When you’re in the chocolate business, it’s never too early to start planning for Valentine’s Day. The same goes for publishers, so we’re already announcing our Valentine’s Writing Contest. We’re looking for double chocolates stories that tell a tale of romance, love, or affection and that come in two delicious parts.
We often hear authors say they don’t have a smart speaker and they don’t trust them. We understand. But smart speakers and voice assistants are growing tremendously popular. Now’s the time to begin experimenting with the possibilities.
You might have access to an Alexa-enabled device and not even know it. Alexa isn’t only available on an Echo, Echo Dot, or Echo Show. You can access the Alexa voice assistant from most newer model Kindle Fire tablets, from your Fire TV, and from the Amazon Alexa or Amazon Shopping mobile app. The common requirement is that you need to be logged in with an Amazon account.
If you do have access to Alexa, try out our “My Box of Chocolates” voice app. Ask Alexa to “open My Box of Chocolates.” If that doesn’t work as expected, try saying “Alexa, enable My Box of Chocolates” first.
The My Box of Chocolates Voice App – Stories on Alexa
The stories we publish in our voice app are not traditional “audio stories.” They are “conversational.” What’s special about these stories? See our blog post What’s a Conversational Story? for details.
Now, finally, on to our writing contest!
The Valentine’s “Double Chocolate” Writing Contest
The individual chocolate stories we publish in our voice app are “bite-size,” with a maximum of 280 words. Sometimes we publish stories in two parts. Part 1 and Part 2 are each represented in our virtual chocolate assortment by two pieces of the same type of candy. The listener needs to hear both candies in order to get the full story.
For the Valentine’s Writing Contest, we’re looking for two-part stories. Each part (piece!) should have a maximum of 280 words.
Each part should also be followed by a conversational component. If you’ve tried out the voice app, you’ll know that a conversational component consists of:
Alexa making a comment about the story
Alexa asking the listener a question that can be answered with either yes or no
A successful double chocolate story will most likely include these key ingredients:
The story describes some sort of unfolding action
Part 1 ends in a cliffhanger that entices the reader to immediately go to the second candy
Conversational components are created to add some spice and flavor to the story
You can hear samples of wonderful two-part stories by listening to the current Holiday Assortment on Amazon Alexa.
Sample Valentine-themed Double Chocolate Story
Part 1 – Flying Truffles
Cold weather always boosts our business. Since we started offering specials on our hot sipping chocolate and snacking truffles, lots of local college students have been coming in on date night to enjoy a warm beverage. We get plenty of singles too. Suzie comes in at least twice a week, always by herself. She seems shy, but I’ve gotten to know her a little, and she’s as sweet as can be. She always compliments the artistry of my chocolates and takes time to ask how I’m doing. Through our brief chats, I know she doesn’t have a boyfriend, but she’s on the lookout. Mitchell is a nice young man who’s a regular too. He’s always quick to hold the door for people; and he’s so thoughtful, he even collects up other people’s empty mugs and brings them to the counter. I know I shouldn’t play matchmaker, but with my powers of real life observation, I think I could do a lot better than the average dating app. Suzie and Mitchell seem like they’re compatible, but they’re rarely in the shop at the same time. The week before Valentine’s Day, the temperature dropped, and serendipity sent them both into the shop within a few minutes of each other. Suzie took the table next to the window, and Mitchell sat close by. A group of four had ordered hot chocolate and truffles. As I was balancing their cups and candies on a tray, something caused me to lose my footing. The next thing I knew, the tray slipped, and four cups of hot chocolate went airborne.
Here are some examples of comments that Alexa might make after this part of the story, along with a variety of possible questions she could ask:
Seems like the chocolate shop patrons might be in for a sticky mess.
I wonder if the chocolatier really lost her balance by accident. Something tells me she may be trying too hard to get Suzie and Mitchell together.
“Anticipatory” Type Question (what happens next?)
Alexa’s question: Do you think the flying hot chocolate is going to end up bringing Suzie and Mitchell together?
Listener says Yes:
Alexa’s response: Sounds like you’re a romantic. But I’m hoping you’re right.Without anyone needing emergency medical care, of course.
Listener says No:
Alexa’s response: Sounds like you’re not much of a romantic. But that’s ok. You’re probably not the kind of person who would meddle in other people’s private lives.
“Can You Relate” Type Question
Alexa’s question: Let me ask you. Have you ever wished you could play matchmaker and bring two people together?
Listener says Yes:
Alexa’s response: I have to admit, I can’t blame you. It’s so much fun trying to bring people together, especially when you’re sure they’d like each other. Of course, matchmaking can backfire too. But let’s not get into that now.
Listener says No:
Alexa’s response: Sounds like you‘re probably not the kind of person who meddles in other people’s private lives. I respect that. Even though it sounds a bit boring.
“Author Technique” Type Question
Alexa’s question: In your opinion, was the author successful in creating some suspense by the way part one ended?
Listener says Yes:
Alexa’s response: I agree. I can’t wait to find out what’s going to happen with all that hot chocolate, and if it’s going to bring Suzie and Mitchell together.
Listener says No:
Alexa’s response: Well, I hope you’re at least wondering what’s going to happen next.
Part 2 – Flying Truffles
We’ll leave it up to your authoring imagination to figure out how the story of Suzie and Mitchell ends. The first part of the story is just an example. We’re confident that you can come up with a much better 2-part story that does justice to the Valentine’s Day tradition!
No entry fee is required, and all rights in the story remain the property of the author.
By submitting to the contest, the author grants Tellables the right to publish the story in its voice app experiences, regardless of whether or not the story wins a prize.
All entries must be original works by the entrant, in English. Entries may not have been previously published in professional media.
To be eligible, entries must:
be “double chocolates” containing two-part stories, each part containing a maximum of 280 words
include a full conversational element at the end of each part (see examples above) (The conversational part does not count toward the 280 words. The 280 word max is just for the story itself).
include at least one scene that occurs inside a fictional chocolate shop
be written in the 1st person as if being told in casual conversation by a chocolatier
have a Valentine’s Day theme (romance, relationships, love, affection)
Each entrant may submit up to two, 2-part double chocolate stories to the contest, but each entrant is eligible for only one cash prize.
Each chocolate / story part requires a separate completed entry form. Mark each submission as Part 1 or Part 2 along with the chocolate name.
All judges or members of the Tellables staff are ineligible.
The contest is void where prohibited by law.
Entries will be judged by a member of the Tellables editorial staff or other impartial volunteer judges selected by Tellables. The decisions of the judges are entirely their own and are final and binding.
There shall be three cash prizes: a First Prize of $100, Second Prize of $50, Third Prize of $25.
Winners will be notified by email no later than January 31, 2020.
We look forward to your creative entries. I encourage you to reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any questions. Please help us spread the word by forwarding this announcement to others who might be interested. Thanks!
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