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The 500

The 500 runs the 23-26th of every month, regardless of other challenges or events happening at The Writer's Workout. This is a single-prompt, 72-hour, publicly judged competition that addresses the month's chosen topic in a more manageable, bite-sized format. Use what you learned during the monthly discussion in our Facebook group to help you succeed.


October Challenge: 


Look out! The item to your left is trying to kill your character!

Topic: Horror

Deadline Clock


Arcaders can earn a ticket for judging these entries!

Please read the General Rules and Submissions guide before entering this contest.

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All entries for the 500 challenge are posted below for public judgement.  

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1. Write a complete story that is publication-ready during the 72-hour time limit.

2. Stay within the listed word count limits.

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The Writer's Workout does not offer a monetary award for winners. All entries are public for one month unless otherwise requested by the author.


August Entries


Queenly Motives -- WINNER!

Tony Kelly

you scored it: 7.8


            "You mustn't leave England, Mary."

            Elizabeth's half-sister turned away from the morning sun sheening off the North Sea. 

            "Spain is my future now. My own people. I'll marry Prince Philip. England has no place for me. Our father's son has seen to that."

            "Edward was a fool. It shouldn't be hard to refute an act from a teenager never old enough to rule in his own right."

            "You speak of another War of the Roses."

            "It wouldn't come to that. Every Lord more than five miles from London would rally behind the rightful heir."

            Mary's eyes searched her half-sister's face. 

            Elizabeth set her jaw, knowing what was coming. Only an outlandish tale of a sister wishing a fond farewell had permitted Elizabeth onto this dock. Had the dock guard known that Mary spent most of her life calling Elizabeth a bastard daughter of King Henry's whore, she might never have gotten close enough to make this impassioned plea to commit treason.

            "I should think you would desire a Protestant on the throne."

            Elizabeth shrugged. A Catholic back on the throne of England was a recipe for turmoil. And Mary was anything but conciliatory toward the country and religion that had bid her mother adieu. Elizabeth imagined quite a few English might burn at the stake if this gambit became successful. But the greater good mattered more.

            When King Edward removed Mary from the line of succession, he also removed Elizabeth. He picked their cousin as the next queen of England. After their father spent his reign in a desperate attempt to avoid putting a woman on the throne, his son was now giving it to a woman who was not even a Tudor. Edward had delegitimized his older sisters, using the same tired arguments the Catholics had used against his own right to the throne. 

            So while Elizabeth might desire a Protestant, Lady Jane was not the right Protestant. If Mary became queen, Elizabeth would be next. The line of succession was unlikely to grow with her half-sister already approaching her mid-forties. And if Elizabeth's guesses about her sister's health were accurate, the Elizabethan era might begin before her thirtieth birthday.

            "Protestant or not, Jane Grey is no Tudor, sister."

            "Sister? You belie your motives, Bess. We've never been sisters."

            "But we've always been Tudors."

            A gleam came to Mary's eye. She turned to look at the gangplank, her passage to a foreign land, one more time before stepping away from the dock toward her homeland.

            "The Tudors won the last War of the Roses, did we not?" Mary asked as she strode past her half-sister, back toward England.

Elizabeth turned to follow.

            "By the time I'm done with this false queen, she will know me as Bloody Mary. All Protestants will."

            Elizabeth winced. England was one step closer to its proper succession. If only it could survive the experience.

            The Queen will soon be dead. Long live the Queen.

A country between sisters

EL Johnson

you scored it: 4.4


             “The pestilence has returned to London, your highness.” My advisor said.

            I said, “No doubt it is our Lord’s punishment for allowing a heathen onto the throne.” 

            He added, “There are fires burning in Smithfields and St Martin’s of the Fields.”

             “Hah!” I scoffed. “If I were still Queen this would not be a problem.What is my sister doing about it?”

             “Very little, your majesty.”

             “Tell me, is it the same pestilence that has plagued us before?”

             “Yes, with purple tokens on the bodies. A man may greet his neighbour in the morning, and be carted away by nightfall.”He withdrew.

            I went to my prayer table, smoothing out my skirts as I knelt on the knee rest. But as I whispered the opening prayer, a servant stepped into my outer chamber.

