420 Characters Tiny Story Contest

Updated 2017/09/14

2017/09/01 – 2017/10/31 all-day
420 Characters Tiny Story Contest

420 Characters Tiny Story Contest

About the contest:

Variously called flash fiction, postcard fiction, smoke long (in China), and (thanks to this contest) tiny stories, micro fiction is a form defined by its relatively short length. In the case of a 420 characters story, the parameters are clearly set. The story must be 420 characters or fewer—approximately one paragraph long—with every, letter, space and punctuation mark counted.

Lou Beach, whose book “420 Characters” inspired this contest, spent much of his working life as a successful illustrator and describes his writing as “a most surprising and miraculous second act.” A huge appeal of the contest is the accessibility of the form. Just like Beach, you don’t have to think of yourself as “a writer” to give it a whirl, but it might get you excited about writing, raise questions about what makes a good story, and actually make you a better writer in the process.

The stories in the book “420 Characters” were originally written as status updates, before Facebook increased the maximum character count for an update from 420 characters to over 60,000. Regardless of this new higher ceiling, the fact remains that many of the people we serve use social networking sites to share and exchange snippets of information, news, ideas, and emotional content on a daily basis. Through this contest, we’re encouraging people to inject some imagination and narrative ingenuity into a form that was created as a result of the restrictions imposed by various types of social media.

Learn how to write a Tiny Story:

Curious about what it takes to write a 420 Character Tiny Story? Need some inspiration to get started? Or maybe you’ve tackled the Tiny Story before and just need some feedback. Join us at our  weekly 420 Tiny Story Labs starting September 20 from 2-4 pm for everything you need to know about getting started (or finishing) your 420 Character Story. The Story Lab will take place in the Teen Room at the Powell River Public Library. For more information visit the Tiny Story Lab event page.

The Judges:

This year we are proud to have two great Powell River judges: Lee Mackenzie, author of The Charming Predator, and Dave Brindle, community reporter at The Powell River Peak.

The Prizes:

Adult category:

First prize: $100 gift certificate to Culaccino restaurant

Second prize: $75 Townsite Brewing gift pack

Third Prize: $50 gift certificate to Coles Books

Youth Category:

First prize: $100 gift certificate to Thick

Second prize: $75 gift certificate to Coles Books

Third prize: $50 gift certificate to the Patricia Theatre

Contest guidelines


The deadline for the 420 Characters tiny story contest is Tuesday, October 31, 2017.


  • Entrants may submit up to three tiny stories.
  • Each story must be 420 characters or fewer—including spaces and punctuation. Hint: Use the “Word Count” function in Microsoft Word to find out your character count.
  • Do not count your title in your character count.
  • Please indicate character count for each story you submit.
  • If entering more than once, submit all entries as separate attachments to a single email.
  • Entrants’ anonymity is preserved throughout the judging. Contact information (including an email address) must not appear on the attached entry(ies), but should appear in the body of the email along with a title (or titles in the case of multiple entries) and character count.
  • This is a community contest: only residents of Powell River and the Regional Districts may enter.
  • Youth entrants must be students grades 10-12 under the age of 19. If entering in the Youth category, please state your grade or age on your submission.
  • Entries already published, accepted, or submitted elsewhere are ineligible.
  • No entries will be returned.
  • Winners and runners up will be announced and prizes will be awarded at a reading onWednesday, November 22 at 6 pm at the Powell River Public Library in the First Credit Union Community Room. Entrants unable to attend the reading will not be notified of the results unless they have placed in the top 3.
  • Winning stories and winning authors’ names will appear on the Library’s website and Facebook page following the reading.


Enter by Email

  • Send entries as an attachment to cole@prpl.ca
  • The subject line must contain your full name and 420 Characters. e.g., “John Smith, 420 Characters.”
  • Please also submit the following information in your email or fill out and attach the provided “Entry Form”:
    • Your full name
    • Title(s) of entry(ies)
    • Character count for entry(ies)
  • Acceptable file formats: Word (.doc and .docx) or pdf


THE FINE PRINT: Powell River Public Library takes non-exclusive electronic rights to post the text at powellriveribrary.ca and in Library-related presentations and publications. All other rights remain with the author. This contest is open to all entrants except Library staff, contract employees, board members and executives. People in these categories may participate but will not qualify to win. Questions? Call contest coordinator Megan Cole at 604-485-4796