We recently freed our short-fiction-contest troll from his five-year captivity in the River Cities' Reader dungeon, and based on the rules he devised for the 2012 competition, he's grumpy. (Some might note that Jeff is always grumpy, but never mind.)

Let's start with the easy rules.

A) Entries, including titles, must be 250 words or fewer. The Reader short-fiction-contest troll will make the final judgment on word count, so we recommend being careful or leaving some breathing room.

B) Entries must be typed.

C) Entries must include the author's name, mailing address, and daytime phone number.

D) Entries must be previously unpublished. (As you'll see, that shouldn't be an issue, but you never know ... .)

E) Entries must be received by 5 p.m. on Friday, September 7. We shall accept submissions by e-mail (jeff@rcreader.com with "Fiction Contest" as the subject line); mail (532 W. 3rd St., Davenport IA 52801, with "Fiction Contest" on the envelope); and fax (563-323-3101).

Okay, now for the hard part.

F) All entries must include one option from each of the first three categories. The fourth category ("In the style of ... ") is optional. (Please note which options you're using, just in case the troll is hung over and having difficulty concentrating.)

1) Genre
a) ghost story
b) romance
c) noir
d) tall tale
e) biography

2) Point-of-view character
a) inanimate object
b) child
c) polygamist
d) criminal
e) nun

3) Action/conflict
a) betrayal
b) reunion
c) shame
d) obsolescence
e) unrequited love

4) In the style of ... (optional)
a) Dr. Seuss
b) Ernest Hemingway
c) William Shakespeare
d) William S. Burroughs
e) Twitter

So, for example, you might write a (1) ghost story with (2) the point-of-view character of a child in which (3) the primary conflict/action is a reunion. Or you might write a (1) noir with (2) the point-of-view character of a nun in which (3) the primary conflict/action is obsolescence (4) in the style of Dr. Seuss. Your choice.

We'll publish a collection of our favorite entries in our September 27 issue.

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