the context that he is clearly misogynistic. However we’re also yet to find out from Annette or another character whether she really did trick the husband and pretended to be someone she’s not during the marriage. The possibility of this is hinted at in Acrimonious when she says she has to flirt with a man in a Ute to convince him to give her a ride away from the shed she’s kept in after she escapes.

I also wanted to reveal the husband’s motive and logic behind choosing a hitman to kill his wife, and I wanted to start and the end the story with the focus on the husband’s decision to kill her – the story starts with him firm in his decision and justifying his choice and plan, and the story ends with that decision starting to backfire. The end of the story also provides the perfect springboard for Part III, which at the moment I’m planning to have it focus on the couple’s story from the perspective of the man in the Ute.

You can read about my experience in the 2021 Challenge and Acrimonious here.