Thanks, everyone, for reading these stories and offering so much feedback! Out of 27 stories, we received 24 evaluations plus three people offering feedback if contacted personally (BenjiTheDreamer, PerspectiveShift, and Njord), so… we broke even! Cruelty’s such a popular month.
Some people noted recurring themes, as often happens during a contest. It seems as though a few writers happen to tune into each other’s frequencies while creating and odd coincidences happen. For this round, we saw three stories incorporating a character named Bridget. More often than that, though, several stories featured failed relationships, where the man disappoints his partner because he’s absorbed in his work or just neglectful and irresponsible. One of these days, a social psychologist is going to happen upon these archives…
The additional stipulations of CruelJan20, as we all know, were those of accidental cruelty, psychological cruelty, or humiliation. Writers had the option of choosing any of these themes, any or all of them. What these mean are up to interpretation by each writer, and I think we saw a lot of different takes on these. Domestic drama, supernatural horror, techno thrillers, even a period epistolary turned up in the roster, so the readers this month really got a fantastic variety of ideas and genres!
From here on out, however, I note that I will have to be excruciatingly clear that minors and underagers must not be used as characters in these stories. Even if they’re not involved with any sexual interaction, this is still a fetish contest and this is one unyielding boundary. I thought the rules were sufficient on this, but I will make them unmistakable. Enforcement is in place: one story was removed, then restored when the author rewrote it to conform with this restriction. I’m pleased with their cooperation, but in the future let’s not test those waters again.
With that out of the way, let’s get to the results.
Note: As with previous contests, I only focused on the first several titles that rated most highly. I know we’re all looking for our own names in these results, but it really would be too much work to list absolutely everyone down to Nth place. Rest assured that everyone received a vote on something. Yes, everyone.
Which stories had a striking opening line?
As always, it’s important to hook the reader so they want to continue reading. Seems elementary, but how do you do this? Do you quickly delineate the leading characters and the central problem? Do you drop the reader right into the heart of the action? Or do you spin a riddle that the reader’s compelled to resolve? Everyone’s got their own style, and some stories demand a different technique. Here’s who did it well.
First place: “A Scarlet R,” Elle Largesse
Second place: “Poison Pen,” Taedis
Third place: “Insignificant Other,” Scidram
Fourth place: “Little Mary’s Strings,” HthereBeGt
Fifth place: “Clockwork,” bobascher; “Warm Places,” Njord
Which stories had vivid, relatable characters?
Some of us need a story with characters we care about, like the restless farmboy on the desert planet who dreams of fighting against the Empire. We want to see where he goes, how he attains his dream, and how he gets past the multifarious obstacles the literal universe throws at him.
Other times, we want to insert ourselves into the story. We want to feel resonance with the main character, because that could be us staring down the throat of a gigantic person (whether we want that or not). We want to be taken into another world and live there for a while.
Here are the stories that made us care about their characters.
- First place: “Little Mary’s Strings,” HthereBeGt; “Poison Pen,” Taedis
- Third place: “Bridget,” Solomon G
- Fourth place: “The Vanishing Point,” Wits Aimwell; “Warm Places,” Njord
Which stories got you wrapped up in their threatening circumstances?
Aside from connecting with the characters, the writer has to come up with a world or a setting that will be appealing to us, and sometimes they have to talk us into that. If not the city, then the events that unfold can cast the familiar in a new light and make us want to peer around the corner to see what comes next. Sometimes we want to be immersed in the sensual thrill of impossible experiences, and other times we want to witness horrific, shocking circumstances that spark parts of our brain in that special way. These stories took their readers to another place.
- First place: “Little Mary’s Strings,” HthereBeGt; “Poison Pen,” Taedis; “A Scarlet R,” Elle Largesse
- Fourth place: “Get the Message,” PerspectiveShift; “Warm Places,” Njord
Which stories were just solid examples of good storytelling?
Yes, yes, shrunken people. Giantesses, check.
Overwhelming erotic appetites, yadda-yadda-yadda.
Aside from the dressing of size differentials and exploring the ramifications of improbable physics and anatomy, it just so happens that a very good story is being told. The pace picks up and draws out at appropriate moments. Information is withheld until a bomb is dropped. Maybe we’ll never attain these radical sizes, but we definitely understand these conflicts and desires, in whatever form they take. Who are the writers who made literature within CruelJan20?
- First place: “Poison Pen,” Taedis
- Second place: “Little Mary’s Strings,” HthereBeGt
- Third place: “First and Last and Always,” JM Wilde
- Fourth place: “A Scarlet R,” Elle Largesse; “Warm Places,” Njord
Which stories were the most arousing to read?
- First place: “The Vanishing Point,” Wits Aimwell
- Second place: “Teacher’s Assistant,” TheMicroGiant
- Third place: “Poison Pen,” Taedis
- Fourth place: “Rent Control,” bbbs
- Fifth place: “Always So Sweet to Me,” Oishi1; “It’s Only a Game,” HerLittleMan; “Staying In,” Vintovka
Which stories featured “accidental cruelty” the best?
Writers were given a choice of three themes to mix and match or focus on. The first of these was accidental, which could be unaware situations or someone who doesn’t know their own strength. It could also be someone who put themselves into a sizey situation without deeply considering what this could entail. And hijinks, as hijinks will, ensue. These writers played around with this ticklish idea.
- First place: “Get the Message,” PerspectiveShift
- Second place: “One Act of Cruelty Deserves Another,” Meyeel Sizechanger
- Third place: “The Vanishing Point,” Wits Aimwell
- Fourth place: “Always So Sweet to Me,” Oishi1; “Bridget,” Solomon G; “Friendship,” AlsoKnownAsV; “Little Mary’s Strings,” HthereBeGt
Which stories featured “psychological cruelty” the best?
The second possible theme was psychological: getting inside someone’s head, leaving the body intact but scarring the mind almost beyond recognition. Done well, this can be every bit as terrifying and alarming as physical threat. These authors went there.
First place: “Creature Comforts,” Undersquid; “Little Mary’s Strings,” HthereBeGt
Third place: “America: 2020,” BenjiTheDreamer; “First and Last and Always,” JM Wilde
Fifth place: “A Scarlet R,” Elle Largesse
Which stories featured “humiliation” the best?
Always a crowd-pleaser, and more fodder for that curious psychologist from the future, the thrill here is watching someone be degraded and abased. Sometimes we even want to be that target, we want to see a demonstration of power not from fists or boots but in belittling our concept of ourselves. There’s something satisfying in this sense of loss. Hey, humans are complex creatures. These stories played with that button.
- First place: “Insignificant Other,” Scidram
- Second place: “Poison Pen,” Taedis; “A Scarlet R,” Elle Largesse
- Fourth place: “Bitter Dregs,” Olo; “Teacher’s Assistant,” TheMicroGiant
That does it for CruelJan20! Thanks to all our readers who offered so much feedback! Thanks to our writers who, once again, cranked out quality material on a deadline, for free! I hope you enjoyed participating in this contest and, as always, I really hope you’ve discovered a new writer to adore.
Signups for GentleApril20 begin in a week! See you soon!