deck of cards spread out


What is the first thing that springs to mind when we hear the word? For me it is a conjuror – card tricks, disappearing members of the audience, assistants sawn in half. All rather banal because we know that these are tricks. They can all be demonstrated by anyone in the know. Magicians speak of inventing a trick. The principles of conjuring in this context rely on illusion, distraction, transformation, and transposition (think of the conman’s three-card trick.)

These ideas can transfer into stories and poetry. Many of the Golden Age detective stories use complicated devices to achieve an illusion – think of locked room mysteries – but in fact can be explained in the final chapter by a practical solver of puzzles, usually an amateur.124

But dig deeper and magic is the power summoned to resolve confusion in a satisfactory way, a way that is the power of spells, to the reader.

It may be that the hero/heroine has special powers like the ability to become invisible. It is often by the use of spells and incantations which will call something into being by the power of words.

What could be a better definition for the power wielded by a writer? Isn’t that what writers do all the time?

Fairy tales and folk tales rely on magic. The most obvious is Cinderella. Her fairy godmother waves her wand and Cinderella’s prospects are transformed – rags for a glittering dress, white mice for horses, a pumpkin for a coach. That could have been the end of a feel-good story, but the home-by-midnight rule introduces tension into the tale, and all the wonderful gifts can be transformed again if Cinderella is late.

The evil power of curses can be transformed by love. Sleeping Beauty awakened with a kiss. The Frog Prince is freed from the witch’s curse by a kiss from the Princess.

There are days when place, light, and weather combine to evoke a mysterious atmosphere. It is a moment when anything could happen. The real world seems to fade and you feel you are elsewhere and open to possibilities. Such emotions may arise in ancient landscapes, by rivers and lakes, among standing stones or ruins where the past seems very present.

So, a few aspects of the theme which might take you beyond the abstract. Think around the topic and make every word count. Choose boundaries and it will be easier to focus on how you want to frame your writing. You have a little more room in a short story to set up the confusion, and then resolve it with magic. Poems and flash lend themselves to the one killer device.

The readers are looking forward to your take on the theme and the shape of the tale you want to tell.


Please read the rules and guidelines carefully. The first step is to place an order through the online shop. This will give you an order number which you should use as the name of your file.

You need a separate order number for each poem or story.

  • Poetry: 12 lines
  • Flash Fiction: 250 words
  • Short Story: 1000 words

The competition is already open, so you can submit your writing any time until 11.59 pm (BST) on 31st August 2023.

Good luck!
Diane Jackman

(Image by Pexels from Pixabay)

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