An Interview with the October Challenge Winner - SideShowShannon

Our October Challenge was one of intrigue. And it was also a little bit like a computer game for those who can remember computer games before all the fancy-pants graphics we have nowadays. Give us a bit of Zork and interactive fiction any day. Actually, if mention of interactive fiction has given you a bit of a lust for escaping into the past, we've found a couple of great places online that you can relive your childhood (or for those of you who are wondering what the hell we're on about, to explore some digital history). 

There is of course, the aforementioned Zork which you can play online here, then there's the brilliant BBC  30th anniversary game of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (this one is HARD), or Arthur: The Quest for Excalibur because everyone loves a sword adventure.

But anyway, back to the topic in hand. The October Challenge started off with the premise of a character being alone in a room, with a window, a door, a fireplace and a wardrobe. Each entrant had 850 words to use in their story - some chose to use these words to stay put, others chose to use them for escape. What we were left with was a smorgasbord of brilliant takes on the theme or idea of abandonment, including emotional abandonment, abandonment of the self, and abandonment by loved ones. Well done to everyone who entered! 

So, maybe you're feeling a little inspired right now to write your own tale of abandonment? Well lucky for you we've compiled a veritable list of tips and tricks to get your story off on the right foot. 

1) Writing is a solitary pursuit, so you're probably already halfway there with your assessment of loneliness and solitude. It can also be incredibly helpful to write in solitude, if you haven't already tried it, do.

2) If your (writer's) loneliness doesn't match up to the depths of despair that you want to portray, consider reading a couple of articles written by people on the topic of loneliness. Make sure you get a good mixture of viewpoints from various sources so that you can build up a good picture.

3) Pick your vocabulary well. Being abandoned or writing about solitude doesn't always have to conform to negative language, many people enjoy being alone. Perhaps they are glad they've finally been abandoned by a controlling or dependent friend or partner and now they're free to live the life they've always wanted. 

4) If you're feeling lonely, then talk to someone about it (that's not really a writing tip, but it's a good thing to remember)

The winner of October's Challenge was SideShowShannon with her beautiful entry Her Final Day. Congratulations to Shannon on winning the challenge, and congratulations also go to our five runners up:

Shannon was kind enough to have a chat with us about her entry. Read on below to find out more about how she went about crafting her entry and the influences she took from her own life...

WEbook: Thanks for taking the time to talk to us Shannon! 

Your story focusses on themes of loss, love, the maternal bond versus the familial bond, emptiness and the construct of the 'home'. When you were sitting down to write this piece, did you find that the combination of these themes came together naturally, or were you actively trying to incorporate them with each other as a wider construct for your story? 

SideShowShannon: Honestly, I didn’t put any thought into weaving it together. Writing this actually felt natural, even though I’ve never experienced anything like it. The first thing I did was decide what I wanted the house to look like, and I always pictured something old, with secrets. From there I gave the house a new secret and in a couple of hours I had my story. 

WB: Your story has an overreaching sense of emptiness; we see the half-empty wardrobe, the 'pretty much' empty room, the newly empty womb and then finally the empty pill bottle. This acts in direct contrast to the the home that the MC is in, as this is traditionally seen as a place of safety and full of life. 

Using the opposition of strong human emotions that (almost) everyone can relate to is a powerful - but ultimately tricky - way to construct a story. How did you approach your exploration of the MC's emotions in contrast to the home that she finds herself trapped within? 

SS: That was harder for me because I had to become a teenager forced to grow up too soon. I have absolutely no personal experience when it comes to her loss, but when I was 17 my family suffered a tragedy that we’re still licking our wounds from. I remember exactly how I felt then and projected those feelings into the story. It was very therapeutic, and I was actually pretty spent when I finished. 

WB: Your story follows the MC as she acknowledges a shift in her emotions, and subsequently her perception of what truly matters changes as she tells her story. Where once the material things that she couldn't have were what mattered, by the end her desire for these things pales in insignificance to the loss of her child. 

How did you plan this shift when writing your story, and do you have any tips for other writers who might like to incorporate a similar transition in their work.

SS: That shift wasn’t planned, I seriously sat down and didn’t look up or take a breath until the last word was written. But, I’ve also experienced that moment when my shift in focus went deeper and with more intention. 

