The prompt for WNIJ's first-ever Three Minute Fiction contest is thematic. It's not meant to be the opening line for your story.
But it could be.
Just remember: A three minute story is somewhere between 500 and 600 words, depending on how quickly you read it. So unless you're a minimalist prose superhero, I suggest you don't start with our 20-word prompt.
The prompt's author, GK Wuori, expects most writers will use it as a theme. "The prompt is just an idea to stimulate the wonderful writer that we know is inside of you," he says.
Wuori won a Pushcart Prize for his story Afrikaan Bottles, and was featured in our Fall Book Bites series in 2014. Wuori was also a panelist for WNIJ's first Context event called "Writing the Novel" last Winter.
WNIJ's Three-Minute Fiction, launched Friday morning, was inspired by an NPR contest.
"Most of the stories we get are probably going to be plot-driven," Wuori says. "You don't have a lot of time to develop characters and give a back story."
On the other hand, he says, you don't have to produce 10,000 words, which is typical for a short story.
Wuori likens writing the prompt to composing the actual story. "You need to get right to the point," he says. "It has to be broad enough to appeal to a lot of people. And it has to inspire the writer to say `Yeah, I can write something about that.' I think this prompt will do that."
Wuori gives the prompt in the video above. He repeats it in the audio link below, and gives advice and encouragement for fellow writers:
Wuori will choose the best stories. Then WNIJ will invite the authors to our studios and record them reading their stories for broadcast in October.
What's the deadline?
11:59 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 20. Submit to firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also send your stories by post ("Attn. Maria Boynton") to 801 N. 1st St., DeKalb IL 60115.
If you submit by post, include your contact information in a cover letter but not on the manuscript pages because stories will be judged "blind." For email attachments, please don't include a header or footer with your name. We will assign a unique number for each story before sending it to Wuori.
Who's your competition?
Anyone who listens to WNIJ and loves to write fiction -- except paid employees of Northern Public Radio and their immediate family members.
If you want a visual guide to what a three minute story looks like, consider this article. It's 480 words.
For more inspiration, here’s advice from one of the most famous writers of short fiction:
"Do not worry. You have always written before and you will write now. All you have to do is write one true sentence. Write the truest sentence that you know."
Best of luck!