I was recently invited to judge the Southern Area Young Crime Writers' Competition organised by the Crime Writers' Association of Great Britain (of which I am a member) and which was supported by the Library service. It was a tough one to judge because the entries were so varied and interesting and some superbly written by very talented young writers. So when it came to judging what was I looking for? What does a short crime story need in order to be successful? Here is my seven point checklist.
1. A well written story with a truly surprising ending, often called a 'twist in the tale.'
2. Clues planted throughout the story.
3. A piece of information, which is usually held back until just before the ending.
4. The best twist stories are those that have a theme and firmly based on character.
5. The main character is introduced immediately, so is the tone, setting and the problem.
6. The motivation and tension builds throughout the story until it reaches a climax before the surprising ending.
7. Unities of time, place and action through the main character’s eyes, which results in tight construction and successful short story.