A Brief and Wondrous Writing Contest!

“The Puerto Rican woman was there and she helped me clean up. She had dry papery hands and when she rubbed the towel on my chest, she did it hard, like I was a bumper she was waxing. She was very thin and had a cloud of brown hair rising above her narrow face and the sharpest blackest eyes you’ve ever seen.” –Junot Díaz, “Fiesta,” Drown

Junot Díaz, author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning The Brief Wonderous Life of Oscar Wao (you can read an excerpt of it here on Figment, for a limited time) and Drown, has been heralded for his unique, compelling, and downright masterful command of voice. His writing is instantly recognizable as his–the narration immerses the reader in the story from the first lines. So if we were to, say, team up with the National Writing Project to bring you a writing challenge judged by Junot Díaz himself, it would have to be all about tone.

Developing a strong voice is not easy. Developing a strong voice you have control over is even harder. So we’re not going to throw you into this contest-lake without first offering you some attractive, but effective, floaties for your arms. (We got an A in metaphors.) Junot Díaz is going to be offering up his secrets on narrative voice like a leprechaun offers up Lucky Charms. (Okay, A-minus.) He’ll be writing a blog post about how best to develop your tone, and he’ll be answering your questions on the forums, here.

After you get knowledged by Díaz, your task is to choose one of the following prompts and write your story. Entries must be no more than 1,000 words.

Creating the Voice: Narrative Voice Contest with Junot Díaz

First Person:
Without naming or describing your narrator, write a story in which you make the narrator’s age, personality, and philosophy/outlook on life evident through his or her voice.
Second Person:
Write a story about an ordinary day in the life of an extraordinary person, such as the president, supermodel, or a homeless boy. Narrate the story entirely in the second person.
Third Person:
Write a story in which you describe a person using only attributes generally considered negative (for example a character who is usually late, sloppy, and mean), but through the voice of your narrator, make that character likable.

How to enter:

1. Read the full rules.
2. Sign up for an account on Figment.com
3. Write your entry.
4. Tag it “JunotDiazContest” on the “Details” tab
5. Press “Publish Now.”
6. In about two hours or so, your story will appear among the submissions.

You have until November 30th to write your story. Voting will run until December 6th, at which point the 10 most-hearted stories will go to Junot Díaz for judging! Finalists will receive signed copies of Díaz’s books and the winner will receive a special Oscar Wao prize pack.  Plus, you know, the extreme honor of being chosen by a Pulitzer Prize winner.

Click here to read Junot Díaz’s Q&A responses, and click here to see who won!

20 thoughts on “A Brief and Wondrous Writing Contest!

  1. Mr. Diaz,

    As an 8th grade English teacher, I have kids right at the moment when they are bursting with creativity and curiosity. So I will ask two questions. The first is one of my creation -something I think they need an answer to, and the second is from my students.
    At the beginning of the year, I tell my students about my many of my favorite writers, and I told them about Oscar Wao and of your background. My kids are made up of Hispanic (many of my students are from Mexico and El Salvador), Hmong, Cherokee, and white. Nearly all of my students come from families who are barely hanging on. But it isn’t true that kids don’t read or write. My students LOVE both. They love books, and they love to write stories, especially horror and fantasy. Fridays my room is packed at lunchthe with kids reading their stories. So with these things in mind I would like to ask the following:
    1. Why does art matter to an 8th grade kid in a small town in Arkansas? What did art mean to you as a young person whose family was not wealthy? Why should my students keep reading, keep writing through difficult times?
    2. My kids love horror, fantasy, and graphic novels. At their age, what books mattered to you?
    When did you begin to write, and what kept you motivated to create stories?

    I appreciate that you are busy. Any response is welcome (well, nearly any), and I will show it to them. They are really into writing apocolyptic stories right now for reasons that are a mix of their teenage nature and just life.

    Thank you…Ms. DeMent

  2. What’s with the “winning through most hearts” (okay, that was really badly phrased, but whatever.) contests all the time? It’s really aggravating, and I’m kind of sick of it. Contest winners should be chosen by their talent, not by their popularity.

    • I agree. I feel like my story could have a chance at winning if an editor read it, but my story is on page 10, and no one wants to take the time to go through all of the entries. I only have 4 hearts, which I think is good considering that other stories on the same page as mine have none, while the stories in the beginning have 80. It’s just not fair for people who post their stories later into the contest. Now, I understand with the Seventeen contest having 60 top stories that are hearted the most because no moderator wants to read thousands of short stories only to pick 70 that they have to pour over, but maybe there should be more wild cards, like 50 top stories and 20 wild cards. It’s just not that fair. I wonder if moderators even read these comments and notice them, because I feel like a lot of people think it’s unfair.

  3. The stories must be ‘new’ as in written for this contest not before the contest actually started right? I noticed that one of the submissions ( The . Corrupt Butterflies) has the most hearts right now is an old story (first post says ‘2 months ago’) so the author has had much more time to get comments and such i find this very unfair to everyone else who is competing and who wrote their story just for the contest, not before it. Thanks!

    • Hi Johana,
      In order for a story to appear as an entry below, the author must republish (and therefore, relinquish all hearts) a pre-existing story. Please feel free to email me at rebecca@figment.com if you have any further questions.

  4. So can we enter one story for two contests? I’ve thought about it, and I feel like my entry for this contest is also good for the Seventeen Contest. Would it be possible to tag the story in both contests? Also, can you take something out of a contest, then put something else in? As in, if I come up with something better than my previous story which is already entered, can I enter the new one instead? Thanks!

  5. I don’t think that it is really fair to make the contest winner the person with the most hearts on their story, and then tell us that we can’t publicize them. How else are you supposed to get hearts? Why can’t the winners just be selected by judges? Some people might have really good stories that just never get discovered. Obviously only the really popular people on figment will end up in the finals. I think that you should give everyone an equal chance at winning.

  6. Hm… Considering this is the only non-female oriented content currently on figment… I wonder though. Can I do a poem for this? If so, approximately how many words MINIMUM? I don’t want to understood the word count.

    • Hi Maekir,
      You can absolutely do a poem, as long as it is from one of the stated perspectives. There is no minimum word count.

  7. I am a bit confused about the assignment. If I want to do third person then I have to write a story about a person with bad attributes and make the reader like the person?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *