forensics


Did you ever do something that seemed like kind of a good idea, and ended up being a GREAT idea? When I put up a blog post breaking down the contents of Wolves and Witches for forensics performers, I figured it’d be a little boost in findability and a good reference to pass on to teachers. Months later, it’s the number-one way people find my site, it’s generating actual book sales, and people are clicking on my story links in a way they never, ever did from my bibliography–even the Read Free page.

So I made another one for my non-W&W stories. Same results. “Free forensics pieces” seems to have a cachet way, way above a simple “free stories and poems”.

For those of us who want our stories to be read (that’s all of us, probably?), this is gold. I’ve said this on Twitter before, but I’m so serious about it that I wanted to blog so I could lay it all out. Forensics performers, speech-class students, and their parents and teachers and coaches all want to read your stuff! But they have to be able to find it.

I created designated posts for this information, but if you don’t blog or have a static website, you may want to apply it directly to your bibliography.

Here are four guidelines for how to list your work so that the people seeking great new forensics pieces know you’ve got something to offer.

Categorize

Divide your bibliography into two groups: prose and poetry. Most importantly, use the term “prose”! It’s the search term people use when they’re looking for a story to use specifically as a piece for competition or to read aloud in class.

Qualify

Not all published pieces are allowable for all forensics competitions. The National Catholic Forensics League allows pieces that have only been published electronically. The National Forensics League requires that they have been published in print. Here are the rules:

NCFL rules
NFL rules

Works self-published by someone other than the performer are not explicitly forbidden, although the NFL bans pieces that originated in high school publications. Pieces must be commercially available or (for the NCFL) online, i.e. accessible to all competitors.

I have my “More Forensics Pieces” post divided into NFL-acceptable and NCFL-and-NFL acceptable sections. It’s important to let readers know how, where, and when your stories were published, and where they can be purchased in hard copy (for NFL) or printed out.

Details

People searching for forensics pieces primarily need to know three things: the length, the type, and the voice.

Length” should be given in minutes, not word count. Estimate one minute per standard manuscript page, or about 4 minutes per thousand words. Performances have a maximum time limit of 10 minutes (about 2500 words); however, performers are allowed to “cut” pieces to fit the time limit, so it’s worth listing longer pieces. Performers are also allowed to group shorter stories into a themed performance, so flash fiction is also worth listing. In addition, class assignments for reading aloud are often in the three-to-four minute range: again, flash fiction.

By “type” I mean both genre and tone. If a piece is funny (or even funny-ish), call it “humorous”. The opposite of “humorous” is “serious” or “dramatic”. Readers may search for a genre as we know it (fantasy, sci-fi, horror) but they are far more likely to search for setting or character specifics: “cowboys”, “creepy”, “in space”.

The “voice” of a piece means a description of the primary characters. Readers will want to know the proportion of male, female, unspecified, and other-gendered speakers and narrators. The NFL rules explicitly state that “The gender stated by the author must be honored” and the NCFL rules state, “The author’s words as published in the literature may not be altered for the presentation with the exception that cutting is permitted,” so if your characters are ambiguous (deliberately or as a side-effect, as in first person), this is your chance to officially place them on the gender spectrum or allow the reader to place them anywhere they want. Readers may also want to know things like the age, regional origin (accents!), or profession of the main character, especially the narrator.

I’m told that there’s a special demand for very dark or very funny pieces, so if that’s the kind of story you write, it’s worth noting.

SEO

Yeah, search engine optimization, I know, I know, but in this case it’s important, because people searching for these pieces use a different set of terms than most writers use to refer to their work. Here are some words you may not be using yet, but should consider:

Prose
Poetry
Oral interpretation
Dramatic interpretation
Performance
Humorous
Serious
Forensics
Speech
Debate

Many of the searches that reach me include the word “forensics”, “poetry” or “prose”, and a qualifier like “ten minute”, “fairytale”, or “for girls”. The more explicit you are about the contents of the stories you link, the more likely you are to get that click.

In Sum

There’s a huge demand for short read-aloud stories and poems, but most writers’ websites don’t easily show that they can supply them. By adding a few details and the right language, you might be able to get your work into the hands of someone who’ll love it, make it their own, and remember it for the rest of their lives.

wolves_and_witches_tinyMy post breaking down the contents of Wolves and Witches for use as forensics pieces has become one of the most popular posts on this blog. (Hello, high school students!) For performers who are interested in something other than fairy tale retellings, here are some of my favorite publications. These are horror, science fiction, and fantasy, and range between about three minutes long and about fifteen minutes long. Cutting’s totally still allowed, right? Prose at the top, poetry at the bottom. Be aware of whether you’re choosing a piece for the National Forensics League (NFL) or the National Catholic Forensics League (NCFL). The NCFL allows pieces that have only been published electronicallythe NFL does not. I’ve put the no-for-NFL, yes-for-NCFL pieces at the end. Of course, if you’re reading for class or for fun, who cares? Times are approximate, based on the 1-minute-per-standard-page rule.

