Sea-splashed stories from Skiathos

Troulos Bay, Skiathos​​I love entering short story contests.

Writing Magazine holds a monthly competition, inviting readers to submit short stories on a set theme or genre. I'm planning to enter September's Ghostly Last Line competition. The story should be between 1500-1700 words, and the closing line must be 'What kind of a fool believes in ghosts?'

My entry is an atmospheric (hopefully) tale, set on the island of Skiathos where I recently enjoyed a short break. I wrote it longhand, feet dangling in the sea, perched on a rock in Troulous Bay, in the photo. I'm now struggling to decipher my sea-splashed scribbles in order to type it up.

In a way, entering a short story competition is like tackling a copywriting project. You have a brief to follow, a deadline to hit, and then you put pen to paper and see what ideas work themselves onto the page. The difference with fiction is that anything goes (well, almost anything; the magazine does have some taboos), and you can take your story pretty much anywhere you feel like going.

When I see the winning entries, I'm inspired by the diversity of ideas and interpretations of the brief. I'm also in awe of the writers' skills as I read innovative storylines and enjoy memorable characters.

However, with a copywriting brief you need to be sure you understand the client's directions and intentions. It's one thing to bring fresh ideas to the table and offer a new slant on a project, but it's quite another to head off in entirely the wrong direction. And often, a client's brief is all too brief; further clarification is vital to make sure you're working in parallel.

Brevity of initial instructions is often down to the fact that the client hasn't given enough thought to what they want to say. This is where probing questions, follow-up meetings, or phone calls, help to develop their ideas and put meat onto the bones of the project.

In a similar way to a story coming to life as you develop your characters and plot, clients have commented that thinking about the words they use and the tone and style they adopt in their copy has helped them to define their business identity and strategy.

I'm looking forward to reading the winning entries in the Ghostly Last Line competition and hope my gloomy, no, I mean atmospheric tale may be amongst them.

Related post: Create copy that's as page-turning as a novel