Yes, this is filled with whisky

Yes, this is filled with whisky

Monday, October 10, 2016

No Questions Asked contest FINAL RESULTS

A couple of you are confused about the meaning of the words "start the story" but that's ok, we'll work on it later.

As usual, you rose to the occasion and tormented me with a lot of very good writing.

Herewith the standings:

The Steve Forti Award for innovative use of prompts
Lochlan Sudarshan 1:37am
"No questions! Ask Ed."
Too creepy for words!
Michael Seese 8:52am

A wonderful sentence!
Rachel McCauley 10:03am
"He approached me on the corner of desperation and sinless with an irresistible proposition."

I may have nightmares about this for the rest of my life
Claire Bobrow 8:55am

And since I live alone, I'm tempted to employ this strategy myself
lizosisek 9:00am

Lovely lyrical opening
Mallory Love 9:05am
No questions asked: no questions to answer. Instead, they perpetually linger, unspoken in the spaces between.

Not quite a story but a gorgeous subtle piece
Sherry Howard 9:08am

Not quite a story, but I really want to know the daughter and/or see the noseplug necklace!
Kate Higgins 6:21pm

Not quite a story but it cracked me up
John Davis (manuscript) Frain 12:40am

Steve Forti 8:52am
No questions asked. It’s the best return policy. I hate the judging looks when they ask why, or what’s wrong with it, or act like I should have kept a receipt.

No questions suits me. Hassle free. But I do worry about regret. What’s the opposite of buyer’s remorse?

I thought I wanted it at the time. A drunken impulse. But I can’t afford it. It’s better off with a different owner.

That’s what I tell myself as I set this one down in a cradle at the hospital’s baby safe haven. It’s for the best. No question about it.
Oh that nice little twist there in the last paragraph! How beautifully Steve sets us all up wit "buyer" and "it" and "receipt."  

After you realize it's a child, the whole story takes on a macabre tone that settles behind your eyeballs and gives you nightmares.  

This is gorgeous story telling couched in Amish-plain writing. In other words, a whole lot harder than it looks.

Amy Johnson 9:06am
No questions asked.

No “What’s the average length of admission?”

No “Will I at least get a private room?”

Mama was a journalist, for pity’s sake. For forty-two years she asked questions. Thousands of questions. Started off questioning local authorities and residents in her small town. Then big city folk. Then world leaders. And I followed in her footsteps. I’m trying to, anyway. But not to this. Not this. I couldn’t bear it. She couldn’t bear this. If she knew.

If more of her were left, I know the question she’d be asking now: “How can you leave me here?”

I like how Amy turned the sense of "no questions asked" around here. And of course, ending with a question like this really makes the story. 

sdbullard 10:25am
No questions asked at the scene.
One tiny room with a prejudiced mirror.
Two officers for the interrogation.
Three hours before I ask for a lawyer.
Four months to get to trial.
Five gunshot wounds, point-blank to the face.
Four hours for the jury to deliberate.
Three decades behind bars before I get the needle.
Two kids, abused, desperate, did the only thing they could to protect themselves.
One innocent man takes the fall.
No regrets.

This format of starting with numbers is recurring here, but it's still a difficult form to do well, and this story does it well indeed. And of course, the penultimate line twists the story beautifully. Very nice work here.

Nate Wilson 10:51am
No. Questions Asked: 5
No. Clear Answers Received: 0

Q1- 911. What is the nature of your emergency?
Q2- Understood. What's your location, ma'am?
Q3- I assume you cannot speak freely?
Q4- Are you in immediate danger?
Q5- Last question. Does he have a gun?

A1- No, I don't really have time for a survey.
A2- I thought our landline was on the no-call list, but if there's a prize...
A3- Beats me. Maybe... once a week?
A4- Come now, don't be rude.
A5- That's no defense. She and I always--I've had enough. *click*

No. Vehicles Sent: 3
This is utterly breathtakingly brilliant.
For those of you in the comment column who didn't get the gist of the story, look at the first two words each of A3 and A4 as answers to questions 3 and 4 in the Q section.

