Winners of the Story Contest: A Small Gift

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Chit
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Winners of the Story Contest: A Small Gift

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Winners List

As judges, we found the entries to be of a mind-blowingly high standard - which made our job both very enjoyable and very difficult!

To cut to the chase, the winners are as follows:
  • First Prize goes to Faewynn
  • Second Prize goes to Tavari
  • Third Prize goes to Shigunda
As previously announced, the prizes are selected in turn, starting with the First Prize winner. We'll contact you each in turn to choose from the prizes on offer which are:
  • A book: the UK first edition/first printing signed and numbered hardcover edition of The Pariah by bestselling fantasy author, Anthony Ryan
  • 60 days game time
  • 100,000 gold

Thank you so much to all our writers for your work and how creatively you shared your characters' inner lives!


Feedback on entries
Writers rarely get feedback so we are hoping to satisfy the need to know 'how the story landed' by offering reactions and observations from the judges; please accept them purely as information that might help your creative process!

Faewynn (First Prize)

A meeting between an estranged son and his father begins to restore their relationship. This is a many-layered piece and beautifully written piece that reflects on early life choices and also the more mature and nuanced undoing of past decisions.

The Gift: is multi-layered, starting with spider legs cooked just right, but also being about conversation, honesty, attention, and time given freely. The multiple layers of what the ‘gift’ is add to the subtlety and complexity of this piece.
The Character: a fallible single father and son who felt like an afterthought, both with vices in their past, reconnecting through a father’s new partner. Though short, it conveys a great deal about the character’s past and present and the open horizon of the future. It explains much of how he came to be the person he is, and what sort of person that is, with a light-hearted sense of humour, some insecurities despite the carefree attitude, and an appreciation of his origin as a potential anchor in a current existence that is always new and quite rootless.
The Writing: This piece is beautifully crafted to convey a simple message with emotional complexity. The writing is grounded using 4 of the 5 senses to create a very tangible pivotal moment - taste, touch, sight and sound. There is something delectably horrible about the description of eating a spider leg! The first paragraph firmly establishes the sense of place – the landscape, the author - on a tree branch - which made us laugh and immediately gave a sense of empathy for the character. Concise and clever writing brings in the chance meeting with someone who was dating his father, with evocative metaphor rather than explanatory detail – the family tied loosely together with a pink glittery ribbon. Leading in the end to the conversation that starts the healing. Making the point that healing doesn’t always mean addressing the issues but just establishing a firm connection for a new start.

Favourite lines:
It was a good branch.
Faewynn’s relationship with his father could charitably be called complicated
The meat was tender, the shell crunchy and spicy enough to melt a tongue. Just the way spider should be prepared
Faewynn watched ships in the distance, their sails slow and lazy, much like the clouds above them.


There is only a hairsbreadth between the First and Second Prize winner, making this such a hard choice. While Faewynn excels in subtle layers, Tavari excels in visceral description.

Tavari (Second Prize)

The decision by an Illidari to wear an embossed leather bracelet - that his demon sees only as a mark of ownership and weakness - is a pivotal moment in committing to a person and a path forward.

The Gift: Firmly established in the first paragraph, the gift of a leather bracelet embossed with a rabbit, a deer, and a horse is both full of memories and a struggle to accept. Wearing it is the first step on the path from being driven by demons to committing to a relationship and different way of being. The protagonist is at the pivot point, with a journey both behind him and before him. The gift represents the willingness to trust and to ask for help. It portrays the character’s inner struggle in multiple layers: the struggle with the demonic presence and the struggle of defining a relationship, what it is, what it could be, what it gives him and what it might cost him. The difficult balancing act of freedom and commitment made tangible in the symbol of a gift and how to interpret it.
The Character: Establishes the inner experience of an Illidari battling his demon to regain stability and an inner compass by finally accepting fully a gift made long before and given in love. While it is a self-contained piece, it could just as easily be a part of a longer story - definitely worth reading!
The Writing: The first paragraph establishes the bracelet and that it is unused but has been owned and handled for a long time, its smell and feel. The voice is loud, but Tavari is alone and an Illidari – concisely establishing this is an inner struggle with a demon and explaining the opening sentence. All 5 senses ground the description; senses of smell (leather), sound (sandstorm), touch (animals indented into the leather, hair lashing), taste (bile), and sight (guts, black locks of hair, scuffed boots on a crate). Tavari adds interior sensation (insides racing to rip through his flesh) and contrasts the ‘sight’ of guts shown by the demon with how the blinded Illidari would perceive the world - and this makes the writing literally visceral and immediate.

