Welcome to #WriteCBC's #5ActFestiveStory 2023! 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/X @cbcreative (from Mon 4 Dec to Mon 11 Dec), including instructions of how to play, the prizes on offer and the rules here.
We are especially excited that special guest Rowan Hisayo Buchanan will be providing the prompt to kickstart the beginning of our story. Rowan is the author of Harmless Like You, Starling Days, and The Sleep Watcher. Rowan is a fellow of the Royal Society of Literature. She has won The Authors’ Club First Novel Award and a Betty Trask Award and has been shortlisted for the Costa Novel Award. Her short work has appeared in several places including Granta, Guernica, The Guardian, The Harvard Review, and NPR’s Selected Shorts. She is the editor of the Go Home! and Dog Hearted anthologies.
Rowan is also on the Discoveries 2024 judging panel – she will be joined by chair of judges and founder of the Women's Prize Kate Mosse, acclaimed author Natasha Brown, Curtis Brown literary agent Jess Molloy and CBC’s founder Anna Davis. Find out more about Discoveries and enter by 8 Jan 2024 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 4 Dec)
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 Rowan Hisayo Buchanan as your inspiration:
- The children’s breath became dragon smoke in the frigid air. Maya turned away…
Rowan 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 your protagonist 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 @Gina_E123 and @beccalewissmith. You’ve both won a £50 discount to be used on the short online course of your choice.
Congratulations to our first winner! Our opening act comes from Gill Duffy @greengillybean:
- Yet even this high up, amid the chimneys and away from the roof edge, the sounds of the snowball fight still drifted up to her cold and envious ears. Resolutely, she tugged her hat down. She had an important job to do. And it was time to go.
We love the rooftop setting that Gill has introduced, the juxtaposition between the isolation of our protagonist Maya and the group of children playing and snowball fighting together introduces a great layer of suspense. The sense of duty that Gill has installed in our protagonist Maya leaves us wanting to know what 'important job' she has to do... why she is on the rooftop? Where is she going?
Where will the story take Maya next? It's up to you as you help us write Act II!
Act II – Rising Action (Tues 5 Dec)
Following on from our Act I winner (Gill Duffy @greengillybean), we’d like you to give us an inciting incident… Something must happen to our protagonist that will force them to face a problem!
Our second winner will be announced at 11am on Weds 6 Dec (UK time).
Well done to our two runners-up @See_Susanna and @Montblanc281. You’ve both won a £50 discount to be used on the short online course of your choice.
Congratulations to our second winner! Our second act comes from Mikaela Silk @KaeSilk:
- Keeping closely to the shadows of the chimneys, she wound her way across the terraced row until she reached no. 13. An unlucky number unless you were looking for an empty house to rob. Maya would do anything to give her little sister a merry Christmas morning.
We really enjoyed this inciting incident! The image of Maya climbing across the rooftops to reach ominous house number thirteen really adds to the tension, especially now we know that her sister's Christmas morning is at stake. Will the house be empty inside or will Maya get caught? What will the consequences of this action be? It's up to you as you help us write Act III!
Act III – Midpoint & Climax (Weds 6 Dec)
Following on from our Act II winner, 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.
Our third winner will be announced at 11am on Thurs 7 Dec (UK time).
Well done to our two runners-up @leanwaters and @NitNatTims. You’ve both won a £50 discount to be used on the short online course of your choice.
Congratulations to our third winner! Act three comes from Charlotte Hopkins @char_hopkins:
- She hit the hearth with a crunch, the remnants of a fire long put out beneath her toes. And as she’d expected: a gleaming tree surrounded by presents all shapes and sizes. Her desperate fingers reached out. Then, a creak. “I ought to put you on the naughty list.”
We love the opening sentence of Charlotte's entry which immediately sets the scene before our protagonist is launched into action. This Act III is full of the tension and suspense you need in a climax. Who has caught Maya breaking into number thirteen? How will she explain herself? What will happen to her sister's present? These are all questions that we want you to start helping us answer with your Act IV submission...
Act IV – Falling Action (Thurs 7 Dec)
Following on from our Act III winner, our story is coming to an end – but there should still be some unknowns and plot twists to be revealed and wrapped up.
Our fourth winner will be announced at 11am on Fri 8 Dec (UK time).
Well done to our two runners-up @66blackman and @shanalyris. You’ve both won a £50 discount to be used on the short online course of your choice.
Congratulations to our fourth winner! Act four comes from Corrine Leith @CorrineLeith:
- Maya spun round to see an elf scribbling in a notebook. ‘But the presents aren’t for me!’ she cried. The elf nodded wisely. ‘But do you really know what Lyra wants for Christmas?’ he said, pulling a letter from his tunic. Maya recognised her sister’s handwriting...
We loved how Corrine introduced the elf into our story and increased the stakes as we move towards a resolution for this Festive Story. What does Maya's sister's letter say? Perhaps Maya will discover the real meaning of Christmas? We'll leave that up to you as we enter Act V!
Act V – Resolution (Fri 8 Dec)
Following on from where our Act IV winner left off, we need the resolution to our story! Perhaps there’s a revelation and maybe a lesson is learned.
Our fifth and final winner will be announced at 11am on Mon 11 Dec (UK time).
Well done to our two runners-up @SuzeAndrew and @WritingSloth. 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 Susanna Kiernan @SusannasWriting:
- 'A snowball fight with Maya' the note read. The paper drifted to the ground as Maya ran to the front door, returning to the crisp evening. "Lyra! I'm joining!" Maya shouted as she ran back to the square filled with children's laughter, snow crunching under her feet as she went.
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 Rowan'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/X @cbcreative!
If you're one of our lucky winners or runners-up please email email@example.com to claim your prize.