What really appeals to me is the incredible brave choice of NOT writing this as dialogue.

And the use of the prompt in the first line, amazing.

I'm in awe here. Just flat out awe.

Curt David 11:45am
“No?” Questions asked.

“Ms. Mark timidly votes against banishment.”


“Mr. Point strongly in favor. Mr. Dash?”

Em answered, “Yes, because -”

“Because the press don’t use it!” Apostrophe interrupted.

“Less confusion. I vote no.”

“Even with Mrs. Period’s vote, the Oxford Comma is officially banished.”

Mr. Period replied, “I am disappointed with Mr. and Mrs. Parentheses, Hyphen and Semicolon.”

“I ain’t part of the Parentheses family; you assterick!”

“Ms. Mark, your girl and you can go to Wite-out.”

“Who blabbed about my affair with Mr. Period?????”

Pandemonium erupted. A revote was quickly cast. All were happy again.

Well, almost all.

The only way this could be more fun is if it were in color.  I love this! I love the subtlety of Em Dash. And assterick is hilarious. 

CarolynnWith2Ns 6:57am
“No questions asked?” I said. “Not even one?”
“Nope.” He looked pleased with himself, like when he went mute after I asked if I was beginning to look fat.
“So, let me get this straight. This is our fifth anniversary of dating, third living together. After a romantic dinner you take me to Lover’s Leap, tell me how much you love me and how excited you are about the big change about to take place in our lives. Still no questions, not even one?”
One question answered.
“He fell.”
Raising a baby on your own can’t be that bad.

This is lovely horror! No questions? Not even one? I'm not sure I'll ever hear those words again without thinking of this story.

rpostupak 6:58am
No questions asked?

-No; questions asked.

Still, I'm sure you hid it well.

-Still I'm sure you hid it. Well?

Of course! We agreed the diamond belongs to me.

-Of course "we" agreed? The diamond belongs to me!

What, is this a twinge of conscience I hear? A laugh!

-What is this? A twinge of conscience! I hear a laugh.

You'd better not have brought the police--

-You'd better not! Have brought the police!!!

You've been found out?

You've been found. OUT!

Holy moly. Just frigging holy moly moly moly.
Honest to godiva, you scare me with your talent here.

I'm going to let the results sit overnight, then see what y'all think in the morning.  I'm having a hard time making a final choice (how often have I said that!) and sometimes the cold clear light of afternoon reveals all.

Plus, I'm watching the debate and I'm not sure I'm actually in my right mind.

Well, I'm back now, Monday afternoon, and the debate was really more than I can even talk about, so let's talk about the entries instead.

These are all really good and it came down to the two entries that experimented with form.  It says a lot that it's not enough to just write well in these contests anymore. The last few have turned on choices of style and form.  In other words, you guys have upped the game here a  LOT in the last year.

I can't decide between Nate Wilson 10:51am and  rpostupak 6:58am so I'm not going to.

Two winners this week, both exquisite and both making bold choices in form and style.

Congrats to you both!


Carolynnwith2Ns said...

Whoa...a finalist.
I am honored.

Yawn. Hitting the couch.
Watched the circus last night. And Ringling said, "no more elephants."
I'd say the big beasts filled all three rings, were spoken about and poked.


Colin Smith said...

There were some very creative uses of the prompt. Out of the ones you chose, Janet, the three stand-outs to me are Nate Wilson, 2Ns, and rpostupak (hello, Rebekah!). I think Nate just might have the edge for me, but it's a tough call. I'm glad I'm not making it! ;)

Steve Forti said...

Woo, that's a good start to the morning! Well, second start. Hard to forget getting jumped on by your three year old.
I love that I really like several of these finalists for completely different reasons. Really good variety this time. Well done.

Kitty said...

I vote for Nate Wilson's story.

