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Alice's 'Trump This' News Writing Challenge

Sorry, this challenge is CLOSED - we are no longer accepting submissions

Quick links on this page:

rules & submit - about the news challenge - read news themed stories

In The News Writing Challenge

Chris Fielden & Alice Creed, in a photo from a real-life newspaper (OK, it's not, but it does look vaguely feasible in black and white...)

Welcome to Alice's 'Trump This' News Writing Challenge. The challenge has been concocted as a cure for writer's block and to highlight the importance of a story's theme.

You can learn more further down the page, in the about the news challenge section.

Rules & How To Submit

This challenge is CLOSED

Thank you to everyone who has submitted their stories

The rules are simple:

  • 180 words max
  • please include a title for your story (not included in the word count)
  • your story should be inspired by a current piece of news and have a strong theme, relating to that news
  • please include the title of the news story (one only please) that inspired your submission, and the publication that it appeared in, or website you read it on etc. (also not included in the word count) - where possible, please include a link to the story
  • entry fee is free, like most of the news we read nowadays
  • anyone can submit - all ages, from anywhere in the world are welcome
  • 1 entry per person, per anthology
  • no profanity please - all the writing challenges are shared with children
  • your news-inspired tales will be published on this page
  • every time we receive 100 stories, we'll publish them in a book
  • profits made through anthology sales will be donated to charity
  • by submitting, you accept the terms and conditions
  • when anthologies are published, you will be involved in the book launch process
  • submit your story by filling in the comments form below or email me
  • include a short biography (40 words max) for use in the published book - if you don't supply a bio, we will be unable to publish your story
  • include 1 link (optional) to your website, LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter etc.

So far, we've received 100 stories. We need 0 more to publish the anthology.

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About the News Writing Challenge

***

This challenge is CLOSED. The notes below remain below for reference only.

***

When a writer is struggling to find fresh ideas, the news can be used to inspire a story and spark the imagination. News stories usually concern specific topics, with an obvious theme.

Themes can form the central focus of a story. They can be used to connect all its aspects, including the characters, plot, conflict, situation and resolution, giving a message for the reader to think about.

What Is a Theme and Why Is It Important?

A theme is a statement that a writer makes via the topics used in their story.

Themes are often derived from character development: the situations the characters find themselves in, the conflict they face, how they deal it, the consequences of their actions and how it changes them.

A writer can use a strong theme to help readers connect with their characters, so they care about them and become immersed in a well-told story. It hooks them in.

The aim is to show the reader what is happening, rather than telling them, so they experience conflict and resolution alongside the story's characters. They can then draw their own conclusions from the outcome.

You can read more useful writing advice regarding themes on well-storied.

You can learn more about 'show don't tell' on Wikipedia and the JerichoWriters website.

You can find more ideas for curing writer's block here.

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About the Charity the News Writing Challenge Supports

Proceeds from sales of the news writing challenge anthologies will be donated to BookTrust.

Book Trust logo

BookTrust is the UK’s largest children’s reading charity. Each year they assist 3.4 million children across the UK with books, resources and support to help develop a love of reading. You can learn more about BookTrust on the about page of their website.

How The News Writing Challenge Came To Be

Alice Creed contacted me with an idea. An idea for a challenge. A challenge about the news. I liked the idea. We talked about the focus of the challenge and how the news could be used to help creative writers.

At the time, Trump, Brexit and global warming seemed to be dominating news stories. With the way technology has developed, we're exposed to news 24/7, on TV, our phones, computers, social media, the radio, websites, billboards, the sides of buses, in magazines... I could go on. I won't. Let's just say 'everywhere' and be done with it.

Everyone has an opinion about news stories. So we decided to use the news to inspire ideas and create strong themes that hook a reader in. As a bonus, opposing views about the news generate conflict. Conflict is an essential element in short stories. Boom – yet another educational angle. We just had to launch the challenge.

Here is a bit more info, written by Alice:

My English homework had more red circles than a one-way street – I’m dyslexic. Learnt grammar rules are at work with me one day and absent the next, with not so much as a note to explain why.

It’s easy to get disillusioned with writing, but the news – particularly the science news – inspires me. A newly discovered poisonous frog hops into a murder mystery, or revelations on the properties of quarks, make magic for witches.

If you find the news funny, thought provoking, or flipping unbelievable (thank you Mr President), then please turn it into a story for the challenge.

The money raised helps BookTrust foster a love of books in children before the red circles can put them off.

Massive thanks to Alice.

When we receive 100 news themed stories, we'll publish a book. If we don't receive 100 submissions, it's a bit of fun, you can read all the stories here on the site and you now know about BookTrust and the fabulous work they do.

The challenge is topical. The stories, and any books we produce, will represent moments in history. Charity will be supported. Writers will be published. Please do get involved and submit. Alice and I are looking forward to reading your strongly themed, news related stories.

