Your Story 13 Winner: Survival Suburbia

Out of more than 400 entries, we chose this entry, submitted by Steve Martinez of Irvine, Calif., as the winner of our Your Story #13 contest. Judging for the Your Story #14 competition will take place in late October. For more info visit
Publish date:

Someone yells “cut” and I’m still bleeding.

My wife stands a few feet away from me holding a knife and seething with anger. Make-up and wardrobe run out and smack our faces with powder and touch up our Caribbean tans with a gold spray. The camera shifts positions to get an establishing shot of my wife about to lunge at me for succumbing to the temptations of another island contestant. Someone can take the knife away from her but they’re all part of the “crew”. If they interfere it wouldn’t be reality television. Of course FIX Television won’t condone the violence but my being stabbed will definitely be in the teasers for the show.

They wanted to call it "Survival Suburbia!" but the execs had them change it to "American Island Temptation: Suburban Extreme!" The producers held open casting calls to all the couples that fit their very specific profile. My wife and I, recently married, had met their specifications in height, hair color, eye color, age, and income. So we went to five auditions with hundreds of other couples that looked and sounded just like us. It was something to do, a way to get on television. At this rate, anyone can have their fifteen minutes of fame. You just have to find the right show for your profile.

I had tried to get on other reality shows. My wife has been in one other show but got voted off before she could be remembered. So this is big for both of us. Being in the top three means we’ll be in for most of the television season. Most people can remember the final three. Plus, in following seasons, they have returning finalists, so it’s win-win either way. The grand prize is one million dollars, split two ways. They pretty much tell you this show will ruin your relationship, but they can sell that to you and you’ll walk away smiling and broken-hearted.

I look over at her and she takes a step towards me. The director yells at her to stay still. Cameras get shots of my bleeding side where she made contact. I try to reason with her, but I’m told to save it for the scene. It’s better if I improv and not plan on what I’m going to say, they tell me. My wife is crying and I’m getting light-headed. I tell her I’m sorry and I’m told to shut up.

Some one fixes my flesh colored thong. I’m supposed to be naked but the final cut will blur out my groin. They add extra tears to my wife’s eyes and touch up her blush. Someone from the crew takes still shots of us for marketing and promotion; they adjust the lighting enough to ripple off my abs but not enough to contradict continuity; they move the fans so they can catch our hair. My wife and I are facing each other with our hair blowing in opposite directions. We still have to be sexy.

They’re going to let her stab me. This will guarantee the show’s success in ratings and give it a second season. They’ll rush her in enough time to make sure she doesn’t kill me, but I’m still going to feel the blade. My wife is still going to thrust it into my body. All because of a night-vision video she saw of two people kissing in the woods that she thought was me but was actually another guy. She doesn’t believe me.

The crew pulls back for the final shot before they switch to a handheld camera so as to get the real-life confusion-effect as the camera runs in with the people trying to stop us.

The director yells for action and she continues coming at me as if she never stopped. I put up my arms and she goes beneath them. The knife is in me and blood starts to build up. The crew rushes her and pulls her off me. Cameras dance in exaggerated motions around me making it seem more out of control. I curl in pain and they rush in a man wearing a doctor’s coat. The director walks on and waves his arms at people trying to contain the situation. Someone looks at the camera and yells to turn it off.

And the director yells, “Cut.”

The blood is sticky and the fake knife makes a plastic sound when my wife drops it to the floor.

“Great work everybody! Let’s wrap it up.”


Plot Twist Story Prompts: Dream Sequence

Every good story needs a nice (or not so nice) turn or two to keep it interesting. This week, let your characters dream a little dream.

WD Vintage_Armour 12:03

Vintage WD: Don't Hide Your Light Verse Under a Bushel

In this article from 1960, poet and author Richard Armour explores the importance of light verse and gives helpful hints to the hopeful poet.


Tessa Arlen: On Polite Editorial Tussles and Unraveling Mysteries

In this article, author Tessa Arlen explains how to navigate the differences between American and English audiences and create a realistic historical mystery.

Poetry Prompt

Wednesday Poetry Prompts: 547

Every Wednesday, Robert Lee Brewer shares a prompt and an example poem to get things started on the Poetic Asides blog. This week, write a lazy poem.


Denise Williams: Romance, Healing, and Learning to Love Revisions

Author Denise Williams recounts her experience with writing her first book while learning about the publishing industry and the biggest surprise about novel revisions.

November PAD Chapbook Challenge

2020 November PAD Chapbook Challenge: Next Steps

Here are the final steps for the 13th annual November PAD Chapbook Challenge! Use December and the beginning of January to revise and collect your poems into a chapbook manuscript. Here are some tips and guidelines.


Shook vs. Shaked vs. Shaken (Grammar Rules)

Learn when to use shook vs. shaked vs. shaken on with Grammar Rules from the Writer's Digest editors, including a few examples of correct usages.

November PAD Chapbook Challenge

2020 November PAD Chapbook Challenge: Day 30

For the 2020 November PAD Chapbook Challenge, poets write a poem a day in the month of November before assembling a chapbook manuscript in the month of December. Today's prompt is to write an exit poem.