Melanie Sue Bowles said...

I loved Curt David's... Creative and fun.

Madeline Mora-Summonte said...

So well done, everyone! Congratulations!

I loved Rachel McCauley's sentence as well. Would make a wonderful first line in a novel.

Steve's, Amy's, sdbullard's and Nate's stood out to me. If I had to choose, I'd go with Nate's for the win.

french sojourn said...

I was going to say I loved Nate Wislon's form...then I paused. Liked it the first time I read it, loved it the second time even more. Well done.

Captain Obvious wanted to add, all the finalists were superb, and congrats to all that entered, the mentions, and the finalists.

Thank you QOTKU for all your time and effort. Cheers Hank.

Claire Bobrow said...

What an excellent group of finalists today - it's impossible to choose!

Amy's was sad and hit home emotionally for me. I love Nate Wilson's entry for its creative use of form. Curt David's made me laugh - so clever! And rpostupak - wow - you blew me away.

Congratulations to everyone who entered and to all the finalists and mentions. Great work and so much fun to read!

Oh, and I have to say I loved Colin's entry. I did not see Pyongyang Jeopardy coming at all!!

S.D.King said...

Whoa! I was at a writer's conference all weekend and didn't read the entries, but these finalists are -no questions asked - GREAT!

Amy Johnson said...

Good news! Thanks! And so many good stories. Fascinating that the same three words can inspire such variety. Like the same eighty-eight keys on a piano. Amazing!

Lisa Bodenheim said...

I enjoyed reading through the contest entries this weekend and all the interesting ways each person dealt with the requirement.

All of the finalists' stories appeal, for different reasons. But, this morning, two formats and emotional tugs grab me: Nate Wilson and sdbullard.

Nate Wilson said...

Wow, this week's crop of stories was excellent. Not just the mentions and finalists, but I loved the variety and creativity across the board. They were a lot of fun to read.

Among the other finalists, I'm leaning toward sdbullard's. The way it comes together in those last two lines is wonderful.

flashfriday said...

Oh gosh, thank you so much! I was inspired by how many of y'all played with the opening words' punctuation, and I wanted to see how far it could be pushed without sacrificing plot or character. So hard but SO MUCH FUN!

Congrats to all the mentions & finalists! (I also really liked Lennon Faris' stereotype-busting assassin.)

Thank you again for the challenge & inspiration.

E.Maree said...

Really wonderful entries! My favourite was Nate Wilson -- really chilling, great use of format and structure, and I loved all the little details that appeared on repeat readings. I also really loved the punctuation battle by Curt David and the super fun format of rpostupak's entry.

Kate Higgins said...

"No questions asked" Wouldn't that be a great start to a story!?
"Start the story with "No questions asked"

I am just asking for clarification. 'Start' can be a noun or a verb.
Was it a contest mandate to actually, truly start the story with the words, "No questions asked"
Or as a prompt to start the story with the premise, "No questions asked".

I always start my story with a premise using the words that are normally supplied but I rarely begin with those words. I guess I was one of the few ones that started with the premise and built from there. I thought it was great prompt. And I thought all the stories were very thought provoking if not disturbing...high five to all...whether they started with the start phrase or the starting words.

Marie McKay said...

Congrats, all! What a super shortlist. I do really love Nate Wilson's and rpostupak's. I also liked JustJan's entry; it's stuck very much with me.

Marie McKay said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Brigid said...

I was ridiculously impressed by how MANY of the entries stood out. Of the non-finalists, Lizosisek's and Jared X's really stuck with me.

Of the finalists, I most resonated with Nate Wilson's. Loved the format.

Peggy Rothschild said...

Wow! The entries were amazing. Congratulations to all the mentions and finalists. I wish the QoTKU much luck with this one. Each of the finalists' entries are wonderful -- so much story packed into so few words! That said, sdbullard, NateWilson and AmyJohnson's entries each took my breath away. I don't envy Her Sharkliness for having to choose just one.

