Unsolved |
Creative Writing Contest

Middle & High School

Unsolved Video

Unsolved - every sentence counts!

Enthral imaginations with creative writing as young writers create their own mini saga!

'Unsolved' invites your students to write a mini saga (a story told in just 100 words) inspired by the crime & mystery genre.

Will they fight for justice? Take on the role of detective in an enthralling whodunit? Or embark on an adventure as a fugitive?

Create a buzz in your English lessons as your students get excited to write their gripping tales...

There's a fun 1-minute video to introduce your students to the activity, plus a students' info guide and worksheet, and we've even got virtual classrooms covered with options such as the Word Doc version of the entry form and the Online Writing Portal - simply login or create your free teacher account at www.youngwritersusa.com/online/teachers.php



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Rules

To make sure your entries are valid, please follow the rules listed below:

  • Only one entry per student, there is no limit to the number of entries per school. Teachers please submit your entries altogether where possible!

  • Mini sagas can be on the entry form or a sheet of paper or typed (on a computer or in the Online Writing Portal)

  • Ensure that all students include their name and age on their entries.

  • Mini sagas must be your students' own work.

  • Mini sagas must be told in no more than 100 words (the title isn't included in this).

  • Story starters are optional but if used must be included in your students' word count.

  • Mini sagas must be inspired by the crime & mystery genre.

If you are unsure on any rules or have any queries, please don't hesitate to Contact Us.

For Schools

1st Prize

The Young Writers' Award of Excellence  

PLUS

Every participating school receives a copy of the book their students are published in!

For Students

Our favorite 3 published writers each receive a trophy and $100!

(Winners are chosen from entries received in Oct-Nov 2021.)

PLUS

A bookmark for every entrant and writers chosen for publication are awarded a certificate of merit.

Online

Send your entries by uploading them:

Enter Now

Enter through our student writing portal:

Writing Portal

Alternatively, you can email your entries to [email protected].

By Mail

Send your entries, along with your school entry form, to:

Young Writers Unsolved
77 Walnut Street
Unit 11
Peabody MA 01960

Writing Tips


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Tip #1

The Theme

To write a classic ‘whodunit’ your students are going to need:

• A victim
• A crime
• Suspects
• Someone to reveal the truth

Remember, your students don’t want to reveal too much too soon! Their job as a crime/mystery story writer is to keep the reader guessing until the end, so maybe a red herring too… That might sound like a lot to fit in to 100 words, but word choice, vocabulary and key info will ensure they can do this.

Next week’s tip looks at the hook, and introduces you and your students to “An Act Of Murder” – Young Writers’ mini saga that shows your students how to build up their story.

Tip #2

The Narrative Hook

A narrative hook is a literary technique in the opening of a story that 'hooks' the reader's attention so they keep on reading. The hook is ideally the opening sentence.

Here are a few examples:
        “Marley was dead, to begin with.” (A Christmas Carol – Charles Dickens)
        “All children, except one, grow up.” (Peter Pan – JM Barrie)
        “Mother died today.” (The Stranger – Albert Camus)

“An Act Of Murder” by Young Writers

She was killed on stage.

The first line ‘She was killed on stage’ takes you straight to the action. We have a victim, a crime, and a location. No long description or set up, just straight in. So then, who killed her, how, and why?

Find out in next week’s tip as we explore writing the beginning of a mini saga.

Tip #3

The Beginning

After the narrative hook, your mini saga needs a strong beginning. With just 100 words there isn’t room for a big build up, so get straight to the point. Look at the story starters. Can you see how they dive into the action?

“An Act Of Murder”

She was killed on stage.

The leading man, Alfie Jacks, did it of course, but who’d swapped the prop knife for a real one?

In this second line we find out how she was killed – stabbed by accident by the lead actor, because someone had swapped the prop knife! So we’ve got the introduction to the story all mapped out.

Notice how there isn’t much description – the reader will know what a theatre looks like, and we’ve given them the information that there is a man and a woman. They can fill in the details themselves – let them use their imaginations! So then… whodunit? Find out more next week when we explore characters.

Tip #4

“An Act Of Murder” already has the victim - an actress. We also have a suspect – the lead actor Alfie Jacks. Now we introduce a third character, the detective, who is also the narrator.

What characters do you plan to have in your mini saga? With only 100 words to write it, don’t go overboard on characters as you’ll struggle to give them a big enough role and they’ll eat up your word count! Use strong adjectives rather than long descriptive sentences.

“An Act Of Murder”

She was killed on stage.

The leading man, Alfie Jacks, did it of course, but who’d swapped the prop knife for a real one?

I arrived promptly, the body still warm, and gathered the suspects. “Mr Jacks, it was you. The victim had recently rejected you, so you concocted this plan, hoping nobody would believe you’d commit murder in front of a live audience!” An officer arrived and cuffed him, ignoring his pleas of innocence.

The latest story instalment doesn’t show any other suspects – unfortunately we haven’t got enough words to add in more, but just having the detective ‘gather the suspects’ tells the reader to add in a few more people, even if they don’t actually appear in the text.

Then the narrator/detective reveals the killer – it was Alfie Jacks after all! A fourth character, the officer, is shown but only as a device to handcuff and arrest the murderer.

It is possible when using the first person narrator to show them making mistakes or having flaws – they are a character too remember. Alfie Jacks is still saying he’s innocent, so has our detective got this one wrong…?

Tip #5

A very important part of the story format – a rubbish ending really ruins a story.

What sort of ending are you aiming for?

• A twist
• A cliffhanger - don’t just stop halfway through a sentence at the end though. A cliffhanger still needs to give the reader an idea of what is about to happen next.
• Happily ever after
• Tragedy

“An Act Of Murder”

She was killed on stage.

The leading man, Alfie Jacks, did it of course, but who’d swapped the prop knife for a real one?

I arrived promptly, the body still warm, and gathered the suspects. “Mr Jacks, it was you. The victim had recently rejected you, so you concocted this plan, hoping nobody would believe you’d commit murder in front of a live audience!” An officer arrived and cuffed him, ignoring his pleas of innocence.

I left, discarding the fake ID and moustache. He hadn’t even recognized his own understudy! Now he’d never act again, and I’d be the star!

PLOT TWIST!

Alfie Jacks is innocent. It was the understudy looking for glory!

This twist works because it’s plausible. The ‘detective’ arrived promptly remember – very promptly as the body was still warm. Almost as if he was already on the scene…

An understudy would have had the means to swap the knives, being backstage, and the means to plant evidence. And how did he know that she had rejected Alfie? At first you assume the ‘detective’ must have found out from the cast, but if he is a member of the cast, he’d already know that!

Most importantly, he has motive. Not necessarily to want the victim dead, but as a means to get his rival arrested so that he can be the star!

Did any of you guess what was going to happen?

Get In Touch

Mail
Young Writers
77 Walnut Street
Unit 11
Peabody MA 01960

Email
[email protected]

Tel
323-244-4784

Closing Date: October 29, 2021