Bartleby Snopes Writing Blog

Becoming a Better Writer

Category: Dialogue Contest (page 1 of 2)

8th Annual Dialogue Contest Winners

We received over 520 submissions and over 200 re-submissions to our 8th Annual Dialogue contest, making it the biggest year yet. After hundreds of hours of reading and voting, we are thrilled to announce our five winners:

1st Prize: Haikuzilla by Caleb Echterling ($1,722)
2nd Prize: Pillow Talk at the Water Cooler by Christina Dalcher ($574)
3rd Prize: Two AI Walk Into a Bar by Jessica Riches ($287)
4th Prize: Bad Stock by Tara Campbell by ($148.50)
5th Prize: We’re Ready When You Are by Sara Jacobelli ($138.50)

The winning stories will be published in Issue 15 of Bartleby Snopes, due out in January 2017.

Three of our winners were re-submissions this year. None of our winners had any previously publications in Bartleby Snopes.

Thank you to everyone who entered this year and in previous years, and a special thank you to guest judges Kathy Fish and Rebecca McDowell. We look forward to sharing the winning stories with the world.

8th Annual Dialogue Contest Now Open

Our 8th Annual Dialogue Contest is now open. You can find complete contest rules here.

Some quick information:

Prizes: A minimum of $500 will be awarded, with at least $300 going to the grand prize winner. Our five finalists will also appear in Issue 15 of the magazine due out in January 2017. Last year we awarded over $1900 in prize money. For every entry over 50, an additional $5 will be added to the total prize money.

2015 Prize Structure:

1st Prize: $300 minimum + $3 for every entry over 50
2nd Prize: $100 minimum + $1 for every entry over 50
3rd Prize: $50 minimum + $1 for every two entries over 50
4th Prize: $30 minimum + $1 for every 4 entries over 50
5th Prize: $20 minimum + $1 for every 4 entries over 50

Entry Fee: $10 for unlimited entries (only one entry allowed at a time; see Response/Notification section for more details). Entry fee is due at time of submission and will be collected through Submittable.

Be sure to read our dialogue writing tips for advice on crafting your entry. You can also read our past winners while you’re there.

Announcing the 7th Annual Dialogue Contest Winners

With over 330 submissions and a total prize purse of just over $1,900, the 7th Annual Dialogue Contest is our second biggest contest ever. Picking our five finalists was a challenge, but we are thrilled to announce our winners:

1st Place: Boogeyman by Rebecca McDowell

2nd Place: A Visit with Dr. Wallace by Carolyn Moretti

3rd Place: The Kitchen God by Fred Senese

4th Place: Retired by Ronald Friedman

5th Place: Is My Long Hair Blocking Your View by Amy Naylor

Look for these winning stories in Issue 14 of Bartleby Snopes out in early January.

Official 7th Annual Dialogue Contest Updates

Here you will find the latest information regarding the entries and prize money for our 7th Annual Dialogue Contest. Submissions are now closed. Re-submissions will be accepted through September 30th.

Last updated on 9/16 (7:00 pm Central)

Submissions Received: 337
Re-Submissions Received: 95

Current Prize Money (prize money continues to go up with each new submission):

Total Prize Purse: $1,935

1st: $1161
2nd: $387
3rd: $193.50
4th: $101.75
5th: $91.75

Explanation of Prize Structure:

1st Prize: $300 minimum + $3 for every entry over 50
2nd Prize: $100 minimum + $1 for every entry over 50
3rd Prize: $50 minimum + $1 for every two entries over 50
4th Prize: $30 minimum + $1 for every 4 entries over 50
5th Prize: $20 minimum + $1 for every 4 entries over 50

Find more details on our Contest Page

7th Annual Dialogue Contest Is Now Open

Our 7th Annual Dialogue Contest is now open. You can find complete contest rules here.

Some quick information:

Prizes: A minimum of $500 will be awarded, with at least $300 going to the grand prize winner. Our five finalists will also appear in Issue 15 of the magazine due out in January 2016. Last year we awarded $2380 in prize money. For every entry over 50, an additional $5 will be added to the total prize money.

2015 Prize Structure:

1st Prize: $300 minimum + $3 for every entry over 50
2nd Prize: $100 minimum + $1 for every entry over 50
3rd Prize: $50 minimum + $1 for every two entries over 50
4th Prize: $30 minimum + $1 for every 4 entries over 50
5th Prize: $20 minimum + $1 for every 4 entries over 50

Entry Fee: $10 for unlimited entries (only one entry allowed at a time; see Response/Notification section for more details). Entry fee is due at time of submission and will be collected through Submittable.

