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Frustrated with Judges

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devontae View Drop Down
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    Posted: 07 Apr 2021 at 1:46pm
Ok, so I was in this year's SSC but did not post on here during round 1. Unfortunately I wasnt aware of this forum until now. I did not make it into the 2nd round. I also did not receive an HM. Here is my question.
I was one of the Ghost Story groups which will not be named to protect the contestants.
The posted contest rules specifically state that the genre must be followed and any significant deviation will result in low scoring. The rules also state that it is up to NYCM's definition of the genre (as written in the genre list) that matters and not a personal opinion of what constitutes a specific genre therein. 
I am not familiar with scary stories or horror writing in general, so this was definitely a challenge for me. While not my best work, my story was pretty well received from unrelated folks who Ive had read it since the submission. More than anything I've been told it is scary. I went to great lengths to make sure to include a frightening element to my story because that is how Ghost Story is defined in the NYCM genre list. 

In looking at the list of folks in my group who uploaded to the review section, two of the postings made the top five. I was naturally curious and read through both. Both stories are well written. But neither story is scary, at all. One of them focuses on child/parent interpersonal relationships and the other was a comedy about life as a ghost. I dont want to rag on the other contestants. That's not my place.
My issue is that I feel it is really difficult to write good horror. If I put a lot of effort in to try to meet the contest requirements, why were other's given a win for not following the rules? 
This is extremely frustrating, as I feel I could've written an even better story if I too, was untethered from the constraint of having to inject scares and frights into my craft. 

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Dark&StormyNight Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 07 Apr 2021 at 3:30pm
Was your genre ghost story or horror?

The NYCM descriptions say ghost stories are usually scary but not always.  I haven’t gotten that genre yet, but depending on the prompts I feel I’d steer away from typical scary ghosts and do something along the lines of unfinished business, like Ghost Whisperer or Saving Hope.

Horror, yes, should be scary and unnerving.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote wisemel Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 07 Apr 2021 at 3:40pm
I think the key is in the intro at the top of the genre page: 

The genre definitions below are meant to be suggested guidelines and not explicit instructions on how to write your story or what elements to include.  While we do allow writers to stretch the boundaries of their assigned genres, please keep in mind that stories without predominant elements of your assigned genre may be disqualified.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote nod1v1ng Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 07 Apr 2021 at 4:06pm

I have gotten ghost story as my genre a ridiculous amount of times over the years. And I can say with some authority that they do not have to be scary and ghost stories are not the same as horror.

I've seen all manner of ghost stories score well - scary, funny, touching, surreal. The only real requirement of a ghost story is that it contains a ghost...
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote jennifer.quail Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 07 Apr 2021 at 5:07pm
Ghost stories have to involve a ghost. They don't have to be scary stories. Horror has to be scary (in some respect.) If your genre was ghost story and what you wrote was horror, if anything you could have been docked for writing the wrong genre. 
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote manifestlynot Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 07 Apr 2021 at 7:00pm
Following the rules will get you so far in the contest. Bending those rules just enough to be unique is what gets the judges' attention. The judges famously reward ambitious pieces that cross genres while using just enough of the assigned genre to remain in the prompt.

As an example, I really really really don't like fantasy. I don't love reading it and I really don't like writing it. So when I get it as my genre, I stretch it to the absolute limit because writing 2500 words in fantasy feels like a punishment to me. As a result, I generally do pretty well in fantasy because I'm technically staying in the bounds of the genre (the plot relies on magic!) but writing the way I like. However, there are definitely no elves, dragons, or goblins, which some would argue are staples of any fantasy work. 

You get genre sticklers from time to time - those who believe that ghost stories MUST be scary, or that romance MUST have a happy ending - but for the most part, the judges are pretty flexible as long as you are hitting enough conventions of the genre. 


Edited by manifestlynot - 07 Apr 2021 at 7:06pm
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Draiglas Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 07 Apr 2021 at 8:41pm
I think the first sentence of the genre definition for ghost stories is a little unhelpful because as others say, the key point is usually but not always. The key element of a ghost story is a ghost or the possibility of one. And I guess when you're a judge, you must get bored of the same stories all the time so the ones which mix up genres and themes etc probably stand out. For example, one that always sticks in my head is one I found here while browsing last year. Can't remember the contest or author as I hadn't entered but I remember that the clever thing about the story was that no ghost or supernatural element appeared at all as the story was about someone trying to summon the ghost of their departed partner to see them one last time, and was centered around the idea that "the scariest ghost story is that ghosts might not exist at all". So it's definitely not within the NYCM strict definition but you could still see how it was a ghost story, and why it would appeal to the judges.

I think they tend to give a lot of leeway for genre - my understanding is hardly anyone gets DQ'ed etc for it.


Edited by Draiglas - 07 Apr 2021 at 8:43pm
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote theinquisitor Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 08 Apr 2021 at 4:20am
On my first competition I had ghost, and I junked one story because, having read the FAQs and guidelines but not yet joined the forum, I was worried it was closer to horror. I now know that it would have been fine (although I'm not saying it was better than what I submitted). I do think they overstate how closely you have to stick to the genre, so in that respect I understand where you are coming from.

I can't agree that others have been successful 'for not following the rules' though. That smacks of sour grapes, sorry. Also, it's not intrinsically harder to write a scary story than any other kind, so to suggest they've taken the easy option is not fair.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Suave Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 08 Apr 2021 at 8:19am
Ghost story is a great genre! It can be used to write sad tales, 
or chilling tales, even love stories. My first NYCM entry was Ghost,
and I got a HM and was hooked into entering every contest.
Horror is a different beast altogether.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (1) Thanks(1)   Quote BarbaraFL Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 08 Apr 2021 at 8:24am
Originally posted by Suave Suave wrote:

Ghost story is a great genre! It can be used to write sad tales, 
or chilling tales, even love stories. My first NYCM entry was Ghost,
and I got a HM and was hooked into entering every contest.
Horror is a different beast altogether.

Yup, think of the film Ghost - not scary, but 100% a ghost story.
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