It’s time to dust off the vintage typewriter and channel your inner Jim Ferris/Abigail Mitchell in a new Columbo writing competition organised by the good people behind the popular ColumboTV Facebook group.
The ‘Publish or Perish’ contest allows fans to try their hand at crafting a mini adventure in the Columbo universe, but be warned – you’ll need to be very succinct with a maximum word count of just 200 words!
The rules are, however, simple and the scope broad enough to allow your creative juices to flow in a million different directions. You could pen a gotcha moment, or a stand-alone Columbo scene. You could reimagine a classic encounter, or put yourself in the mind of a killer to show us what they’re thinking when they pull the proverbial trigger, or are busted by the wily Lieutenant. It’s a blank canvas.
The only ‘rules’ to follow are these:-
- Entries must be obviously Columbo related
- Must be family friendly in keeping with the show
- Maximum word count of 200 (excluding title)
- Entries must be in English (sorry global fan base, but will make for a level playing field for judging)
- All entries to be posted to the ColumboTV Facebook group no later than midnight on 16 December 2018
- Multiple entries will be accepted – but not just multiple 200-word chunks of the same story (you rascals!)
The 200-word limit will absolutely tax the best of us (says the chap who routinely writes 4000+word episode reviews), but there are so many possibilities for moments and scenarios that could be explored that I, for one, believe it’s an intriguing and accessible challenge.
Indeed, to show you that it can be done here’s a small effort I just cooked up, which weighs in at 199 words, and which reveals for the very first time how Sergeant Wilson was paired up with Columbo in Greenhouse Jungle…
Wilson’s date with destiny
“Wilson, come in here!” Captain Ritchie called out across the busy office.
The young detective looked up eagerly and bounded across to his Captain’s office. Fresh from two years at Advanced Police School in Berkeley, Wilson was itching for a chance to prove his worth.
“Interesting case I’d like you to look into,” Ritchie said when the two men were seated. “Two schoolkids just found a smashed up Jag at the bottom of a canyon – and there’s a bullet hole in the driver’s side window. No sign of a body, but something ain’t right. I want you there on the double.”
“Oh yes, sir, I’ll get right on it, sir,” trilled Wilson. “Who’s the officer in charge at the scene?”
“You’ll be working with Lieutenant Columbo on this one. He’s on his way. You won’t be able to miss him,” Ritchie added with a smile. “He tends to work alone, but he can benefit from some of these new techniques you’ve been learning.”
Wilson nodded and stood to leave.
“You can learn from him, too,” Richie concluded. “Columbo’s a good man and his arrest record is terrific. He’s fast becoming a legend in the department.”
So you see, it really can be done! And I’m secretly pretty pleased with that…
The contest is the brainchild of ColumboTV Group admin ace Ian Baxter, a long-time Columbo fan and regular participant in the monthly #ColumboTV livetweet events, who hopes the idea will encourage fans to channel their appreciation of the show in inventive ways.
“We’d love as many as possible to have a go and enjoy it,” explained Ian. “Above all we hope it will be a creative and enjoyable celebration of Columbo as part of the 50th anniversary year.” That’s a sentiment I, for one, can certainly buy into.
The ColumboTV Facebook Group is a closed group, but always open to welcoming more fans of the show to swell its ranks of nearly 2500 active members. Head over to the page here to get amongst it! And if you’d like to enter but Facebook ain’t your bag, get in touch with me via email and we’ll find a way of getting you involved.
I’m so excited by the idea that I’ve agreed to be amongst the judges for the competition. A selection of the best entries will appear on this very blog in the new year, which should represent an absolute treat for Columbo fans everywhere, and also ensure excellent exposure for those who excel with the written word.
And what about a prize? It’s good news on that front! The winning writer will secure a lucrative contract to write ‘anthropology’ novels for Greenleaf Publications. Oh, and this very stylish Greenleaf Publications bag will also wing its way to the winner so they can proudly show their association with the greatest publishing house in US history! Hopefully that’s incentive enough to encourage a few of you to put pen to paper.
I’m going to write a few more entries myself. I’ve got a story to share about a Candidate for the United States Senate who shot his campaign manager to make it look like an attempt on his own life. It’s a heck of a story. Got a pencil I can borrow…?