WB: You mention religion in your story, using Sister Anne to ask God to forgive Mia's sins. But, she is also a realistic Sister, because she asks Mia to ask for forgiveness from herself. This suggests that she can sense an unhappiness in Mia, and is perhaps worried about Mia's mental state, especially considering the the references to the unspecified pills that Mia must take. 

Was this focus on prayer, God and forgiveness a way to distract the reader from Mia's final act, which is in the eyes of religion, a sinful one?

SS: I grew up in the South, where religion is big. I chose Catholicism because I grew up Baptist wishing I’d been Catholic. I also added religion because it’s a common reason for parents to send their daughter away when she’s in this situation. 

I chose to surround Mia with women that she grew to love and trust because she’s a teenage girl; they crave it. I hated the thought of her being rejected and sent away by her parents then being placed with wardens who punished her for her mistake. I never planned on her committing suicide, but at some point in the story I decided that she wouldn’t want to return to a family who cast her out and to a life without her new baby and the women who helped her survive her pregnancy. 

WB: Who are your favourite WEbook authors, and why?

SS: I haven’t gotten the chance to read a Webook but I’m looking forward to finding a favorite! 

WB: What are your three favourite books or authors and why?

SS: I am addicted to Stephen King - It is my absolute favorite. The relationships between The Losers reminded me of growing up in my neighborhood. I’m still close to the kids from my ‘hood!  I love reading scary stories- I even like some of my nightmares! 

VC Andrews’ series have always fascinated me as well. Her true original books still line my shelves. I came from a dysfunctional family so reading about those lunatics made me feel a lot better about my situation. 

WB: How did you discover WEbook?

SS: I’ve had a WEbook account for years, but I don’t remember how I found it! I’ve always loved writing and really enjoy having an outlet where I can read other pieces and have my own critiqued.

WB: Thanks again for chatting with us Shannon, we look forwards to reading many more of your entries over the coming months!

Don't forget that the December Challenge, It's Christmas, Carol is open to entries now! 
Get yours in before the end of the month to be in with a  chance of winning the top prize!

- The WEbook Team

Interview With the Winner of the August Challenge: Confessions

If you had something you needed to confess, how would you do it?

Back in August, that's the question we made WEbook ponder over for our Monthly Challenge.

We had a whole range of brilliant entries that explored obvious ways to confess, plus a couple more interesting, and unexpected manifestations of a confession too.

Our stand out winner for the August Challenge was Ernest_Lee with his entry The Truth - so a huge congratulations goes to Ernest_Lee, and also of course to our runners up:

So, What Makes a Winning Confession? 

Well, the most important thing that a confession needs to be tied to is a motivation - because it is with this that the plot will be propelled forwards...


If the confession is something as innocuous as your character eating the last piece of pie, then, well, unless it's poisoned pie, that's pretty boring - right? It's unlikely that there will be much believable propulsion off the back of this action. What you want is for your character to eat, say, all the pies that were intended for the International Pie-Eating Contest: 2015, and now there's a whole lot of really hungry, pie-less contestants after your character's sugary blood. Your character's motivation? An insatiable love of pies that consumes their every waking moment. It's a problem that needs a solution.

"It was me! I ate all the pies!" Jason wailed as he tried to climb the perimeter fence, his sticky hands making the ascent increasingly precarious. A hungry growl from the crowd below forced Jason's slippery resolve onwards, upwards. The pies were heavy in his stomach and he could feel the fence begin to give way to his weight as he approached its zenith.     

Motivation is a crucial aspect of any narrative; we need to believe in and perhaps even sympathize with a character's actions, thoughts and decisions in order for a plot to be successful. Giving them an obvious source of motivation, perhaps even one that the reader can ally themselves with, makes your plot believable and relatable. So, by using a confession as the motivating factor in your story's narrative, you are beginning on the right foot, with a powerful method for delivering narrative-propulsion.


Structuring a story around a confession can help to develop a sense of inner turmoil in your characters, allowing you to develop a more in-depth portrait of their personality for your readers. And also, by developing such an emotionally-driven aspect to your plot, it becomes easier to manipulate your character's emotional responses.

