CW: Listen to your 3lders.

Back in May, I decided to sign up for my first NYC Midnight Challenge.

The way these challenges work is: people get assigned to random groups, given a prompt, and have 24h to submit their entry. Only a few are picked from each group and they advance to the next round. New prompt, new submission. Again, the same time frame. “Can I write 3k words in 24h?” I did not know, so I never entered. Plus, I was not sure if I wanted to pay to enter.

This time it was different. It was going to be a flash fiction contest (no more than 100 words). Woohoo! Something I have been doing on and off for a while. I felt encouraged, and so I paid the entry fee ($25 or something like that) and got excited about the challenge.

As luck would have it, I had a family event to attend during the first phase of the challenge, which meant that I was at the airport, talking into my phone (“brainstorming” the story) and then having to edit it… on my phone and submit it late at night after enough socializing had been done for the day. For someone who heavily relies on their computer when it comes to writing, and only uses the phone for … phone things… this was not easy.

This challenge provided more than a word prompt. There were three components (aside from the word count) one had to satisfy. 1. Your story had to be of an assigned genre. 2. It had to include a specific action (cannot be talked about, has to occur in the story). 3. A given word, in its original form, had to be used in the story.

As I’m rushing to the airport, I check my assignment…

Genre – horror.

Hmmm… I’m not really comfortable with writing horror… I could in 1,000 words but 100?!

OK, what is the action?

Action – shaving.

… Quite boring 😦

The word I have to use – filter.

I blanked.

In the end, I came up with a story that I now share with you. (I got the results this morning and found out I will not be moving to the next round, so it is safe for me to post it here. I should get feedback within the next day or two, which is when I will update this post. I would love to hear your input!)

[Over 6,900 people participated. There were 110 groups, each with approximately 63 writers. Only top 15 from each group moved on to round 2.]


Jonathan lifted his birthday gift with all its buttons, levers, and lights to his face. 

 “State-of-the-art,” his father remarked after seeing Jonathan’s puzzled expression having opened the gift. 

The moment the razor made contact with the skin, Jonathan knew something was wrong. His cheek started to tingle and he could have sworn the pink he saw was flesh. “Dad has more experience with this,” he shrugged and pulled on the razor again. His cheek flapped open, revealing his mouth.

“Just use a filter or whatever you kids do these days” his father replied when asked for help.


“Write a horror story about the action of shaving and include the word ‘filter'”
– prompt used for this CW piece.
[Source: NYC Midnight Challenge]


P.S. As always, you are more than welcome to use this prompt to inspire your post. If you decide to write something, be sure to pingback to this post so that I can get an alert and check out your piece. (A post on how to do pingbacks can be found here.) If pingbacks are not your thing, feel free to simply leave a link to your piece in the comment section below. The more, the merrier!

Stay golden,

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30 thoughts on “CW: Listen to your 3lders.

Add yours

  1. Thise are some very diffcult categories to work with, but you solved it briliantly!
    I also like how you wrote the title!

    Just to verify if I understand it correct: other people from your group had to make a story with the same categories?

    Bummer they make you pay for contests like these. I have seen it a lot in drawing competitions.
    The aim is to make money, not to spend it…..

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for mentioning the title. I think it ties in well with the generation of social media, filters, Instagram, etc., but I was worried not everyone would get it and see it as a typo.

      Yes. People in each group had the same specific genre, action, and word. I thought of checking out the entries that moved to the 2nd round but I’m not sure how (no time to spare). Plus, I’m not sure if it would make me feel better or worse…

      I received feedback from the judges that basically said they would like the story to be built out more. Sure, I can do that. Will you give me a hundred more words? Pfffff Some valuable feedback that was. Not.

      Yes. And that’s why I thought of participating in those challenges but never really went through with it until this time. Can you imagine the money they get? There’s thousands of participants and they host various challenges ALL the time.


      1. Always good to know your compition, I guess.
        I personally have rarely been impressed by my fellow competitors in art challanges. Not because I am better and certainly not because I have more advanced apps and equipment, but it is just not my style.
        I think it boils down to style a lot, so is always fair… no, it isn’t.

        USELESS feedback. Not realistic at all.
        Another case of “here is a pile of crap. Now turn it into a sculpture”.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. OMFG I just went and read some of the stories that got in to the next round. They were atrocious! There was one I really liked and it got 11th place (out of 15) or something like that. Mine was not great. I’m aware of that. But most of the ones that got in were… just really not great.

          I browsed the forums quickly and found very similar feedback given to others. That does not fill me with excitement… Lame.


  2. Kudos to you for completing the challenge! I think the filter part is funny, picturing the dad casually saying just use a filter to fix it like it’s acne. For me, I wonder if Jonathan felt pain and why the father didn’t think it odd and was horrified that Jonathan’s cheek flapped open. I don’t read horror, so I’m not knowledgeable about this genre. It sounds challenging, given all the expectations plus that you wrote the story on your phone and at the airport. I’m curious, what action/s would have been interesting for you to write about instead of shaving? Why did you use a 3 in elders?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yea, there definitely would be more horror and explanation… if I had more words 😀 I have to learn how to pack a stronger punch in those few words. I was just thinking about how older people (especially our parents) are supposed to know better and want the best for us. When the reality turns out to be different, it can be a shock. What’s the back story? Why did his father do this? Well, that’s left for the reader to try and come up with their own story.

      Hmm… good questions. Not sure, but I should work on making the mundane more … magical.

      I used ‘3’ for E to show the new age trend among youngsters who use emojis and shortcuts and trendy stuff for words.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I hear you on the word limit. I see, like his son asked him for help, but he wasn’t no help at all. I’ve been reflecting on that topic lately. There’s this story I was reading today in which a couple has a conversation, but the dialogue isn’t included, only the reaction of the wife. Like you said, it leaves the reader to create their own story, to conclude what was said. Making the mundane more magical sounds like a challenge on its own. It’s interesting looking at things through a magical and surprising perspective. Ah, I see, makes sense!

        Liked by 1 person

      1. I haven’t posted anything new lately. I’ve been prioritizing reading blogs this summer versus posting before I go back to a regular posting schedule. I think I also went through a writer’s block/rut period too. I have a post scheduled for this Sat. Hopefully I can continue to post once per week while also staying inspired. I appreciate you for asking!

        Liked by 1 person

  3. I’m out here thinking hmmmm should organise such a challenge 🤣 the last time did one we were paying but imagine if you made contestant pay…
    Haven’t entered into any of the writing competitions you pay to enter… But the ones I have done, I have started feeling some type of way about the clause where they ask for previously unpublished stories and then give you feedback you can’t even work with 🤣🤣

    Moving amazing work considering all the restrictions and conditions, as primarily a laptop writer working on something on laptop is so…. Can’t even find the word for that🤣


    Liked by 1 person

    1. I couldn’t get people to enter for free -.- I’m not sure what that’s supposed to mean…

      Yes, the “previously unpublished stories” is definitely a common one. I get that they are trying to judge it blind and I appreciate it but maybe just put it on the judges – not to research stuff? I definitely wanted to post this piece as soon as I penned it because I value my readers’ input quite a bit. It’s usually much more helpful than that from the “judges.”


      1. Oh and then there’s those who have the small print about how submitting your entry gives them usage rights and you find you now even put it on your blog for the next 2 years and you didn’t even make the shortlist….
        We need a revolution lol

        Liked by 1 person

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