Short Story Judge’s Report 2023
Judge’s Report for the short story competition 2022/23 from Sue Moorcroft
There can be few better ways to spend a rainy Tuesday than reading fifteen great stories. When I agreed to judge the Flash 500 Writing Competition, I hadn’t anticipated that I’d be presented with so many wonderful entries. I hope the writers that weren’t placed take me at my word that they were all ‘this’ close and continue to write for the world to enjoy.
1ST Saving Grace
Saving Grace has everything I look for in a story. The arc is well-paced and well-defined, the dark moment comes in the right place and is constructed to make the reader doubt the eventual outcome. In Saving Grace, we get two central characters in one, as the narrator is Grace, the unborn child of Marsha. The author writes with confidence and flow and controls the release of information to the reader beautifully. Marsha, with Grace on board, experiences a journey of the heart and the ending is perfect. Designed to wring a tear, it left me reflecting on big decisions and close calls. I really wanted Marsha to choose to save Grace.
2ND The F Word
There’s so much to like in The F Word. The story provokes sympathy and empathy as the narrator Dan watches his mother’s descent into depression. The author doesn’t flinch from showing Dan’s vulnerabilities – the weak lies and excuses he makes to stepfather Tony
to dodge helping Mum, or hurting as her next episode unfolds. It’s obvious that Dan would love his sister Nat to return from Australia and free him from the situation. It’s all the more admirable, then, when he steps up and rescues his mother when she needs him most. The ending is hopeful rather than happy, but I felt assured that the family was enjoying some respite and was indeed ‘fine’ – the F word of the title – for now.
3RD Be Well
I love to hear of bullies being bested. Bullies can also be victims, of course, but in Be Well I am left in no doubt that the guy extorting money from poor Sal is a predator. Our unnamed but well-written narrator exists in a foggy world wrought from substance abuse and surgery, spending most of his time listening and learning about the activities of his hospital ward. Witnessing Sal’s misery creates a solid turning point. The narrator leaves his bed to save Sal and, once physically on his feet, feels motivated to take up the threads of his own life. It’s a great structure. I felt satisfied, but also wanting to know what the narrator’s future would look like.
I’d like to thank all the writers on the shortlist for letting me read their stories. It was such a pleasure.