Facing inner conflict or inner turmoil can help your character to fully engage with the plot. By developing character's emotions so that they pull towards a central focus, your narrative gains a strong sense of direction and purpose, rather than just pottering along towards its inevitable conclusion.


When making the decision to include a confession, or an intended confession, in to your story you need to ensure that you have a powerful cause-action-deliberation string that the reader can easily follow within the wider context of your story. 

Take a look below at the simple story progression chart to see how easy it can be to successfully incorporate a confession into your story using a cause-action-deliberation string:

The example above shows the kind of construct that can become a narrative feature in a large, action propelling way, or as a smaller back-story that gains momentum. Often all you'll need is a subtle ember to flare up at the right moment to kindle the coals in your story in to an inferno of action and emotion.

If you'd like to find out more about how you can use confessions, hidden information, secrets and inner turmoil in your writing, there are - of course - plenty of resources out there on the interweb. We've collated our favorite few here for you to have a read through, enjoy!

Now, on to this month's winner. We selected Ernest_Lee's submission as the winner of August's challenge because not only was the story convincing, but the plot was flawless and the character motivation was bang on. Ernest_Lee was kind enough to let us interview him on his winning entry, read on below to find out more about how he constructed his winning narrative:

WEbook: Hi Ernest_Lee, thanks so much for taking the time to talk with us, here's our first question:

The protagonist’s confession, framed within your convincing and well-structured story, asks simply one question of the reader: What would you do? Drawing on the most basic natural instinct, self-preservation, the reader must weigh up the facts they have been given, and pass judgement on your protagonist’s treatment of the situation.

When writing this story, did you sympathise with Billy’s plight, or are his actions unforgivable no matter the circumstances?

Ernest_Lee: I certainly sympathised with his plight, but before passing judgement, one must remember that my protagonist, at eighteen was little more than an inexperienced kid. In mitigation of his actions, it will be noted that the enormity of his crime hit him immediately after the event and he did try his utmost to rectify it.

It is easy to judge somebody’s actions from the comfort of one’s armchair, but most of us are never placed in that kind of life or death situation and, consequently, we do not know how we would react in similar circumstances. In extremis, people are unpredictable.

For these reasons, I think his actions at the time are probably forgivable. Less forgivable, in my opinion, are his later actions where he spends a lifetime “dining out” on his supposed heroic exploits.

WB: By placing the protagonist as the almost-victim of a common enemy – the Nazis - the reader is already sympathetic towards him, and naturally champions his fight for survival. When it becomes apparent that only one character, or none, can survive, the reader quite easily forgives Billy’s intent and subsequent actions.

How did you approach the structuring of your story to elicit reader-empathy for Billy, despite his murderous intent and action?

EL: I can’t say there was any overt intention to elicit empathy. I just reported the story from Billy’s point of view and hoped that the reader would understand. I placed myself in Billy’s shoes, and tried to tell his story honestly, but I realised that, even while confessing, he would try to cast himself in as positive a light as possible under the circumstances.

It will also be noted that the murder occurred on day 50, Billy was picked up on day 54 (the same day that that their rations were due to expire) and Fowler had been assuring him that their voyage would shortly be at an end. However, at that point, Billy had lost confidence in Fowler and didn’t believe him. The point here is that both of them would have survived if only Billy had held his nerve.

WB: When re-reading your submission, the line ‘“You might have just saved our lives, young fellow” he [Fowler] said.’, takes on an ironic tone, whereas on the first reading it instills hope in the reader.

When including this line, were you actively trying to throw the reader off the scent of Billy’s later actions, or was it an attempt to further bolster the reader’s affection for Billy by casting him as the real saviour of the situation?

EL: First and foremost, it was intended as irony. However, a perceptive reader might notice that knowledge of the westerly progress of the boat was irrelevant as to whether, or not, they reached their destination. When sailing due West, it is knowledge of latitude that is all-important, and Fowler had that covered. Billy's contribution was therefore more of a convenience, than a necessity.

My intention throughout was to portray Billy as a mainly passive character who does very little to ensure their survival. Offering up his wristwatch towards the common good was Billy’s only action that promoted that end – and it will be noted that Fowler prompted him to do so. If anything, the intent of this line was to portray Fowler in a positive light rather than Billy.