Favourite lines:
The leather smelled brand new and it didn’t have a single crease in it. The only thing that interrupted the feel of the sleekness were the indented animal shapes in it: a rabbit, a deer and a horse. Tavari had traced those patterns a thousand times by now.
Grains of desert sand scraped over the tent, creating a persistent noise that he focused on to push the vision away.
This man could conjure up a storm of emotions, and in the center of it Tavari felt alive. And calm. And confused.


Shigunda (Third Prize)

The third prize winner excelled in creating interplay between two characters, which certainly creates an interest in roleplaying with both characters with plenty of roleplay hooks that are introduced as the two people bounce off each other.

From one young Tauren bull to another, the gift of a wildflower startles the realisation of a loving friendship and starts a joint adventure.

The Gift: The gift of a simple flower disrupts a Tauren blacksmith’s focus and jolts him into understanding his love for a friend and following him into a life of adventure. The simple gift and accompanying words produce a pivotal moment, and a speechless protagonist when the world turns under his feet as he comes to a realisation.
The Characters: Lovely portrayal of two young companions, with the dialogue reflecting the artless and sometimes jolting communication of youth. You feel that both Mutty and Shigunda would strike up a conversation easily with a stranger, and you’d have a laugh together. A lovely tale of an idolizing friendship and/or a budding romance. While leaning heavily towards romance, it could be either, and that in itself creates interest in a 'will they, won’t they?' way.
The Writing: This is a very enjoyable piece with good dialogue that establishes character - such as a habit of stealing from his father's gold stash! This piece has a lot of emotion in it – excitement, innocence, hope, longing, like the start of a coming-of-age series.
Favourite lines:
Still, if there was anyone who could draw his attention and focus away from both his work and studies... it would be the silly bull, Mutty! Of the Bloodhoof Village!
"...- was not cheap! Why, my father already almost got a heart attack from the amount of gold missing in his cache!~"
For once, the talkative profiteer was speechless! His tail wagging almost uncontrollably!


Anomen

Anomen's contribution was reflective, looking back over the journey and work of forming a relationship between two people whose lives had not been easy.

An honest refusal to meet leads to a years-long journey for two battered people to discover each other and forge a family together.

The Gift: Asked to meet up, a refusal is refreshingly honest and starts a journey of difficult communication that allows two people to gradually unpick everything that stands between them - while also fostering children. The pivotal point is the initial rejection, which starts a long journey of honesty and dismantling barriers of fear. A rejection which might have been expected to push a man the other way.
The Characters: The piece is an ode to a beloved partner, a warm and nostalgic musing. A man redeems a bad reputation by helping a woman encased behind multiple barriers establish trust and allow the other to truly see them. Character-wise, the piece is focused more on the female partner than the protagonist, the latter mostly showing though in glimpses, reflections and comparisons.
The Writing: Lovely descriptions of the face of the woman and her unapologetic jubilation in some moments of connection, and also the clumsy struggles of the protagonist in trying to reach her. Establishing barriers tangibly made it come alive – ‘You weren’t hungry, yet your stomach growled.’

Favourite lines:
Somehow, you got me to show you parts of that silly little book I was writing... and you loved it.
The twinkle in your eyes and the wide smile on your face as you told me how you felt about it...
That's when I fell for you, I think.
you showed such unapologetic jubilation at having finished the bits of the book I gave you.
You weren't hungry yet your stomach growled.
You weren't comfortable yet I saw your body stop shaking for the first time.
You weren't sure about imposing on Sienna yet the both of you got along as if you knew each other for years.