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The Jury's Out! Plotting Your Perfect Story

Hello everyone!

Liz Ryan, Librarian Judge 2014
I was a librarian judge in the 2014 and 2013 competitions
Liz Ryan

I was a librarian judge in the 2014 and 2013 competitions and I decided to write this to let you know what I gave the highest marks to in those previous competitions.


Plot is what goes on in your story and characters are the people in your story. Use these to make your story stand out and you should get very good marks.

Is your story about a horrible teacher who everyone hates? Is it about cowboys or fairies or even rabbits? (Don’t laugh – there’s a book called Watership Down in which all the characters were rabbits and that sold millions!)

Then, put your characters in situations that will bring them to life. I’ll give you some examples;

• Is the horrible teacher in charge of Sports Day?

• Are the cowboys arguing over a horse at the rodeo? Or have they lost their horses?

• Are the fairies a group of good fairies with one bad fairy who casts a horrible curse on a new baby? (Actually, don’t do this one, it’s been done before and it’s called Sleeping Beauty but you get the idea.)

One word of warning though. If your story about a horrible teacher is based around your horrible teacher or a horrible teacher you know, don’t, please don’t and just DON’T use his or her real name! Just take inspiration from them!


Now this one’s tricky. You know how important it is to use variety in your language and not to bore your readers. You also know how vivid you need to be in describing your characters or developing your story. But go carefully. There’s an extremely fine line between writing a description and writing a story.

You only have 500 words in which you have to write a complete story – that is, a story with a beginning, a middle and an end. So by all means, bring your writing to life by using description but know when to stop. Use just enough description to progress a character or a plot and then move on.

I once wrote a story that featured a horrible woman called Trudi. She had a disgusting taste in lipstick (ugh) and her choice of greasy lipstick (ugh) was tangerine orange (ugh, ugh, ugh). So, in progressing both her revolting character and her revolting role in the story, this is what I wrote.

Hopefully that describes her disgusting actions and her disgusting taste in make up. But that’s enough. Now we know how disgusting she is, what happens next that’s crucial to the story? Keep this in mind while you write.


• Do the best you can with spelling, punctuation and choice of words (use Alphabot, a dictionary or a thesaurus – ask your local library or go online if you don’t have one). Or ask Mum and Dad. I’m sure they’ll be happy to help.

• Please don’t be disheartened if your story doesn’t win or make the final cut. Last year there were over 90,000 entries and only 50 progressed to the final stage. All the stories I have marked in the past two years have been winners in my eyes.

• Write a story that really interests you.

• Remember that once you have sent a story in you can’t change it.

• Have fun!

So get to it kids! Write a story, submit it online and you could win 500 Words. And I hope I mark that story in my batch.


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