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#5ActFestiveStory writing challenge

BY Katie Smart
29th Nov 2021

Welcome to #WriteCBC's #5ActFestiveStory! This blog has the details of the story and competition structure, and will also be where we announce our daily winners.

Find out more about our special festive writing competition, which is taking place on Twitter @cbcreative (Mon 29 Nov - Mon 6 Dec), including instructions of how to play, the prizes on offer and the rules here.

We are so thrilled that special guest Irenosen Okojie will be providing the prompt to serve as a jumping-off point for our story. Irenosen is a Nigerian British writer. Appointed to the Royal Society of Literature as a Fellow in 2018, her short stories have been published in the US, Africa and the UK. Her debut novel, Butterfly Fish, was published in 2015, for which she was a recipient of a 2016 Betty Trask Award. Her short story collection, Speak Gigantular, was published in 2016. It was shortlisted for the 2016 inaugural Jhalak Prize and the 2017 Edge Hill Short Story Prize. A collection of short stories, Nudibranch, was published in 2019. It was longlisted for the Jhalak Prize 2020. The story ‘Grace Jones’ won the 2020 AKO Caine Prize for African Writing. In 2021 she was awarded an MBE For Services To Literature. A novel, Curandera, is forthcoming in 2022.

Irenosen is also one of the judges for Discoveries 2022, a writing development programme for unpublished female novelists – run by the Women’s Prize Trust, Curtis Brown, Curtis Brown Creative and Audible. Discoveries is open for applications now, and you can find out more about the prize and read our interview with Irenosen here.

This special festive edition of #WriteCBC will follow a five-act structure. Read on to learn more about this traditional story arc and its relevance to our Festive Story:

Act I – Opening & Setup (Mon 29 Nov)

This act should introduce the protagonist and tell us when and where the story is happening.

We’re asking you to continue the story opening using this prompt from Irenosen Okojie as your inspiration:

'Delphine accidentally left the snow globe at the patisserie...'

Irenosen has set up the story with a character and one location. In your continuation of the opening, be sure to reveal some more details about Delphine and begin to set the tone for the rest of the story. Perhaps you'll include details that reveal the era in which the story is taking place, or what genre the narrative might fall under...

Well done to our two runners-up @Sarah_Bartrum and @Maddison90210. You’ve both won a £50 discount to be used on the six-week online course of your choice.

Congratulations to our first winner! Our opening act comes from Dr Lucy Andrew @LucyVAndrew:

Delphine accidentally left the snow globe at the patisserie. That's what she wanted them to think. It had to look natural. A flicker of recognition in a stranger's eye. A momentary distraction. She would return for it later, of course, with flushed cheeks and chapped hands. But, for now, it was exactly where it should be.

We love the layers of intrigue that Lucy has introduced to the story: Why has Delphine deliberately left the snow globe? What will happen when she returns? This opening has left the story wide open for many potential twists and turns... Will the story follow Delphine or the snow globe? It's up to you as your help us write Act II!

Act II – Rising Action (Tues 30 Nov)

Following on from our Act I winner, @LucyVAndrew's scene we’d like you to give us an inciting incident… Something must happen to our protagonist(s) that will force them to face a problem!

Well done to our two runners-up @SJWarner3 and @lauram75 . You’ve both won a £50 discount to be used on the six-week online course of your choice.

Congratulations to our second winner! Act II comes from Emma @Little_Emma19:

Or at least, it was, until the cleaner decided to throw it away.
Seeing the globe, she picked it up and examined it closely. Deciding it was ugly and slightly cracked, she discarded it with the unsold pastries, hearing it smash as it hit the bottom of the bin.

We really enjoyed this inciting incident, the globe filled with some much promise and intrigue smashing before we know why Delphine left it there. What will be the consequence of this action? How will Delphine respond?

Act III – Midpoint & Climax (Weds 1 Dec)

Following on from our Emma’s scene, our characters should have a revelation about how to solve their problem – but something goes wrong. This is the turning point and the part of our story with the highest amount of suspense.

Well done to our two runners-up @kim_adamsWriter and @AlexJaneDavies. You’ve both won a £50 discount to be used on the six-week online course of your choice.

Congratulations to our third winner! Act III comes from Lexy @LexyNeedham:

She knew the moment it broke, an icy stab beneath her breast that took her breath away. As she turned and raced back through the crowds, a bitter wind tugged at her clothes and stung at her face with needles of snow, a storm lashing out from the little shop.

We love the sensory details used here and the way that our protagonist Delphine launches into action here, this Act III is full of the tension and suspense you need in a climax. What stormy magic has been unleashed? Will Delphine be able to stop it? What is the true purpose of the snow globe? These are all questions that we want you to start helping us answer with your Act IV submission!...

Act IV – Falling Action (Thurs 2 Dec)

Following on from Lexy's Act III scene, our story is coming to an end – but there should still be some unknowns and plot twists to be revealed and wrapped up.

Well done to our two runners-up @deirdre_laide and @edmsrus. You’ve both won a £50 discount to be used on the six-week online course of your choice.

Congratulations to our fourth winner! Act IV comes from Anastasia @StasiaWrites:

Delphine pushed through the storm, ignoring the cold spreading through her veins, and found the bin. Digging through layers of snow and old pastries, she slipped each piece of glass carefully into her pocket. The storm slowed. She felt a tap on her shoulder.

We loved the tension Anastasia's created here and there are some real stakes now as we move towards a resolution for this Festive Story. What has suddenly quelled the storm? And who is this mysterious figure who's turned up just before Delphine succumbs to her possible icy fate? We'll leave that up to you as we enter Act V!…

Act V – Resolution (Fri 3 Dec)

Following on from Anatasia's scene, we need the resolution to our story! Perhaps there’s a revelation and maybe a lesson is learned.

Well done to our two runners-up @DianeKneafsey and @AlexJaneDavies. You’ve both won a £50 discount to be used on the six-week online course of your choice.

Congratulations to our fifth and final winner! Act V comes from Victoria @VGrace_Writer:

An old man, dressed in a red cap and gown, stood before her. Delphine opened her pocket. ‘I tried to keep it in safe.’ The old man scooped up the pieces and lifted them in the glow of a creamy moonlight.

‘When something is broken more light shines through.’

Across the weekend, we also invited illustrators to draw scenes from the story so far to be in with a chance of winning a free place on our Illustrating a Children's Picture Book course.

Congratulations to Jayne @jayneleadbetter for her wonderful depiction of Delphine caught in the swirling snowstorm.

Helpful tips

This is a festive story, so bear this theme in mind when you're writing the acts of the story. Try to think about the magic and mystery of this time of year. Pay attention to the details of Irenosen's prompt and remember that you will be asked to continue the story from the previous winner's act, so make sure you read the story so far and keep the tone, themes, character names and setting the same.

Consistency is important, but remember to enjoy the collaborative nature of the task. There's nothing wrong with a few twists and turns...

Join in the fun on Twitter @cbcreative!

If you're one of our lucky winners or runners-up please email cbccourses@curtisbrown.co.uk to claim your prize.