Prose – NFL AND NCFL ACCEPTABLE

Escape from Ape City – 1st person, humorous horror (zombies), male narrator – 16 minutes – Read it here – Buy it in print: Zombie Kong

Good Neighbors – 3rd person, humorous dark fantasy (the Fae folk), male narrator  – 16 minutes – Buy it in print: Not Our Kind

The House, the Garden, and Occupants – 3rd person, quiet horror (ghosts), male and female characters – 14 minutes Buy it in print: Triangulation: Morning After

*Drift – 1st person, quiet horror (monsters), female narrator – 12 minutes Read it at Unlikely Story Buy it in print: Shock Totem #3

Two Things – 3rd person, humorous horror (zombies on a spaceship), male and female characters – 8 minutes – Read it here – Buy it in print: Zombonauts: Undead In the Universe

O How the Wet Folk Sing – 1st person, horror (Lovecraft underwater), male (frog) narrator – 7 minutes Buy it in print: FISH

David is Six – 3rd person, fantasy (wish-granting faery), male characters – 6 minutes Buy it in print: Triangulation: End of the Rainbow

*The Scry Mirror – 1st person, fantasy (witches), female characters – 6 minutes Buy it in print: What Fates Impose

Untouchable – 3rd person, fantasy (zombies), male and female characters – 4 minutes Read it here Buy it in print: Night Terrors II

Your Wicked Parts – 3rd person, horror (demon/psychopath), female characters – 4 minutes Read it at Untied Shoelaces of the Mind Buy it in print: Untied Shoelaces of the Mind Anthology 2011

The Hitchhikers – 1st person, horror, male and female characters – 4 minutes Buy in in print: Phobos

Omen – 1st person, whimsical romantic horror, male and female characters – 4 minutes Buy in in print: Shock Totem

Away and Below – 1st person, fantasy (goblins), female narrator – 3 minutes Read it here Buy it in print: Faed

My Rest a Stone – 1st person, horror (ghosts), female narrator – 3 minutes Read it here Buy it in print: Specter Spectacular

Xenofabulous – 1st person, humorous science fiction (aliens and fashion), gender-unspecified narrator – 3 minutes – Buy it in print: The Time It Happened

Prose – NCFL ONLY (published in electronic editions only)

On the Sabbath Day Be Ye Cleansed – 1st person, science fiction (off-planet colony), gender-unspecified narrator – 14 minutes Read it at Redstone Science Fiction

Shimmer – 1st person, science fiction (YA), female narrator – 10 minutes Read it at Daily Science Fiction

Mr. Terwilliger Confesses – 1st person, humorous science fiction (time travel), male narrator – 9 minutes Read it at UFOPub.com

Things I Wish I’d Known Before Drinking the Faerie Wine – 1st person, fantasy (faeries), gender-unspecified narrator – 4 minutes Buy it: Penumbra: Sept 2013

Dolly at the End of the World – 3rd person, horror/sci fi (the apocolypse), male and female characters – 4 minutes Read it at Daily Science Fiction

Remembrance in Stone – 3rd person, fantasy (magic), female characters – 4 minutes Read it at Daily Science Fiction

Things That Matter – 1st person, science fiction (Christmas, the apocalypse), gender-unspecified narrator – 4 minutes Read it here

In Memoriam – 3rd person, horror (vampire hunters), male characters – 3 minutes Read it at Daily Science Fiction

**Loving Armageddon – 3rd person, magical realism (relationships), male and female characters – 3 minutes Read it at Crossed Genres

The Gate, My Beloved; My Story, Its Key – 1st person, fantasy (stories), female characters – 3 minutes – Read it at Daily Science Fiction

She Opened Her Arms – 3rd person, fantasy (Tam Lin and changelings), female speaking characters – 3 minutes – Read it at Fantastic Stories of the Imagination

Poetry – NFL AND NCFL ACCEPTABLE

A Fixer-Upper – 1st person, humorous horror (haunted house), female narrator – 3 minutes Read it at Niteblade Buy it: Candle In the Attic Window

Missed Connections > Pocket Universe – 1st person, humorous science fiction (time travel), gender-unspecified narrator – 2 minutes Buy it: Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine #57