Just wanted to say thank you to everyone who entered a story as part of this competition. I know a few of you don’t use Facebook so I wanted to mention it here. 130 stories were received in the end. Winner to be announced. Thank you.
Thank you for organising it, I had so much fun writing mine. I’m one of those nonfacebook users, so I’m really looking forward to a blog where I could read the other entries!
Writing a maximum 200 word Columbo scene is, indeed, challenging. But for some inspiration and some laughs, the great Canadian comedy troupe from years past, SCTV, shows how even Twilight Zone stories can be written in a highly condensed form: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6Q3seewmPmM
Columbophile, could you share your email address with me? I’d like to submit a Columbo scene entry, or perhaps two. But I don’t have a Facebook account. Thanks!
Sure thing, it’s firstname.lastname@example.org. Quite a few folk have emailed me entries, and I’ll pass it on to the organisers.
Thanks! Should we include our names under the title of the scenes (which adds to the word count), or should names be omitted from the submissions themselves?
Names are fine. Titles don’t count towards the word count either (unless the title is a 100-word intro!).
I never get tired of your blog! There is always fun things going on here. 🙂
Has columbophile ever thought of launching a quiz page maybe 20 multiple choice questions on columbo episodes and varied trivia and then check your score percentage and then after a few months launch a fresh set of questions, ive been on columbo quizes on other sites and always scored high?
Just to add a quick update… So far we’ve had thirty ‘micro-stories’ shared in the ColumboTV Facebook Group. Thank you to everyone who has contributed. There’s still plenty of time left for more fans to get involved and have a go. Deadline is midnight 16th December 2018. Thank you
Just for clarification, when is midnight; local time, Greenwich Mean Time or what?
Also, would midnight mean the beginning of December 16th or the end of December 16th?
Good point… midnight, as in the end of the 16th, and Greenwich Mean Time
What a great idea, I’m definitely contributing one or more micro stories, probably next month when I have the time to write. I don’t have a facebook account, so could I maybe send you the stories by mail?
That would be great, you can email them through to Columbophile and he’ll pass them on. Once the competition closes I hope some will be showcased in a future blog, partly to allow folk not on Facebook to read some of the entries.
Thanks for considering us non facebook users. And I love the idea of that blog.
The blog with best entries will certainly happen. Probably 5 of the best will appear, but I’ve read a number of good ones already.
I just sent you my stories. Hope they’ve reached you in good order. Thanks in advance for passing them on!
It’s too bad this competition requires a membership on Facebook. Otherwise, I’d give this a go. But I’m against Facebook as a matter of principle. And I’m not about to change my principles no matter how enticing the opportunity.
Fair enough, not to everyone’s liking. You can submit to me via email if you prefer, and I’ll pass it on to the competition organisers? They’re just fans like the rest of us.
Just to be clear, is this supposed to be a scene description, or actual scene dialogue?
You can interpret it anyway you like.
Never mind, I just saw your example above. And BTW, not bad for a starter.
Thanks Leo! I was quite pleased myself…
I’m in your group too. I believe a person must draw the line somewhere, so that he has an actual life left, and is not linked to the screen 24/7. Thanks to Columbophile for letting us guys join too. I will hopefully put something together in a couple of weeks, when I am past my work deadline.
Great Simpsons reference in the photo caption.
Good pick up, sir!
Two hundred words is just too little, for even a scene or a moment. It’s a bit baffling.
The Font used for the introductory image is really nice!
It’s tight, but doable. I’ve added an example into the post for reference that I cooked up in a few minutes. I’m pretty happy with it!
With reference to your example, it is a beginning with no ending, and therefore just a floating abstraction. Although 200 words is a tight limit, the two examples that I’ve written so far have a beginning and ending, although the ideas would be much more fleshed out with more words.
I think of it as a cutscene.
Not that I want to enter, but isn’t two hundred words far too little? That’s no more than three medium-sized paragraphs. There’s hardly room to present the killer’s reasons and alibi, the murder itself, Columbo’s investigation and the way he finally traps the killer.
It’s a challenging word count. The idea is more to create a scene, a moment, rather than a full story.