Be sure to read our dialogue writing tips for advice on crafting your entry. You can also read our past winners while you’re there.

6th Annual Dialogue Contest Winners

We are thrilled to announce the winners of the 6th Annual Dialogue Contest are:
 

1st Place – Slurpie Safari by Sorrel Westbrook-Wilson – $1428

2nd Place – Everyone Smiles by Amy Morris-Jones – $476

3rd Place – Sorry, Was That Pronounced with a Long O or A by Daniel Thompson – $238

4th Place – Where We Go When We’re Gone by Gabrielle Hovendon – $124

5th Place – Blue Frosting by Mathangi Subramanian – $114
 
All of our winners will appear in the 13th Issue of our semi-annual print and PDF magazine due out in January 2015.
 
Congratulations to our winners and thank you to all who participated.
 
For more information about the Dialogue Contest, please visit here.

Final Dialogue Contest Prize Purse: $2380

Here you will find the latest information regarding the prize money for our 6th Annual Dialogue Contest. Submissions close on September 15th.

Entries are now closed. Here is the final prize money update. We hope to respond to all submissions by September 20th to give writers enough time for resubmissions. If you don’t receive a response by then, assume you are in the top 5.

Update (10/3): We have selected our five finalists. If you have not received a response in Submittable, then your story has been chosen as a finalist. For the sake of contest integrity, we are unable to notify our finalists directly until all internal voting is completed. Please log in to your Submittable account and check the status of your submission. If your submission is “In-Progress” then you are a finalist.

Submissions Received: 426
Re-Submissions Received: 213

Final Prize Money:

Total Prize Purse: $2380

1st: $1428
2nd: $476
3rd: $238
4th: $124
5th: $114

Explanation of Prize Structure:

1st Prize: $300 minimum + $3 for every entry over 50
2nd Prize: $100 minimum + $1 for every entry over 50
3rd Prize: $50 minimum + $1 for every two entries over 50
4th Prize: $30 minimum + $1 for every 4 entries over 50
5th Prize: $20 minimum + $1 for every 4 entries over 50

Find more details on our Contest Page

A Visual Guide to Bad Dialogue

Is bad dialogue ruining your stories?

Writing good dialogue–like any other aspect of good writing–is an art form. Dialogue needs to feel natural, to move the story forward, to be interesting, and a whole lot more. Oftentimes, writers will bury their dialogue within overly descriptive tags. Other times, writers use dialogue without clear purpose. These aren’t even the worst of the dialogue blunders.

Rather than going on and on about how to write (and how not to write) dialogue, here is a visual guide to bad dialogue. By seeing these obvious mistakes, you should have a better idea of what to avoid when crafting your own dialogue.

These are the four most common mistakes I see writers make when crafting dialogue (a special thanks to Assistant Editor April Bradley for designing the comic strips):

1. Using dialogue to describe things:

Marshmallow Clouds

2. Using dialogue to convey action:

As I Lay Dying

3. Using dialogue that sounds too formal and nothing like the way people really speak:

Feelings

4. Using dialogue that tries too hard to sound exactly how people talk:

Sweet Nadda

Dialogue can be a great way to move a story forward and reveal more about characters, but it can also be the downfall of your story. Don’t fall into these dialogue traps.

Don’t forget about our 6th Annual Dialogue Only Contest going on right now at Bartleby Snopes Literary Magazine and Press. We’re giving away a minimum of $500 to our winners this year. So let your characters start talking. They may just earn you a lot of fame and fortune.

Dialogue Contest Tips from the Masters (Part 2)

Our 6th Annual Dialogue Contest is now officially accepting submissions. With prizes bigger than ever this year, you want to be extra prepared with your stories. A couple weeks back we published the first of two posts filled with tips from our past contest winners. Here’s two more interviews to help get you over the dialogue-writing bumps you may experience.

Mark Jordan Manner – 3rd Annual Dialogue Contest Winner

Winning Story: “Poem About Writing a Poem”

BS: How does your approach to writing a dialogue-only story differ from your normal writing process?

MJM: I know I won’t need a dictionary or thesaurus.

BS: What are the key ingredients for good dialogue?

MJM: I think the opening line is really important. It should grab the reader and drop them right into the flow of conversation, make them care about it, make them invested in the exchange before they even know or understand what exactly is being discussed. Make them want to know.