Sparks Between Our Teeth – 1st person, science fiction (time travel), gender-unspecified narrator – 2 minutes Buy it: Retro Spec: Tales of Fantasy and Nostalgia or Bull Spec #8

*The Living Dead – 1st person, horror (zombies), gender-unspecified narrator – 1 minute Buy it: Not One of Us #47

*Long-listed for The Best Horror of the Year vol 4 (Drift), 5 (The Living Dead), and 6 (The Scry Mirror) by Ellen Datlow

**To be reprinted in Year’s Best Weird Fiction, Vol. 2

wolves_and_witches_tinyLove fairy tale retellings? Witches have stories too. So do mermaids, millers’ daughters, princes (charming or otherwise), even big bad wolves. They may be a bit darker–fewer enchanted ball gowns, more iron shoes. Happily-ever-after? Depends on who you ask. In Wolves and Witches, sisters Amanda C. Davis and Megan Engelhardt weave sixteen stories and poems out of familiar fairy tales, letting them show their teeth. Available from  World Weaver Press in print, for Kindle, or for Nook.

lairofthetwelveprincesses_tinyCraving something longer? The Lair of the Twelve Princesses is a 9000-word sword-and-sorcery novelette, retelling the tale of the twelve dancing princesses featuring a soldier, her genie, and a castle full of treachery, available now at Smashwords or Amazon.

wolves-and-witches-cover_fullNew: non-fairytale-themed prose and poetry pieces by the same author. Click to read!

When Meg and I first started putting together Wolves and Witches, we intended to release it as a book of fairy-tale based monologues for students competing in forensics or speech-and-debate, as pieces for the prose, poetry, oral interpretation, or dramatic interpretation categories. The final book turned out to be more than just monologues: we’ve got all kinds of fairy-tale retellings in there, poetry and prose, first and third person and occasionally second person, just to be weird. We still think most of these pieces would be terrific to compete with. We both competed extensively back in the day, and still read out all our work before it’s done–it’s meant to be easy on the tongue, and fun to read aloud.

So with forensics season starting soon, we took a look at our table of contents and marked it up for performers or coaches looking for new material. Reading times are approximate, based on one minute per standard page. They’re guesses, but probably close! Some of the pieces are still available online; we linked those up so you can check out our style before buying the book. (We hope you do! Many of our favorite pieces aren’t available anywhere else.) The pieces below appear in a different order in the book–we’ve sorted them by type and length below, to make it easy to find what you need.

Wolves and Witches was published traditionally in print, so it is permitted for use by both the National Forensics League and the National Catholic Forensics League. You can find the ISBN number and other publication information at the publisher’s website.

Retold fairy tales include: Little Red Riding Hood, Hansel and Gretel, Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, Diamonds and Toads, Twelve Dancing Princesses, the Little Mermaid, Rumpelstiltskin, Rapunzel, the Pied Piper of Hamelin, and a couple of mashups that were fun to piece together.

WOLVES AND WITCHES: PROSE AND POETRY PIECES FOR FORENSICS OR DRAMATIC PERFORMANCE

POETRY

PROSE

  • Bones in the Branches – 3rd person – 2 minutes
  • Lure – 1st person – mermaid – 2 minutes
  • The Instructions – 2nd person (advice) – 4 minutes
  • The Long Con – 1st person – Rumpelstiltskin – 4 minutes
  • The Peril of Stories – 1st person – witch – 4 minutes
  • The Best Boy, the Brightest Boy – 1st person – pied piper – 4 minutes
  • The Gold In the Straw – 2nd person – miller’s daughter – 6 minutes
  • A Mouth to Speak the Coming Home – 3rd person – 6 minutes
  • Questing for Princesses – 3rd person – 8 minutes
  • A Letter Concerning Shoes – 1st person – 12 Dancing Princesses’ cobbler – 10 minutes

To buy Wolves and Witches on Amazon, click here. (Click here to shop elsewhere.)

To read more pieces by the same authors, many of which are also legal for the NFL or NCFL, check out our websites: Megan Engelhardt and Amanda C. Davis.

To read more new fairy-tale retellings online, try these magazines: Enchanted Conversation, Cabinet des Fees, Goblin Fruit.

And if you do end up performing any of these, we’d love to hear about it! Leave a comment. We’ll be cheering you on!

lairofthetwelveprincesses_tinyCraving something longer? The Lair of the Twelve Princesses is a 9000-word sword-and-sorcery novelette, retelling the tale of the twelve dancing princesses featuring a soldier, her genie, and a castle full of treachery, available now at Smashwords or Amazon.