Your Story #75: Winner!

  • Screen Shot 2016-05-31 at 4.06.10 PMPrompt: Write a short story, of 700 words or fewer, that begins with the following line of dialogue: “You don’t have enough points, sir.” You can be funny, poignant, witty, etc.; it is, after all, your story.

Once again, you’ve made the Your Story competition a success! Thanks to everyone who participated in competition #75 (either by entering, reading or voting).

 

Out of more than 400 entries, readers helped us pick “Love by the Numbers” by Jenny Maattala as the winner. For winning, Maattala’s story will appear in an upcoming issue of Writer’s Digest.

 


Winning Entry

“Love by the Numbers”

by Jenny Maattala

You don’t have enough points, sir. She spit the words out, jagged and spiteful, through clenched teeth.

They’d decided early on in their relationship, back when chills rolled down their limbs with every touch and the excitement of love was tangible, that they were too urbane for run-of-the-mill fighting tactics. Instead, rather than yelling at him for leaving his wet towels on the floor and staying out too late, or berating her when she locked the keys in the car or refused to delete exes’ numbers from her phone, they simply added or subtracted points to stay accountable.

To their friends this seemed like a futile way to resolve issues, but to them it was an easy glance at who was ahead and who needed to straighten up their act.

Forgot to take out the trash? Minus one point, sir.

Left clumps of hair in the drain? I’m subtracting two, my doll.

TWO?

Well, one for neglecting to remove your debris from the drain. And another for leaving me to do the task.

A moment to consider, then, Fair enough.

Over the years the points ebbed for various reasons, but the best part for each of them was seeing the numbers climb again and the validation they felt when their accomplishments were recognized.

We haven’t had dinner together in a week… that’s three off for neglecting your spouse and another three for poor time management.

Why can’t you understand the pressures I’m under at work and the time it takes to get to a senior position? Minus seven points for lack of sympathy and support.

But then pink tulips would be waiting on her desk after a stressful meeting the next day, a cream-colored card resting against the vase: Ten points, doll, for being the most beautiful and dedicated woman I know.

And ten points to you for being considerate, and loving.

Making up, they agreed, was the most satisfying way to help the points ascend. Twenty points for that new maneuver, sir! She could feel his chest swell and recede with each heavy breath, and with a wearied, silent nod she knew she had gained a few points too.

They continued on this way for quite some time, and even when the numbers dipped well below the norm they insisted that their innovative system still helped them have a stronger, healthier relationship.

Take three points for missing dinner with my family.

Add twelve points for my surprise birthday party.

They insisted that as long as the additions exceeded the subtractions they were still on the right side of love.

Add fifteen points for making partner and, heck, another five for giving our savings account a nice boost!

Add ten for the fun weekend away, but subtract one for throwing a fit when I had to take a work call.

Minus five points for forgetting our anniversary.

Minus seven for acting like a petulant jerk and giving me the silent treatment for the last three days.

Minus twenty points for refilling your birth control when last month was supposed to be the last.

Minus twenty for buying a new boat with my money.

Minus eight for missing our counseling session.

Still, they tried to be considerate. And loving. And dedicated.

That’s my favorite dessert! Eight points for you.

Thank you for the hug. Here’s five points.

I love you. Ten points.

I love you, too. Ten points.

The numbers didn’t lie, couldn’t lie, and their arrangement truly kept them accountable for how they treated each other… until it didn’t.

Another work trip? Six points.

Give or take?

Does it matter?

You’re acting selfish. Minus seven.

Who’s calling you this late? Minus five.

What time did you get home? Minus ten.

You never touch me anymore! Minus fifteen.

My points haven’t changed in months. I don’t understand what you want right now! Minus 20.

She talked, she pleaded, she yelled, she bargained, she added and subtracted.

And finally, on the day she walked in on them in her bedroom, she was grateful she had kept such an exhaustive tally.

You don’t have enough points, sir. Then she closed the door and walked away.

 

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84 thoughts on “Your Story #75: Winner!

    1. jcm3rockstar

      I thought A was pretty good, but did not really enjoy the last few lines. B was pretty good, I liked the costumes and it stayed true to some form of dilemma. C was pretty darn good and even contained a little suspense; the end was a little surprising and that I liked. D was a nightmare for those of us currently aspiring – pardon the gerund. E was probably the best but let me down a little.

      I vote C. Nothing bad happened to the attendant and the ferocious monster was captured. Great story, especially in under 700 words. 🙂

  1. jackwindows

    I vote E, of course!! It’s literature for a many reasons, not the least being the author got away with a very long list and kept me spellbound. What a wonderfully meditative piece for loving couples.

  2. StoneFree

    Entry “C” – Nice twist at the half-way point! I was just settling into the Paul Newman eyes when I was suddenly jarred by the sinister information. Gratifying take-down at the end too!

  3. littlealex

    I’m voting for A. there’s a mystery and intrigue as to whether this is a science fiction story. Very well written.
    I would love to read this as a short story or beginning of a novel. Great Job!!!!

