Scare Us! - A Roundup Of Phase One of the Challenge
Just a few weeks ago, the wise and wonderful powers that be at LitReactor asked me if I’d be willing to help cover all of the exciting happenings here on the site, shining a spotlight on our members and the site’s forum community. My first task? SCARE US! The open call for writers to come and show off their skills. I couldn’t say no to such a fun opportunity.
The response to LitReactor’s first official writing challenge has been overwhelming. Dozens of writers with horrific aspirations flooded the workshop with terrifying, creepy, disturbing, and generally upsetting stories for our delight. We have received an impressive 156 submissions and 680 ratings so far.
In order to challenge and inspire our writers we gave them some guidelines for creating their stories. First and foremost, it had to be a horror story featuring an original creature. Not a simple task! As bryanhowie said, “Everything I come up with is another form of a demon or zombie or just a crazy person. This is much more difficult than I anticipated.”
Whether it was a case of over thinking or not thinking hard enough, eventually everyone cracked under the pressure and tossed out some silly ideas to get the creative ball rolling. Here are some of my personal favorite monsters that never made it to print (yet):
- A Salt monster
- An Abominable snow monkey
- Old people vs the Cobra Kai Dojo bullies from the Karate Kid
Another caveat was that you had to kill at least three people (oddly, no one had any qualms there), and have it take place in your hometown.
But the most challenging stipulation? Word count. The story had to fall between 1,500 and 4,000 words, and for many writers this was like asking them to type with their feet. Unfathomable. Word counts were broken all over as writers struggled to bring it in under 4k. Ethan Cooper detailed his editing adventures on the forums, summing it up with this thought, “Anyway, having written at least 4,500 words and editing 500 of them out, I feel good about finally passing King's "On Writing" rule of thumb about 2nd draft = first draft - 10%.”
In addition to great stories, we’ve had very dedicated reviewers. Special thanks to everyone who has taken time to read, review, and rate entries. It was exciting to see so much positive and encouraging feedback from the people in the workshop, a terrifying community all its own. If you spend any time in the workshop you will notice members like Jane Wiseman, Blair, or Jack Campbell Jr. plugging away, reading and reviewing.
Another constant reviewer, sean of the dead, told me, “I will definitely say that [Scare us!] is what made me decide to become a workshop member, because I saw how the challenge was going.” If you loved the feedback you got from your writing peers, be sure to check out LitReactor’s regular workshop. Keep the writing and reviewing momentum going!
I enjoyed so many stories that I had a hard time picking a couple to highlight – but here they are:
One favorite was The Second Plague from user bryanhowie. His descriptions of horror stuck with me in a way I’m not very happy about. The second plague, if you aren’t up on your Old Testament, happens to be frogs. This story didn’t make me afraid of frogs -- I’m already afraid of frogs -- this story let me know I was right and justified in that fear.
Much to my own delight, the ladies really stepped up to the plate, proving just how horrifying women can be. We love seeing a healthy dose of feminism in the workshops. I wasn't able to read them all, but I can say that wonderwoman1100, FoxyLenz, and Mess_Jess made me proud of my gender's contributions to the challenge.
In that vein, another standout story came from Emma. Her story Crystal was wonderful for the voice of the main character alone. The unfaltering narration of the sixteen year old girl felt honest and believable. I was compelled by the creepy mystery of townsfolk dropping dead with no obvious cause.
Now that submissions are closed, I’m sure many people are wondering – what next? Well, for the next two weeks we will be continuing the review process so we encourage you all to please read and rate as many damn stories as you can!
With luck, you’ve come away from this challenge with a great new story you can revise, shop, enjoy, and feel proud of. But all that happy crappy feel good stuff, well, that only takes you so far. Didn’t we promise mystery prizes? Well hold on to your pens, guys, August is the month, and it’s here. As an incentive, everyone who participated will qualify for prizes, including those that simply wrote a review (both in July and in August). So stay tuned for more exciting updates.
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