Lennon Faris said...

Wow these are fantastic. All really good.

Um, moment here - I love the format of Nate Wilson's but can't catch the thread of the story yet. Can someone explain??

FlashFriday - thanks! it was def. a fun one to write :)

Thanks Janet for the fun!

Lennon Faris said...

Lol. Just realized who you are FlashFriday (aka rpostupak)! Congrats! I loved that play on words, very clever.

Kate Larkindale said...

Glad I don't have to choose the winners! But that said, my pick would be sdbullard. Or maybe NateWilson…Although I also liked Carolynn's.

You see? Good thing I don't have to choose.

Scott G said...

Congrats to all the finalists and mentions!

What wonderful ways to tell a story. I loved all of them. I would pick Nate Wilson's entry. It's like there's three different stories wrapped into one. All in 100 words. Ingenious.

Sherry Howard said...

Wonderful entries, as always! Congratulations to the finalists! The creativity always amazes me.

Lochlan Sudarshan said...

Neat! A mention. Glad it amused. I have a certain weakness for breaking up prompt words in my entries. I couldn't resist with an unusual prompt (a whole phrase) that seemed designed to be impossible to phrase more than one way.

of the finalists, I like Amy Johnson's best. just like there's a recurring motif of people being killed off at the end of the entries, there are many where there's a reveal at the end or midway through that we're dealing with a parent with alzheimer's. very well handled.

some great finalists. from ones that aren't on the list, lizosisek was my favorite one. I really liked the concept since that's something everyone who lives alone worries about.

Brigid said...

Scott, 3 stories? I think I missed some!

Nate Wilson, weigh in! Untangle these threads please, kind sir.

Colin Smith said...

Correct me if I'm wrong, Nate, but the caller is giving veiled answers to 911. Read the question, and then read very carefully the corresponding answers. The real answers to the 911 questions are there. :)

Maggie Maxwell said...

Throwing my hat in with the pile of others voting for Nate. I read it multiple times and enjoyed it more and more each time. It plays with the prompt in a clever way and tells several stories that you catch more of on each read. Love it. As usual, they're all great, but Nate's just blew me away. Well done, sir.

Scott G said...

Exactly right, Colin, and keep correcting me if I'm wrong, Nate, but read the veiled answers along with the pronoun "She" in the second to last line, and the number of vehicles sent in the very last line.

Maybe I'm reading too much into it, but it's still awesome.

Nate Wilson said...

Lennon / Brigid,
Colin has the gist of it: The caller is giving veiled answers because her abuser is right there.

Thus, the conversation has a different feel if you imagine it from the abuser's perspective (only getting her side of the conversation) than it does if you have the full dialogue (in which you can decipher her true answers). And I guess someone overhearing only the 911 operator's side could be a third option. I'm not sure if this means it's multiple stories, per se, but certainly multiple layers.

Nate Wilson said...

Scott G, I'm glad you caught the "She." Although I did include that pronoun with a specific idea in mind, I'd rather leave it--and the reason for the number of vehicles--open to interpretation. That way, each reader can imagine their own ending to the tale.

Steve Forti said...

Congrats to both of you! Well deserved for the creative approaches in this one. Kudos.

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

Amazing winners.

Nate, you've been there or you know someone who has. Brilliant and brave.

Claire Bobrow said...

Hooray Nate and rpostupak!! Your entries were simply splendid.

Congrats again to everyone else who entered. The writing was phenomenal across the board. These contests are an insane amount of fun!

Celia Reaves said...

FINALLY checking in at the end of a long Monday, and I couldn't agree more with Janet's picks for the short list and the winners. Excellent work, everyone. The bar on this contest is reaching stratospheric levels to which I can no longer aspire, but it's still good discipline (and fun) to enter each time. I can't add to Janet's points about the entries she called out, but would like to mention a few she didn't. Colin Smith's Pyongyang Jeopardy was brilliant. Adele's little bit of doggerel was equal parts cheery and creepy - a perfect balance. CynthiaMc's entry had me chanting "Read the f**ing manual!" And to Angel Lanphere I can only say, Qapla'!

