Would you like to win a short story contest? What do judges look for when giving prizes in creative story contest? The judges are not profoundly moved by lyrical language, deep insight into human condition or snappy dialogue. They are looking for evidence of structure. To strengthen story structure, ask several key questions.
1) Have you focused on one protagonist?
A creative short story should have one protagonist. A story may be told by many narrators, or through several point-in-views, but one protagonist should clearly predominate to sustain engagement of the reader in the story.
2) Is the protagonist appearing quickly?
The protagonist should appear in the first 400 words of your story or no later than page one. Readers interact and bond with the first character they meet. Therefore, the first person they meet should be protagonist.
3) Does the protagonist change?
The conflict should change the main protagonist in some way; he/she should be a different individual at the end of the story.
4) Is there a single principal theme?
A short story should have one prevailing theme, and one single master plot. If there are any re sub-plots, ensure all the conflicts support the main theme.
5) Does your story end by revisiting the theme?
When closing your story, in some way, revisit the theme. The main problem may be resolved. There might even be accepted that the issues will never be resolved. However, one must return to the theme.
6) Are the primal emotions engaged?
The theme must engage the reader’s, and, by extension, the protagonist’s carnal drives or primal emotions. Defined in the simplest terms, these include physical survival, sex, emotional comfort, and spiritual advancement.