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Stories Inspired by the News

Below are some of the stories we received, inspired by news stories and their themes. We received our 100th story on 7th January 2021. Most of the 100 stories submitted were removed from the website on 7th February 2021.

Topically Challenged Volume 1 was published on 3rd April 2021.

You can learn how to buy the book and support charity here.

Topically Challenged Volume 1 flash fiction anthology

We have left a few of the stories submitted to this challenge on the page below, so readers can enjoy some of the stories we've published.

One of those stories was written by Gail Everett (number 075). Sadly, Gail passed away early in 2021. Topically Challenged Volume 1 is dedicated to her memory. Gail was an active member and administrator of our writing challenge Facebook group. She has contributed stories to many of the books published via the writing challenges and will be deeply missed. Our condolences go out to her family.

Topically Challenged Volume 1 will be the only book published via the news writing challenge. The News Challenge is now closed to submissions.

Story 001

Willpower

Inspired by: 'Out of their minds: wild ideas at the 'Coachella of consciousness', The Guardian

by A. H. Creed

I'd lost another job to a robot and my rent was overdue. In desperation I called the Let Someone Else Suffer company. I was rejected because I'm dental phobic, but referred to another 'Consciousness Exchange' body-swap agency specialising in getting lazy actors into shape.

After 29 days of avoiding my body-swapper's mother's house (the dog attacked me), and making increasingly lame excuses to her frustrated boyfriend, I wished I hadn't signed up for the 'secrecy' bonus. Over-exercised, sugar-deprived and alone, I couldn't even enjoy her penthouse luxury, and dreaded the last few days: dermabrasion, starvation and waxing.

When the super-rich super-star was back in her now super-skinny body and I was wobbling my over-indulged fatter body home, I decided, creativity being the only thing robots can't do better, to write about my experience. About the rich paying for their perfections with the suffering of the poor...

No. That wasn't news. That was repetition.

Light-bulb moment – I'd write 'What it is to be a woman', from one man's objective perspective.

Story 002

Some Integrity With Your Chips?

Inspired by: 'One-eyed cat makes an incredible 230-mile journey from Hull to Bristol –clinging to bottom of lorry', Mirror Online

by Christopher Fielden

"Do you have anything to say?" you ask.

"I have diplomatic immunity, at all of the times."

"Had."

A small crowd of survivors have gathered on the hilltop. They watch solemnly as the prisoner is locked into stocks beneath a guillotine's heavy blade.

"We did everything in a humane way, the very best way." In the distance, a war-torn building crumbles and a cloud of dust drifts lazily into the sky.

"If you repeat a lie often enough, it becomes the truth."

"I never said that. It's not something I'd say."

"Goebbels said it."

"Who?"

Sighing, you pull back the prisoner's collar. There's a scar on his neck. "No one was implant exempt. One truth, at least." You press your TruthChipTM reader against his skin. It hums, beeps and displays data. Events, thoughts, actions, consequences. Everything.

"What you're seeing and what you're reading is not what's happening. Or what happened. It didn't happen like that." He looks old. Feeble. Spent.

You unlock the stocks. "Please, leave. Just go."

As he stumbles away, confusion on his face, birdsong caresses the breeze.

Story 021

Bah Humbug Upon Austerity's End

Inspired by: 'Budget 2018: Austerity finally coming to an end, says Hammond', BBC

by Allen Ashley

The era of Austerity is finally coming to an end. You may presume that it will be followed by an epoch of desperation, concurrent with a multiplication of spin. Scrounge the pavement for your pennies and spend them while you can before cash is taken out of circulation and we are all at the whim of universal credit card computer glitches that glitches that that reduce our spending power and earning capacity to less than zero.

Keep a little more of your income so we can grab it back on your booze and fags or ubiquitous VAT – a product of the European Union's precursor the Common Market, but bound to still be with us even if Brexit ever actually goes ahead.

Never publicly discuss religion and politics, we're told. Oh for God's sake...Happy days are here again, says our glorious Chancy Law. Again? Sorry, pal, when were they here before?

Story 024

The Promotion Of Lawrence

Inspired by: 'Justine Greening won't be Tory leader before Brexit. Afterwards, however...', The Guardian

by Mike Scott Thomson

With a deal dealt to deal with the deal not yet dealt but to be dealt with when the not-dealt deal be dealt with deftly, it was time for a change at the top.

This was a further headache the Board could do without. So they ratified a decision.

"No applications," they declared.

Those who had spent their career strenuously denying they wanted the job met this announcement with not a little consternation.

"What's all this surreptitious skulduggery?" said the Blonde Bombshell.

"Last year, you said you'd rather be bonked on the bonce by a breezeblock," said the Chairman. "No returns."

"Well, I said I did want it," piped up another.