WB: At the end of the story, Billy decides that he will not mention Fowler at all. Yet, the lie he is telling himself is just as big. Not only is he outwardly denying Fowler’s presence in the boat, but he is also inwardly denying his culpability in Fowler’s murder by pretending it never happened.

This is undoubtedly a cowardly decision, but still forgivable given the potential consequences. At the end of the story, when Billy finally confesses, he does so selfishly, safe in the knowledge that he can never be judged by his friends and family.

Is Billy a coward, or do you think his actions are justified in the sense that they were necessary for him to survive?

EL: I think that once the lie had been told, it had to be perpetuated. Also, for some people, “the truth” is a malleable concept and to them it is whatever people can be persuaded to believe.

Delaying his confession until all his family and friends were dead could be interpreted as cowardly in the manner you have stated. However, I suspect that Billy thought of it as a noble gesture. His family and friends had spent years basking in his reflected glory and he was sparing them the shame of being associated with his inevitable disgrace once the truth was out.

WB: The story is about murder, and the confession to one. Yet the word ‘murder’ is never used in the story.

Was this a conscious decision?

EL: I can’t say it was a conscious decision at the outset. After the first draft of the story, I noticed that “murder” hadn’t been mentioned, and it struck me as a neat idea to keep it that way because Billy, even in confession, was attempting to cast himself in the best possible light because, as I mentioned above, truth can be a malleable concept.

WB: Who are your favourite writers on WEbook, and why?

EL: I admire many writers on the site but, to my mind, there are two who stand out as quite brilliant: A.U. Latif (Aftab) and Devi Shorashi (The Brat). Both are superlative storytellers and marvellous technical writers, yet their styles appear to me to be diametrically opposed.
Aftab writes beautiful prose that borders on poetry at times and he is a sheer joy to read. He has developed a style and narrative voice that is instantly recognisable.

The Brat, on the other hand, adopts a voice to suit her story. I’ve never known her use the same narrative voice twice. I think of her as “the woman of a thousand voices”. She also has a wicked sense of humour, and this permeates much of her work.

WBWhat are your four favourite books or authors, and why?

EL: Probably my all time favourite writer is Joseph Conrad – to the uninitiated modern reader, he can be very daunting. In a typical book, nothing much happens for perhaps the first 75% of the story, but what Conrad is doing is meticulously setting the scene and developing the characters. The reader becomes so immersed that the action, when it occurs, is explosive. His brilliant “Victory” is a very good example of this. That novel also features two of literature’s most notable villains: the opportunist desperadoes "Plain" Mr Jones and his sidekick the psychopathic Martin Ricardo – truly terrifying characters.

In many of Conrad’s writings he uses an innovative narrative technique where the narrator (usually the worldly wise and cynical retired ship’s captain, Charlie Marlow) tells the story to one or more people in a social setting. Using this technique, the story can be paused while his audience discuss details, character motivations, etc, thereby adding further depth and understanding to the tale.

The second is “Lolita” by Vladimir Nabokov. A superb book that achieves the almost impossible feat of portraying a distasteful and awful subject (paedophilia) through the eyes of a monstrous and odious character, yet somehow manages to be warm and funny. It also features some of the most beautifully written prose that I’ve ever encountered.

Another favourite writer is John Steinbeck. He had the enviable knack of writing very deeply but with an extremely light touch. All of his writings are accessible and very easily read. In my opinion, his masterpiece is “The Grapes of Wrath”- a marvellous book that is both a story of the triumph of the human spirit in adversity and a Marxian critique of capitalism.

Patrick O’Brian’s series of 20 novels detailing the trials and tribulations of Captain Jack Aubrey RN and his friend Stephen Maturin over the course of a period between 1800 and 1820 is peerless and these books represent some of the finest historical fiction ever written.

I’ve always preferred character driven stories, and nobody could write characters like O’Brian. His characters are deep, well rounded and believable - so much so that I tend to think of them as close personal friends. As well as being products of their time, these characters hold the beliefs and prejudices of their contemporaries and they are never invested with modern knowledge or insights. 

WB: Thanks for taking the time to talk to us, Ernest_Lee! We look forwards to reading many more of your submissions over the months to come.

To read Ernest_Lee's submission in full, check out the August Challenge Project page!

