Well, my story "In The Heat of Texas" did not make the cut in the NYC Midnight Short Story contest. I got a lot of positive feedback, though, and I had a good time with it. The whole experience was great. I think part of the problem was that my story was too safe (I should have gone with your idea, Heather!). Reading through the synopsis of the top 5 stories chosen in my category, there were some really good ideas that stretched the genre/subject envelopes much further than I did. If anyone is interested, I have included the judge's feedback at the end of this post. So for now, it's back to the proverbial drawing board!
WHAT THE JUDGE(S) LIKED ABOUT YOUR STORY - .........This was a well constructed, engaging tale with sympathetic, charming characters, a strong narrative arc, believable, organic dialogue, a well-drawn setting and a touching theme. Blake was a terrific "mysterious stranger," offering up a new life to the small town girl. I particularly liked how you orchestrated the opening scene with Blake, Janie and the elderly couple -- it was lighthearted and had real charm. Nice work.......The setting of this piece really adds something special to the story. There is a lot of care taken in introducing this woman, her father's work, and the conflict of whether or not she should leave. There's rich dialogue in this piece, too. The Creole aspect or detail adds something special: authenticity.
WHAT THE JUDGES FEEL NEEDS WORK - .........I think you need to develop the character of Blake more. As it is, he's rather a shadowy figure, and I found myself waiting for the other shoe to drop, for him to show himself to be a killer or a con artist, rather than an honest man with good intentions. This obviously does not serve your piece, and I think if you rounded out his character a bit, perhaps gave him a little back story, it would alleviate this problem. Could more be brought into this piece so that it's not so sudden that the characters are intertwined? It seems as if the promising tension of the first scene is burst too soon. Additionally, more could be brought into the closing: what pushes this protagonist to make the final decision?