January 2018: The winning formula

Tonight we read the winning story of the Newcastle Herald Short Story Competition, Holly Bruce’s Twinkle Drops.

We wanted to learn from the story, and see if our own styles of writing could benefit from incorporating some of Bruce’s techniques. One of our group members read Twinkle Drops aloud, and we all listened, noting down aspects that we believed made it a winning story.

We then all spent five minutes free-writing, with the aim to write in Bruce’s style.

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Image by Jeffrey at https://www.flickr.com/photos/brainware3000/6070456/

She writes with a strong, consistent voice. The piece highlighted specific places in Newcastle, and placed it in an environment that’s strongly Novocastrian, through descriptions of the Bitou bush and the water of the ocean baths. The adjectives worked brilliantly at setting the mood, tone and atmosphere of the story.

The voice is entirely internal and gives an intimate perspective, inside the character’s head. The writing makes us feel like we’re floating along in the water with the narrator. The voice is floating, and the character is floating.

Her consistent voice between this year’s Teardrops and last year’s Groundless – which was also the winner – shows that Bruce is true to her style, and it obviously works.

We all learned from the exercise. Some of us learned that we are in the habit stripping everything back to the bare bones, writing the in the style of every word has to count. Bruce’s choice of words are highly descriptive, but they don’t seem laboured. They work. The word choices work well together.

From the exercise, we learned that we can write in other styles, if we put our mind to it. It’s worth trying, as we all learned something and made us fully appreciate the winning formula of Bruce’s work.

Congratulations Holly!

What have you learned from analysing winning stories in the past? Share your comments below.

<<Read all finalist stories from the competition this year by clicking here>>

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