            My maid Margery said, “Her highness is at prayer, she is not to be interrupted.”

             “The Queen demands it.” the man said, opening the door to my private chamber. He said, “Your highness, the Queen.” He announced.

            I stopped and turned around. In flounced Elizabeth, in an opulent green dress. She said, “Mary, I need your help. The plague has reached London. Physicians are fleeing the city and I don’t know what to do. What would our father do?”

            I rose, my knees aching. “You don’t know? Of course, you’re too young. He dealt with this every summer. Weren’t you paying attention?”

            Elizabeth sneered. “I had more important things to do.”

            I glared at her. “You’re too young to hold the throne. Give it back to me.”

            She laughed. “You jest! Give the throne to you, when the public demanded your abdication? You burned too many Protestants, Bloody Mary.”

             “More will die if you don’t stop this pestilence.”

             “Tell me what to do.” She paused. “Five hundred died this week. If you don’t help, I won’t have a kingdom left.”

             “That is not my problem.” I said. “Give me back my throne and I will stop it in a fortnight.”

             “No.” she said.

             “You have been ruler for no more than a week. It would be nothing to tell your advisors you were mistaken, that you wish to return the throne to me whilst you learn. You are young enough, they would believe you.”

             “No. I cannot. I will not.”

             “Enjoy your kingdom of corpses, Elizabeth.”

            I turned to my servant. “Margery, gather our things. We are leaving.”

            Elizabeth and her manservant watched as Margery started packing. As I fastened my travelling cloak, Elizabeth uttered, “You have no love for me at all.”

             “I care for our country. Will you relinquish the crown to me?”

             “Yes.” She said.Her glare could have stopped a man’s heart. “Take the throne, and save our countrymen. I beg you.” she added, “You should be ashamed of using me in this way.”

            I laughed. “It is no different than your harlot mother using our father to gain a crown. What is a country between sisters?”

Letters from Elizabeth

Katherine Brickey

you scored it: 6.4


July 6, 1553

Darling Felipe,

            It is with great longing that I write to you. The way you handle my eager body with your capable hands has captivated my heart and given me the courage to continue communication with you despite the risk. Surely if anyone found out about our feverish love affair, we would be beheaded at once. I find it completely absurd that I should not be allowed to love whom I wish to love, even if it is the palace’s groundskeeper. As you know, King Edward VI is gravely ill; he shall not live to see tomorrow. There has been talk that I should be heir to the throne. Undoubtedly there would be eyes on me at all times. I would not have but a minute to indulge in our sadly, infrequent rendezvous, the memory of which rouse me up at this very moment. It is for this reason that I must assure that Mary, bastard child of my Father, take the throne. I will write the deplorable wench a letter in hopes that she might be so convinced of her counterfeit adeptness at protecting the people. I will put her at ease in regards to our biggest contention—the matter of religion—so as to not arise any suspicion. I anxiously await our next meeting tonight by the rose bush in the western gardens.

Forever yours,



July 7, 1553 

Dearest Sister and rightful heir to the noblest of thrones, 

            I hope this letter finds you well. I write to you asking that you may take a moment to consider the following. You, my Sister, have been of the upmost qualified and dignified of princesses to take on the most wonderful and honorable of duties—to see to that the people of England are protected. Particular protection is needed in the matter of salvation: salvation from the treacherous grasp of the vilest of creatures, even Satan. Some of the people have given to practicing Protestantism which we all know is a false church. I was coerced into believing in such falsity as a child and know well the corruption that befalls such infraction in the eyes of our Lord. I have no doubt of your ability to cleanse the kingdom of such abomination.

Furthermore, after Brother Edward’s passing, it is by decree that you must take up the throne, dear Sister. Notwithstanding father’s claims of illegitimacy, I believe that you are the one and only true Queen of England, if not for your strength in character (that some might call stubbornness, but not I), let it be for the royal blood that courses through your veins.

I know that we have had our differences, but I believe it to be God’s will that you take your rightful place on the throne. I admit I have many shortcomings (not least of which is my nasty habit of swearing), and shall leave the responsibility of leading our kingdom to the better suited sister.

With love, 

Your sister, Elizabeth