Announcing the winners of the September Challenge: Every End Has a Beginning

Congratulations to the winners of the

Back in September we asked you to submit a story that began and ended with the same line, however, the line had to change meaning by the time we reached it at the end of the story. 

Despite a few grumbles about the selected topic, the standard of entries was incredibly high. 

And, well, it isn't called a challenge for no reason. 

Without further ado, here are our winners for October:


The following six were October's month's runners up:

Thanks to everyone who took part! 

Our judges said:

"Thanks to everyone who entered the September Challenge! We had a bit of a grapple over the final few runners up because there were a few members whose writing had come on leaps and bounds in this challenge - we're sure you know who you are! Rather fitting for the theme of this challenge too, because it shows that every end really does have a beginning... No matter where you started out, the effort that you put into your writing pays off in the end."

Don't forget that the
 October Challenge: Abandoned 
is now open to submissions!

- WB


NaNoWriMo is fast approaching! To help with your planning, we've made a NaNoWriMo calendar - remember to stay focused!

Good luck and happy writing

- WB

Interview with RaeAnn_Reid, Winner of the July Challenge: LIGHTS, CAMERA, ACTION!

In June we challenged you to write a story which delved straight into the action. Forget setting the scene, building your character and developing a back story. We didn't want to know about any of that. 

What we wanted was hard-hitting action, and boy did you deliver! 

We were smashed about, shot, strung up and burned by your words. 

Bloody excellent job! 
(pun intended)

Despite the huge array of excellent entries, writing an action-scene is a hard task for any writer. It's been suggested by various authors, editors and agents, that readers tend to 'skip over' action scenes in preference for getting back to the actual story in hand. 
So what gives? 

Do readers actually enjoy reading action and fight scenes, or don't they? 

Well, the answer to that depends on a few things ('course it does). But it is all in how you structure your scenes. Here are a few variables that you may wish to consider the next time you sit down to pen your newest shoot-out, sword fight, or battle-scene:

1. Pace Is More Important Than Content
Too slow and you'll bore your reader, but too fast and you'll do the same. If you languish over the minute details of your fights, the reading experience will become too bogged down in description and the fight will loose its focus. Yet, if you skip over the important elements, swinging swiftly from one blow to the next without so much as a comma for pause, the reader won't believe in the moment. They'll likely skim the passage; knowing that its happened, but not really caring how it unfolded. 

Try to reach a middle ground between detail and punches. A good way to achieve this is to reveal important elements of your character, or the story, within the fights. This will keep the reader interested on the action, rather than the outcome. If you have a lot of fights in your story, you can use hooks from previous clashes to help maintain interest in subsequent ones. For example, you could use an injury sustained in a previous fight to slow your MC down later on.  

2. Don't Recycle: It's Damaging To Your Environment
One of the main reasons for a reader loosing interest in a fight, is due to repetition. If your protagonist is constantly poking people in the eye, taking a smack to the head, or 'falling to the ground like a stone', it's pretty darn tedious for the reader. You can utilize tools like 'Roget's Thesaurus of Words for Writers' (free on Google Books), or you could even take a back seat and let the reader fill in the gaps for themselves. There are so many routes to take, so don't be lazy, and definitely don't recycle!

3. Keep it short. Get to the point.
It's pretty tiring getting hit in the face or dangling someone over a ledge by their ponytail, so don't forget that your characters need to have believable limits (yes, even in fantasy narratives!). Don't dawdle over the details, readers are pretty good at filling in the blanks. 

No attacker is going to be philosophizing over a blood-orange sunset in the heat of battle, and no victim is going to notice the elegant swish of a murderer's cloak while their life is in peril.

4. Commas, distract. Too much description does the same.
Keep your sentences short. Because, the thing is, once you start dwelling, it gets, well, pretty boring. 

Think about the difference in intensity between a subject-verb-object sentence construction, and a dependent clause construct:

Subject-Verb-Object: 'Alex was felled by a blow to the head.' Dependent Clause: 'Felled by a blow to the head, Alex's fight was over.'