Also, the F word.

BS: What is one piece of advice you have for contest entrants?

MJM: Only enter contests run by the magazines you love.

BIO: Mark Jordan Manner lives in Toronto. His stories have appeared in Grain, EVENT, Prairie Fire, The Antigonish Review, The Dalhousie Review, Riddle Fence, The Feathertale Review, and Little Fiction. He will begin his MFA at The University of Guelph in the fall.

Annam Manthiram – 2nd Annual Dialogue Contest Winner

Winning Story: “Why Won’t You”

BS: How does your approach to writing a dialogue-only story differ from your normal writing process?

AM: To be honest, I don’t write dialogue-only stories very often, so they are very challenging to me!  Whenever I approach a story, I try to view it as a highly dimensional process.  What is going on in the background and in the foreground of the scene, and how does each affect each other and the scene that is unfolding?  Manipulating these elements can lend dimension to the relationships between characters.

In a dialogue-only story, the scene is entirely dominated by the foreground (the conversation).  There are no descriptive elements to indicate what is going on in the background, apart from what the characters may be saying about it.  So I ask myself at this point: what happens when most or all of the scene is in dialogue?  How does that affect the narrative?   Am I getting the dimensionality that I want, and if not, how do I tweak the dialogue so that I will?  My answers determine the starting point of the conversation.

BS: What are the key ingredients for good dialogue?

AM: Dialogue in fiction isn’t really a replication of how people speak in real life.  It is more of the author’s way of guiding a conversation.  The writer must go back to intent.  What do you want this conversation to say, and how should it resonate with the reader?   I think of good dialogue as slanted; people talking at each other, not really to each other.  If you listen to people talking out and about, you will find some great examples.

Also, you must understand the motivation of a character, her background, her likes/dislikes, her upbringing, etc. in order to write dialogue for that person.  The way we speak, the words we use, our manner of speech are all direct reflections of who we are.   You cannot write good dialogue unless you know your characters.

BS: What is one piece of advice you have for contest entrants?

AM: Don’t give up!  I submitted many times before my story was chosen.  Nobody gets better without practice and rejection.

BIO: Annam Manthiram is the author of the novel, After the Tsunami (Stephen F.  Austin State University Press, 2011) and Dysfunction: Stories (Aqueous Books, 2012).  A graduate of the M.A. Writing program at the University of Southern California, Ms. Manthiram resides in New Mexico with her husband, Alex, and sons, Sathya and Anand.

 

Now that you’ve read tips from the masters, be sure to submit your entry to the 6th Annual Dialogue Only Contest for a chance at big prize money and literary fame!

Dialogue Contest Tips from the Masters (Part 1)

The 6th Annual Bartleby Snopes Dialogue Only Contest will soon open (June 1st), and this year the contest is bigger than ever. Before you send those submissions, we thought you might like to read some advice from our past winners (including one of this year’s guest judges, Ronald Friedman). Here is part one of what our winners had to say about the challenges and successes of writing dialogue-only fiction.

Ronald Friedman – 5th Annual Dialogue Contest Winner

Winning story: “Night Orderly”

BS: How does your approach to writing a dialogue-only story differ from your normal writing process?

RF: Not a great deal, but there are several key elements.  I spend more time thinking about the story in its entirety. I want to make sure that the story can be told in dialogue without any awkwardness in construction that draws attention to the style rather than the story itself. My goal is to write a story that the reader won’t even notice is entirely dialogue.

I imagine the story in set pieces, no more than three, and decide what action and character elements I want to include in each. This is lot more planning than I put into most other stories.

I prefer to allow short stories to develop a momentum of their own, often taking me and the characters to places I had not thought about before, but I need the whole story for dialogue only.

I like the plot tied down more because I am going to spend most of my effort revealing subtleties of the character.

I rewrite as much as any other story, often more. I must have written my prize winner six or eight times and that does not count the repeated editing that I usually lie to myself about and call rewriting. The latter rewrites are often just a few word changes, but the purpose is to strip away another thin layer of character to show what is underneath.

(For example, I have an 800 word story I am working on now that has a simple plot, but complex characters. Two men are alone in a government room waiting to have some official documents signed that will allow them both to escape death. One man has the necessary papers, but is paralyzed by his fear of taking action or facing risk. The second man has no resources and would take any risk. The story reveals small elements of each man’s character until we understand why one man’s fear of taking a chance to save himself actually dooms him and he suffers the same fate as the second man who had no resources at all.)

