There’s a local writing competition that I’ve entered a couple of times in the past. It’s part of a small town festival that has been running for many years, and I’ve entered it twice before, so I knew to look out for it when I was drawing up my list of deadlines for the next few months.

Usually, this is an open themed competition. Write about whatever you like, as long as you meet the word count and other submission conditions. This year, one of the conditions is that the name of the town must appear in bold print, somewhere in the text.

Now, when I say this town is local, I mean that it’s part of the same local government area I live in, but it’s not a place I visit often. Apart from the existence of this festival, and a couple of the local amenities, I really didn’t know much about it.

It’s been driving me mad. I’m not keen on the idea of just slipping the name into the story as an afterthought… for example, ‘John was born in [town]’. I’d much rather write something inspired by the place, but my research wasn’t turning up any gems – until yesterday…

Yesterday (Wednesday) I went to one of the many ‘Centenary of WW1’ exhibitions which have been popping up over the past two years. Most of the items on display were fairly generic; objects from both sides of the conflict, pictures of famous soldiers and politicians, maps showing where famous battles took place… I think you get the picture. This was a touring exhibit, and at the end of the display was a section on ‘your local community’. Every one of the soldiers featured in this section was from the town whose name needs to appear in my competition entry!

By a startling coincidence, on Tuesday I opened a book of writing prompts at random, and the prompt was something along the lines of: ‘You are the person who is responsible for telling families that their loved one has been captured, wounded, or killed in action. Describe one of these scenes.’ Put the two together, and I think I have something I can work with.


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