Lisa Bodenheim said...

Congrats to Nate and rpostupak! Yes, a high bar to aspire to in ff.

Timothy Lowe said...

Hats off to all those entries that were able to do something cool with this deceptively difficult prompt. Nate, when I read yours I knew it was going to win. Although it took me four reads to finally get it. Flashfriday, I missed yours, but now that I read it have to agree that it's pretty damn brilliant.

Thanks for another contest, host of hosts.

Colin Smith said...

A hearty AMEN to Janet's picks. Well done Nate and Rebekah (A.K.A. rpostupak and flashfriday)!! Well deserved wins.

I will update the spreadsheet in a few, but if memory serves, this is a double congrats. I believe Nate is our first FOUR-TIME winner. Check out the contest spreadsheet when I post it.

Well done, everyone! And thanks, Claire and Celia for the shout-out. :)

Colin Smith said...

OK--I just updated the Writing Contest Spreadsheet in the Treasure Chest. And yes, this is Nate's FOURTH win, and rpostupak's SECOND win! Well done again to you both! :)

Amy Johnson said...

Congratulations to Nate Wilson and rpostupak. Such brilliant stories! Wow!

CynthiaMc said...

Congratulations, everyone!

Lennon Faris said...

Congrats, Nate and rpostupak!! (and to all other finalists and mentions and entries). And thanks on the explanation of Nate's, I loved that once it got through my thick skull :) Very well done to all!

Mark Thurber said...

Congratulations, Nate and rpostupak! Amazing uses of form. The other finalists were great too. Megan V's and Donna's entries also grabbed me with their sharpness of voice and place.

AJ Blythe said...

Brilliant entries and I'm glad I didn't have to pick the winner/s.

Karen McCoy said...

Brilliant finalists! I couldn't bring myself to choose between them...I'm glad Janet did the honors. :)

Janice Grinyer said...

congrats winners! Finalists! Mentionables! and all those who entered!

And all those who suffered through that crapastical debate last night.

Curt David said...

Congrats to all! I love reading all of your entries every time there is a contest. And of course congrats to the two winners!

Mallory Love said...

I knew Nate's was a winner the moment I read it. Rpostupak's was so very clever. It reminds me of that joke: I like cooking my family and pets. There's a fine line between being normal and being a psycho, and it's called a comma.
Congrats to you both! Well deserved wins!

John Davis Frain said...

Wow, I'm glad I can't get to the blog till late on Mondays. No way I could have made the choice among those finalists. Likewise, no way I can argue with Janet's choices.

Incredible entries. Congratulations Rebekah and Nate, those are aspirational, and inspirational, entries.

I love Janet's conclusion: I can't decide between these two gems so I'm not going to. Done!

Nate Wilson said...

Thanks to everyone for the kind words, and for all the votes before the final verdict was in. Congrats as well to Rebekah for her fantastically clever entry.

And thanks as always to Janet for hosting such a fun contest. Reading all the entries is always one of the highlights of my week.

Just Jan said...

I agree, the bar is being set higher and higher with each contest. Congratulations to the winners, finalists, and mentions.

Angel Lanphere said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Angel Lanphere said...

Thank you Celia!

Marie McKay said...

Congrats, Rebekah and Nate. The writing was fabulous this week. Thanks Janet for all the hard work.

Marie McKay said...

Congrats, Rebekah and Nate. The writing was fabulous this week. Thanks Janet for all the hard work.

MA Hudson said...

Congrats to the winners, both very clever!

John Davis Frain's entry made me laugh out loud. I keep thinking about the narrators voice - so eager yet very discerning.

Sam Hawke said...

Wow, these blew me away. Well deserved winners though. So creative, so clever. You guys are amazing.