Looking for inspiration? Here are some snippets from short-listed stories from last year's competition - the theme was 'The Future'...
Freya's dystopian vision of the future was well imagined; she used detailed description and colour to help her reader to picture a very dark version of the future...
'The sickly green sky pulsed like a giant heart humming with angry fumes of smog. Far below a city of white buildings sat like cascades of chalk in the gloom. Flickering lamps of electric fire lit up the smooth white cylinders that home the sliding shadows. Inside one of these cylinders hunched humans fighting the polluted air.'
Rohan imagined a post apocalyptic future in which radiation from a nuclear disaster had forced everyone to live underground. We were immediately gripped by this story and the clever twist towards the end...
'Jack looked at his disgusting reconstituted slop in the glare of the artifical lights. His great great grandparents had told him how they used to eat delicious, colourful food – fruit and vegetables – every day before the Nuclear Holocaust had forced society to move underground. They had described majestic trees, colourful flowers, beaches, mountains and fresh air. Sipping his tasteless soup, he wondered how bad this radiation could be.'
Isabel tackled the idea of Artificial Intelligence in the future and how this would impact on our lives. She built tension effectively and her army of malevolent robots were made to sound truly menacing...
'The busy sound of robots filled my ears. How I wished the world could be like it used to be. It all started when a scientist from America made a robot much smarter than any human could be by combining all natural intelligence into one tiny computer chip. But that all went wrong when one of the tests failed. The robot has started to clone itself...Now the last surviving humans live in fear of all technology.'
Charlie wrote about time travelling to the future and we were struck by his description of how his character found himself suddenly thrown into a very different world...
'Tom ventured into the time machine. A maze of mesmerising colours instantly swallowed him up; his heart began to race. The sickening sensation seemed to last for all eternity. Little did he realise he was travelling at the speed of light. Soon he was about to see the colours of 3017. He landed with a jolt and the doors slid silently open. Before him was a scene so disorientating his stomach began to churn.'
Abigail produced a vivid and imaginative first person account of someone confronting the future world for the first time. The conversational style and the sense of pace worked well...
'I landed with a thundering crash. Great. My time machine failed to work AGAIN. How many times do I have to fix this thing? Anyway, the only way to get back is help. I wearily got up and exited the Titan. As soon as I stepped out, two holographic figures materialised in front of me.
"Greetings, Human. Weclome to Zandr Town," they said.
I searched the ground for some way to destroy these holographic people so I wouldn't draw attention to myself.'
Olivia's description in her story of the futuristic sport of 'Street Racing', in which individuals race hoverbikes around the city at breakneck speed, was exciting and dramatic...
'As I mounted my hoverbike I felt the familiar rush of energy and excitement as the race began. I slammed my foot on the pedal and shot forward through the air. The crowd was massive today and as I soared past them they roared their support excitedly. The crystal skyscrapers whipped past me; I was a flash of lightning to the people in the crowd. Suddenly a horrifying noise pierced the air. Sirens. Police sirens. Any icy hand seemed to grip my stomach.'
We were immediately drawn to Ed's story because of the humour he used and the lively and engaging voice of his narrator. It was somehow strangely reassuring to imagine that despite the technological advances that the future will bring, it would still be possible to just have 'a bad day'...
'For a man of my age I would not expect to start my day like this.
My sleep pod malfunctioned and delivered the wrong dream. I had ordered my usual favourite of winning the E Game's Championship, but instead got a nightmare about being stranded on Planet D3KM5 without my communicator! I sent a furious hologram to the maintenance department and headed to the wash zone. Suddenly a searing pain shot through my nose and spread throbbing across my face, as I slammed into the sliding door.'
Fergal created a vivid and imaginative first person account of a character caught in the midst of a storm on a planet suffering from the effects of an ecological disaster. It served as an important reminder of the perils we may face if we don't act now to protect our environment.
'It's silent. Out here. In the mud. Clouds above me. Mud below me. When the rain comes, with no vegetation to hold it down, it will move. Great mudslides will fill the valley, block the roads, and choke the fields. I watch our house and the skies and I see the colours. Its shabby white paint was once a glimmering fine coat – now ruined. Its crumbling structure, its pitiful porch, being slowly agnonisngly swallowed by the hill.'
In a similar vein Lila imagined the human race having to leave this earth in order to discover a new planet because of the destruction we had caused. We were struck by her powerful description of a planet groaning under the weight of its population.
'As the earth floats further and further away, I try and remember the city I previously lived in. Once upon a time, the skyscrapers stood tall and majestic, their gleaming white walls towering over the cities, but now grime and pollution clings to their sides and rubbish litters the pavements below. The earth's blurring landscape has cracked and ruined under the strain of the houses and buildings we have made, and whilst the skyscrapers seemed to climb effortlessly into the air, the earth lied exhausted down below.'
Ritu's entry was highly original – she wrote from the perspective of the earth and imagined it taking revenge on those who had taken it for granted for so long and lost their connection to nature.
'They definitely deserved this, who granted them the right to build in the ocean? However, smooth the transition between one building into another is, technology would never defeat natural forces...He was disgusted by the rain, even what kept them alive for many years had been substituted. If he was to dry up, even he would be replaced by a more sophisticated version. The drops of rain descending felt so artificial, more heated, less natural. He could hear the cars glide above him. He let out his anger through the crashing waves against the cliffs, the rough seas hurling water into the air. He was not restricted. He would be free.'
Anna's writing was full of excellent detail and close description. Her dystopian vision was a powerful one and skilfully structured...
'I watched my cold breath mist against the icy-blue glass panels of the sleek, white, shimmering door. Panic welled up in my thumping chest as I realised what I was going to face when I stepped out of the gleaming door. Another day of mercliess artificial light. Nothing has been the same since the real sun went out: there are no luscious, bottle-green meadows to go to, no forests teeming with life, no sounds of rushing brooks...'
Charlotte's narrative imagined a world where consumerism had taken over and slowly strangled the idea of individuality – it was a frightening vision of a homogenous culture created by a handful of immensely powerful companies and brands...
'If you look around you, you will notice that everybody looks the same. The clothes that you wear are all the same colour, the same style and all from the same boring shop. All the clothes have the same navy blue colour as no one has the choice to express themselves in any other way. It is like everyone is the same person. You aren't at all unique anymore. You may notice that everyone's eyes are looking at the ground as there is no reason for you to be happy, not even to have a smile on your face.'