"A most unfortunate breach in protocol. Those keenest for power are those least suited to it."

The Party was therefore stuck. To whom could they now turn?

A Machiavellian manipulator...

...authoritative yet disinterested...

...with a quantum-level understanding of simultaneous Leave AND Remain?

There could be only one.

The Chairman bent down and nuzzled the new leader's collar.

"Meow," said the now ex-Chief Mouser to the Treasury.

Story 025

Harry

Inspired by: 'Real Madrid sack Julen Lopetegui as manager', BBC Sport

by Michael Rumsey

Harry read the article and shrugged. People in other jobs get sacked too and now it was his turn. These days they called it redundancy. Same thing really...

There'd been rumours for weeks. Then, yesterday, at The Grange Nursing Home, Fred the storekeeper said matron had a letter, no more deliveries from Princess Street. Grace, the secretary at Head Office, had hinted at sweeping changes. Yeah right, new broom, in with the new and all that.

Now, young Robert had invited him to the office, to tell him face to face, and so he should. 40 years, man and boy, by dear old Sam Maitland's side from the Corner Shop, right up the ladder to Princess Street Supermarket, until Sam's death six months ago.

"Deliveries from 1st Jan next year," Robert began, "will all be made from our new warehouse on Greenways Industrial Estate. Not just groceries, but a whole host of new products. I know Dad would agree, it's imperative we give first class service. Harry, that's why I'm asking you to manage the whole thing."

Story 052

A Short-Lived Spell Of Happiness

Inspired by: ''Back from the dead': Aigali Supygaliev turns up two months after burial in Kazakhstan' Sky News

by Lesley Anne Truchet

"I'd love a face and figure like yours." The hairdresser didn't know how much her words meant to me. Brand new expensive clothing, styled hair, make up and a manicure. What a transformation.

I made coffee, another new pleasure, and gazed around my recently installed bespoke kitchen.

The plane crash had killed all on board, including my husband. I went through the necessary public display of grief. God help me, I was delighted to be rid of him.

I'd found thousands of banknotes in his study, previously locked against my intrusion. To think he'd made me wear thin rags and go barefoot indoors, without heating. We'd lived on cheap unappetising food and drank water.

The front door banged. Familiar footsteps. Dizzy with shock, my mouth dry, I fought to speak coherently. "I... I thought you were on the fatal flight to Dubai."

He took a step towards me, his face menacing. "You've been spending my money. Lots of it." His hands reached out. He had come back from death. I was probably going to mine.

Story 075

Roald Dahl, Whose Verses Were Censured

Inspired by: 'Aldi removes Roald Dahl’s Revolting Rhymes from its Australian stores over the word 'slut'' The Independent

by Gail Everett

Mr Dahl's Revolting Rhymes,

Became a victim of the times,

We live in. And the Aldi mob,

Should go and get a decent job,

Before they strip the shelves quite bare,

It seems they simply have no care.

Political correctness rules,

In supermarkets, shops and schools,

So customers will walk away,

In anger, Aldi now must pay,

The price, in loss of revenue,

From selling less to me and you.

The moral of this story is,

that Ignorance is seldom Bliss.

Story 100

Classroom Vs Online Classes: Which One Is The More Effective Way To Learn?

Inspired by: 'Virtual Vs Real: Online learning is better than in-person education', Hindustan Times

by Mehak Vijay Chawla

The classroom environment is one of the most important factors affecting student learning. Students learn better when they view the learning environment as positive and supportive.

The classroom environment is essential to promote and stimulate collaborative learning. Collaborative learning increases a student's self-awareness about how other students learn and enables them to learn more easily and effectively, transforming them into keen learners inside and beyond the classroom. It gives an excellent opportunity to build organisational skills.

Although students save time and money by learning online, with the ability to study anywhere, online learners can complete coursework at home, at a coffee shop or a library. This advantage allows students to work in the environment that best suits them. Learning online can help students hone the technical skills they need for a job.

At last, online classes are important in a coronavirus pandemic situation, which we are facing today all over the world. So, online education is the most effective way of learning in this pandemic, but we all miss our classrooms a lot.

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Comments:

Your comments:

Alice C
Hi Chris. I'm loving the stories submitted. Already a great cross-section commentary on the interesting times we live in.

Chris Fielden
Thanks, Alice. I agree, there are some fabulous early submissions.

Debbie S
The strange things that catch my eye when I'm supposed to be studying. I'll probably fail my course now.

Chris Fielden
Sorry, Debbie... I recommend turning the internet off :-)

Debbie S
That's a good idea :-)

Gavin B
Hi Chris. Thanks for the add. All looks good and no gobbledygook to be seen.

Chris Fielden
Great stuff, thanks Gavin :-)

Lesley T
Such sad news about Gail Everett.

Chris Fielden
Yes, very sad indeed Lesley :-(