Taking a Stab at NPR’s Three Minute Fiction Contest

Our local radio station airs National Public Radio (NPR) as their national news source. We listen regularly, and have always attended, with a fair amount of interest, their Weekend All Things Considered segment, Three Minute Fiction. This is a periodic competition in which listeners submit stories of 600 words or less, to be judged by a noted author. We’re paying particular attention to the current round, because I entered a story in the competition.

Normally, I don’t enter contests. I’ve never liked writing prompts and limitations. In grade school, I despised “story starts;” someone else started that story, I preferred to hear where they wanted to take it. I would rather write my own stories, without the prompt.

This time around, however, the temptation simply proved to be too great. After all, as soon as I heard the current round’s limitations, I realized I had already written a story much like what they called for.

The current round, 6,  judged by the stunningly beautiful Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, calls for stories in which one character tells a joke, and one character cries. I remembered a story that had not made the cut when I dusted off (metaphorically speaking) my old work to compile my collection of short stories, Shy Ghosts Dancing. It fell well short of the 600 word limit, and contained the two required elements.

I originally wrote the story as a performance piece. It includes elements that would showcase singing and acting ability in a very short amount of time. I’d intended to use it years ago to audition for a community theater project, but I’ve never gotten around to it. Now, on whatever level, it’s finally getting some use.

I doubt it will win, or even get mentioned. It may well get disqualified outright, since the punchline of the joke involved is never actually revealed. To do so went beyond the point of the story, and would have negated whatever impact it might have. But one never know, does one?


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