I had five pages to convince the judges that my short story was the best.
Midwest Writer’s Workshop of Muncie, Indiana, has a five-page maximum length requirement for its entries in long fiction, nonfiction and short and one hundred lines for poetry. No exceptions.
“The Red Ball” is a futuristic tale of a young man who rarely steps outside and a young woman who does, for thirty minutes every night while the city detection system goes offline.
It was seven pages long.
The judges expected to read incomplete entries, but wouldn’t it be to my advantage if I could end the story within the limit?
Like lovely locks of hair, my story lost its extra curls of enriched characterizations. The words weren’t shorn for good, I consoled myself, only stored away in another word file.
“The Red Ball” took Best Short Story. Placed against the winning pieces in all four categories, it also earned me the Top Writer Excellence Award.
In the end, I couldn’t deny it: the impact of the tightened, five-page story was sharper.
The judges thought so, too.