You should also be wary of using too much description. Take a look at this sentence: 

'Alex cocked his gleaming rifle as the age-old inscription on the warm barrel caught the dying evening sun, he thought of the powerful dark bullets trembling within and a sudden resolve steadied his shaking hand; he was ready for the final, powerful blow.'
It's long, it's too descriptive and to be honest, the reader probably lost interest when the barrel became a romanticized object and the bullets were personified. 

So, let's stylize it to prepare for action: 

'Alex cocked his gleaming rifle. The thought of the powerful bullets within helped steady his trembling hand. He was ready for the final blow.' 

You notice the difference in intensity between the two sentences immediately. A good editorial exercise for writers to employ when they're developing action scenes is to write in an unconstrained way, and then go back and apply these rules. 

Our June Challenge was all about hitting a bulls-eye on each of these points, and more. There were a huge range of fantastic entries to the Monthly Challenge.
But, as ever, there can only be one winner...

So congratulations to RaeAnn_Reid for her winning entry, Consequences!

The following entries were June's runners up:

Without further ado, here's our interview with June's WEbook Challenge Winner, RaeAnn_Reid:

WEbook: Your story is brutal, terrifying and sad. But it is also incredibly strong, especially in terms of your first person characterization. 
Although there is no definition of the MC's sex in the story, one automatically assumes that they are female. Firstly, are we right? And secondly, if we are, how did you approach writing a strong, female lead for your story?

RaeAnne_Reid: I’ve always loved writing about inner strength and the strength that comes from the powerful bond of family ties. I wanted to create a strong but vulnerable main character. Her vulnerability is forced to the surface by the protective nature of her relationship with her sister. And I find a lot of the time basing my writing off of my own personal experiences adds a depth that I can identify with to my readers; the desperation and unfailing loyalty to protect and shelter those we love.   

WB: Action scenes are evidently something that you excel at delivering in a convincing way to the reader. Have you had much experience writing in this style, or is it new territory to you? Any tips on how to write a good action scene?

RA: Action scenes are my forte. I love, love, love writing them. The blunt detail and fast paced environment that you have to step into brings a whole new aspect to the imagination. I find that once I start writing an action sequence, my fingers start flying across the keyboard trying to keep up with the scene that’s playing out in my mind’s eye.  

The one tip I would share with my fellow writers is this, read, read, and read some more. I love action novels and stories of war. Reading other stories and novels that have a lot of combat in them helped me pick apart and put together a good action scene. 

The amount of differing perspectives and writing styles of other authors helped me to develop my own style. I could pick something I really liked from one and put it together with another author’s flair, thus creating something unique.

WB: The confession of your MC in the story - that they did it, rather than the sister - culminates in the powerful final line, '"She didn't do it... I-I did." But it no longer mattered.' This line injects a sense of hopelessness into the story, which ultimately ties the piece together. 

When you were writing this scene, where did this line come in during the drafting process? Was it as important as it has become, or was it a happy final accident?

RAThis line was actually the first thing that I wrote and the story evolved from there. During the drafting process I tried inserting it in multiple places but it just didn’t seem to fit as well as it did if it was the last thought. And that’s that! 

WB: Writing such high-octane scenes can be challenging when there is no back-story to contextualize the characters or their motives. Yet in your piece you manage to do both successfully without compromising on any of the action. Did you conceptualize a back-story to help you with the scene, or is this part of an ongoing project?

RA: To be completely honest with you I just sat down at my computer and started typing away. I don’t even know what my main character’s little sister was framed for. But I’ve started brainstorming ideas for the backstory. I would love to make this scene into something more. We’ll see where it goes!

WB: Final questions now...

What are your 3 favorite books?

RA: I have so many favorite books it wouldn’t be fair to pick just three of them! Instead, if you don’t mind, I’ll tell you who my favorite writing role models are:

1. L.A. Meyer
2. Tamora Pierce
3. Melina Marchetta

They are phenomenal storytellers. These authors helped me fall in love with reading and writing. I have all of their books nestled in amongst others on my various shelves. 

WB:Who are your favorite WEbook writers?

RA: The WEbook writers I admire the most are vampiremaiden (who I’ve co-written a novel with), and Elizabeth_Odet. Both bring some amazing talent to the table and are my go to people for any writing blocks that I can’t seem to break through.

** Read RaeAnn_Reid's winning entry, Consequences **

Good luck and happy writing!

- The WEbook Team   

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