  4. Pegcook

    Entry A This story left me completely speechless. I never saw the way the story ended coming! My heart goes out to the protagonist, but I like the twist the author used. The story is well written; no words wasted; dialogue moves the story at a good pace and I, the reader, was fully engaged throughout the story. Great Job!

    1. littlealex

      Hi Pegcook,
      I’m with you!!! Entry A was my favorite. Was not sure where this story was going and the ending made me realize
      this could be a sci=fi story. Very well written!!!

      1. littlealex

        Thank you for these contest!! They really challenge you as a writer. I actually entered this one and
        wasn’t at all sure where to begin. Casting my vote for AAAAAAAAA!!!!!!!

  5. Stella Chen

    Hi, may I check why the contest is closed already? I am putting the finishing touches to my submission on the understanding that, as stated in the Official Rules at clause 2, the competition “ends at 11:59 PM ET on the day specified below the prompt above”. This would be 11.59pm ET on July 11.

    If my Googled time conversions are correct, as I write it is only 12.21pm ET on Monday July 11. Hence there should be almost twelve hours more before the contest deadline closes at 11.59pm.

    Would appreciate some clarification as I hope to be able to submit my story. Thanks.

    1. Baihley Grandison Post author

      Hi Stella,

      You are absolutely right; that is my mistake in jumping the gun. I’ve reopened the contest 🙂 Thanks for your understanding.

      -Baihley

    1. Baihley Grandison Post author

      Hi there,

      Yes, you can format your story any way you choose–but keep in mind we’ll be printing it (should it win) in short story form. Character names do count towards overall word count. Hope this helps!

  6. Feliz Piez

    Hi Baihley,
    I have completed my “points” story and have attempted several times to submit it here. It says “failed to send your message.” I put it in an email but the format is so tight and hard to read. I worry that will impact the reading of my story. I will still continue to try here. I have been a Writers Digest customer and fan for over thirty years and am thrilled to see these kinds of opportunities coming from the foremost publication on writing in the U.S. Thanks for your hard work.
    Roy (aka Feliz PIez)

    1. Baihley Grandison Post author

      Hi Roy,

      We’re sorry to hear that! Thanks for letting us know. Not sure it’s anything we can fix on our end, unfortunately, but we’re looking into the issue. Also, formatting by itself will not affect your entry; we know to take those things into consideration when judging entries 🙂

      Best,
      Baihley

      1. emerwin77

        Yes, I agree– great contest.

        But like Roy (aka Feliz Piez) I am receiving the same prompt when submitting.

        There was an issue processing your submission. Please try again later.

        Wonder if others writers are getting the same glitch?

        Thanks for the intriguing prompts…

        1. Baihley Grandison Post author

          Hi there,

          Sorry to hear you’re also having issues with the submission form! We looked into it and should have the problem fixed now (but do let us know if you still continue to have trouble.) You can also email your submission to yourstorycontest@fwcommunity.com.

          Thanks!
          Baihley

  7. jcm3rockstar

    I have, for years now, eagerly awaited the prompts for the Your Story competition. Even when I did not enter, I still enjoyed reading the prompt or seeing the picture and reading what others came up with which usually impressed me. Prompt #75 though, wow, what a mind blower. The statement alone draws us in on curiousity and promotes immediate cause for tension between two characters. What can we do with a prompt like this? A lot. The discussion could be between a man and anyone of any walk of life. Lawyers come to mind firstly, then other characters who would be having a discussion upon a problem yet to be solved. The first line seems to be coming from a person trying to understand a situation or problem; there must be more to the solution.

    All in all I was impressed with this prompt and cannot wait to read what other writers wrote in response to its inspiration. My idea was to stick mainly with dialogue, a difiicult task for me as I enjoy ‘telling’ rather than ‘showing’ many times when I write stories. In my entry, I did not include descriptions of characters or settings, nothing from the narrator. I was surprised to write the entire conversation in well under 700 words, thought I would have to trim down my idea a few times to enter. I think it was the best way to do the story I submitted and I hope others have a chance to read and enjoy it.

    If you would like to check out some of my writing, I have posted three stories on my blog (jcm3blog.com) within the last few months. I am not currently writing a lot of stories because I am working on a fantasy novel (50% complete). I wrote out some dialogue for prompt #75, though; I could not resist. Thank you, Writer’s Digest for all of the wonderful articles on writing and the information on markets and the competitions. Thank you for such a thought provocative prompt. Thank you for reading this comment and, by all means, readers and writers, contact me somehow for literary discussion.

      1. jcm3rockstar

        You are welcome. I am currently at 57,000 words and want to have 120,000 words, tale complete, by the end of November. That I way I can re-write it for style and make sure the characters are as involved as they need to be in certain parts of the story. The end of it may or may not include a war. My original goal was to have it complete by the end of the year. I’ll do it or I won’t – one way or the other, I hope others enjoy it if they have a chance to come across it.

        Thank you for all you do with the Your Story competition. Do you ever receive over 100 entries?

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