BS: What are the key ingredients for good dialogue?

RF: Dialogue has to sound natural, but not be verbatim speech. Also, different characters need to speak differently. Not dramatically so; in fact the more subtle the differences, the better, but I should be able to tell from what someone says who is speaking from content, pace, word choice, sentence length, anything.

Don’t bury back story or any form of narration in dialogue. It is always obvious and usually makes the story unreadable.

Also, real-life dialogue is not linear. Nor should it be in a short story. Twists and turns and overlap give the dialogue its sense of real people talking.

BS: What is one piece of advice you have for contest entrants?

RF: Character and plot trump style, format, and any other strictures or guidelines you come up with for your story. When you are down to plot and character, character trumps plot. This is not unique to dialogue-only stories.

I wrote two stories of about 1000 words each for last year’s contest and both were rejected. (My third submission won)

Reviewing carefully, I see I violated this guideline in both the rejected stories. I relied on clever—gimmicky—plots instead of character dynamics to move the story. A plot that winds up with a surprise ending is fine, but not as good as a character who has changed in an important way because of the events of the story.

This works for me. Others may be better plotters than I am. A number of the prize winners in years past have been remarkably clever.

BIO: Ronald Friedman is a retired psychologist living in Scottsdale, Arizona. He is the author of two nonfiction books and over 50 articles published in magazines and newspapers, but has been writing fiction for only the past three years. His short stories include “The New Suit” published by Huff Post 50 and “Time Remaining” in the Rind Literary Review.

Lee Stoops – 4th Annual Dialogue Contest Winner

Winning Story: “Open Me”

BS: How does your approach to writing a dialogue-only story differ from your normal writing process?

LS: In all honesty, it doesn’t differ so much. No matter what I’m writing, my goal is to move the story forward, and I carry that rule to dialogue whether it’s woven into the prose or it’s the only thing on the page. When I write a first draft, I try to keep myself from stumbling on rules or form so that I might just get a draft out. It’s in the re-crafting that I start to cut the unnecessary, the redundant, the useless. I think it might be easier in writing dialogue to let the chatter get away from doing its job of moving the story along, so I probably pay closer attention to that.

The significant difference might be in the time it takes. Developing a way for characters to say something they wouldn’t normally say (something I’d write into the narrative through exposition or otherwise) to open something up in the story, without it feeling forced or unnatural, is tricky. Looking back on dialogue-only stories versus normal process stories, I see I have two to three times as many drafts of the dialogue-only stories.

BS: What are the key ingredients for good dialogue?

LS: Natural sound. Yeah, I know, everyone knows this. But it fascinates me, because what we read and hear as natural on the page isn’t usually the same thing we’d hear or say in conversation. It’s kind of enigmatic, written dialogue. Natural but not natural.

As I’ve already said, it must move the story forward. If it’s not growing and dragging the character and his/her role along through the story, it’s unnecessary.

In that, there must, must, must be a story. It’s not enough to listen to people talk. The “rules” of story apply – there must be need, there must be motivation, there must be some kind of struggle.

Lastly, and this is especially important in dialogue-only, the character voices must be unique and quickly established (and consistent). This is not to say cartoony or exaggerated. We all have our sounds – the ways we say words, our dialects, our vocabulary. As in any prose, the characters need to produce the same identity within their speech.

BS: What is one piece of advice you have for contest entrants?

LS: Be weird. I keep hearing writers telling other writers to be brave, and I get that. I like that. But I also think it’s kind of general and a bit vague (which, works because we’re all standing up to wildly different fears, so we’re free to interpret). In writing a story with only dialogue, why not be brave by taking the opportunity to get weird? I’d rather read a conversation between a lonely tree hugger and his mother after losing his virginity to an amorous ponderosa than read another conversation over well-aged bourbons on oily coasters atop a sticky bar.

BIO: A graduate of Antioch University’s MFA program, Lee Stoops teaches and writes in the mountains of Idaho with his wife and children. He is a fiction editor for The Citron Review and has served as an associate nonfiction editor for Lunch Ticket. His work has recently appeared in Wilderness House Literary Review, Hippocampus, Spry, and Bartleby Snopes. More at www.leestoops.com or on Twitter @leestoops

Be sure to come back in a couple weeks for more tips from other Dialogue Contest winners.

 

Older posts