The inaugural Blank Page Challenge was the first writing contest I’d ever entered. I have had a few drabble and flash fiction pieces published online so far, and placing second in the competition is something I am very proud of. I thought I would share, in no real order, just a few of the things that occurred around this piece.
- The prompt – when I first saw the prompt, I imagined the usual flashlight pointed in the air kind of scene. In that specific picture, however, the way the light appears in relation to the flashlight and the figure made me envision the light coming downward rather than pushing upward. Right away the idea of a “collector” of the light was formed. There are a few references to this:
- Mama’s “light empty body” was a play: her body is light as well as empty because she is dead, but in addition her body is empty of the light that gives her life and the Star Collector will refill her.
- Obviously the reference to everyone as stars is related to this idea as well.
- The main character – this was an interesting one for me. Through the time I wrote this, I never once bothered with the main character’s physical description or gender. As far as I’m concerned, it doesn’t matter, so it can safely be ignored. I still do to this day. I don’t “see” anyone when I think of the protagonist – that person is simply just present in the events. There have been multiple instance of readers interpreting the MC as female. That’s fine (as I said above, it doesn’t matter).
- Writing group – I took the story to my local writing group (CS Writers) for one of our weekly critiques and each of the readers there interpreted the MC as female.
- Judge’s comments – there were a few notes from the judges and one of those referenced the MC as a “she” which I thought was interesting.
- Emotion – by the time I’d ironed out the bulk of the story, it should have been highly emotional, right? Kid stuck on some horrendous planet, apparently alone with only Mama as a companion. Mama dies, kid freaks out. Emotional as hell, right? Apparently not, because the first couple of drafts were completely dry. I mean like clinical. I added some emotion later, then more was suggested by folks that read the early draft. One of them suggested the addition of some or all of the grief stages, which I did squeeze in in a couple of places. I knew I was on to something when the phrase “tear jerker” came out. The judges called for more emotion and a more developed ending. I see that now and wish I’d seen it before submitting, because I agree.
- Jill’s reaction to the contest – okay, this has nothing whatsoever to do with my story, but one of the earliest Tweets to come through after the announcement was from the eventual winner, Jill Patrick. She congratulated both Brittany Miller and I for our placings, and then she mentioned each of us in her interview. I thought that was really classy and humbling. Brittany was equally gracious. They reinforced the truth that we are all in this together, that the only real competition is ourselves, and that the success of anyone else is not threatening to the rest of us. I really appreciated both of them. Frankly I’m thrilled to have my work sitting next to their amazing pieces.
- My final and most important thought about the story is the importance of going for it. All the usual cliche comments can be made: “just do it” “go for it” “do or do not” whatever. But they are true. If I may be so bold as to say, I rather like a particular combination of words I put in the interview: “Gift yourself with the possibility of success.”
Thanks to everyone that voted. I’d welcome any comments or critiques of “The Star Collector,” so feel free to comment here or message me on Twitter.
And thank you to the people and organizations that donated prizes!