What makes a winning short story?
Delve into the final paragraphs of all the stories to win The Sunday Times Short Story Award over the years
Love Many by Niamh Campbell
I keep the rocks in a box with the Laurence O’Toole and a Tarot pack. I take them out sometimes and crack them together. They are heavy and warm. In the pouch they look not unlike loose knots of cartilage or perhaps testicles.
He will dash back and ask me, are you free? And of course I am free.
A Partial List of the Saved by Danielle McLaughlin
The wipers swept back and forth, sluicing water and, for all he knew, the invisible atoms of dead patriots off the windscreen. As they drove past, he nodded curtly to the four bronze heads, lucky men, Conor thought, who’d only ever been asked to prove themselves in war and insurrection, who’d never been asked to account for themselves in the more fearsome matter of love.
Peanuts Aren’t Nuts by Courtney Zoffness
Atsushi folded his hands over his lap as if to protect himself. Beyond the windshield a “No Outlet” sign receded into the dark. Pam felt the hollow muscle in her chest dilate and contract, some parts superior, some parts inferior, felt it fire and misfire and fire again.
Half of What Atlee Rouse Knows About Horses by Bret Anthony Johnston
Sometimes, especially after Laurel had forgotten she’d ever heard it, he repeated some of it to her, but never to anyone else. For the rest of his days, it was just theirs – his and hers and the horses. Then she was gone, and the horses surely were, too, so then it was his and his alone. A passing moment, scattering and shapeless, a story that wasn’t a story at all, just something stuck in his head about horses, a memory without beginning or middle or end.
The Human Phonograph by Jonathan Tel
She sees a woman milking a yak, and wiping a little milk on her face, to whiten it. And at one point, along the pass that leads through to Gansu from where she will catch her train to Beijing, she sees a gathering of young people in traditional clothing; the women are carrying black umbrellas against the sun. The men and women pair off. She cannot hear through her window, but she supposes that each man is singing to his woman, and each woman to her man.
A Sheltered Woman by Yiyun Li
She was getting older, more forgetful, yet she was also closer to comprehending the danger of being herself. She had, unlike her mother and her grandmother, talked herself into being a woman with an ordinary fate. When she moved on to the next place, she would leave no mystery or damage behind; no one in this world would be disturbed by having known her.
Nirvana by Adam Johnson
She leans toward Kurt Cobain, like she wants to throw her arms around him and hold him, like she’s forgotten that her arms don’t work and there’s no him to embrace.
Miss Lora by Junot Diaz
Later, after you and the mujerón are over, you will type her name into the computer but she never turns up. On one DR trip you drive up to La Vega and put her name out there. You show a picture, too, like a private eye. It is of the two of you, the one time you went to the beach, to Sandy Hook. Both of you are smiling. Both of you blinked.
Beer Trip to Llandudno by Kevin Barry
And alewards we went about the familiar streets. The town was in carnival: Tropic of Lancashire in a July swelter. It would not last. There was rain due in off the Irish Sea, and not for the first time.
Last Season’s Man by CK Stead
‘Old friend,’ his effigy said, ‘you must know there is no Justice. That I am here and Tomislav is not is neither right nor wrong. The Universe is indifferent and does not love us. Everything is Chance.’
The deadline to submit your stories to the 2021 Sunday Times Audible Short Story Award is 6pm GMT on Friday 4 December. Find out more here