The Fantasy Prologue Challenge Winners, and a Very Special Announcement

Hello, Vocal community. We're ready to announce the winners of the Fantasy Prologue Challenge. Also, I have something very exciting to tell you. You're going to want to sit down for this.

By Joshua Luke JohnsonPublished about a year ago Updated about a year ago 4 min read

I've been looking forward to this day for a long time.

We recently closed The Fantasy Prologue Challenge, which has been our most successful Challenge so far this year. Nearly 4,000 original fantasy fiction stories were submitted, all beginning with the same sentence:

"There weren't always dragons in the Valley..."

Reading the thousands of different directions our community took on their journeys into the realm of wizardry and dragons was, for me, a heartwarming experience. This Challenge has always been special to me, because fantasy is my heart's chosen genre. How could it not be, given I turned the last page of The Return of the King at the malleable age of 13? (Truthfully, I loved Tolkien's world so much that I inadvertently plagiarized my favorite story... whoops.)

Yes, I love fantasy. Tolkien, C. S. Lewis, Brian Jacques, Neil Gaiman, Ursala K. Le Guin... all of these authors found me at an age when the magic in literature feels as real as the real world itself. I hold onto the memory of sitting in the car with my parents after a long trip, parked in our driveway, engine humming, unable to tear ourselves away from an audiobook dramatization of The Horse and His Boy from Lewis' Narnia series. Brian Jacques' Redwall books, whimsical to a fault, were so special to me that I convinced my 80-year-old grandmother to read them, and she was hooked! We read at least six of them together, passing them back and forth between our homes, laughing and crying over the antics of lovable anthropomorphic mice and moles—the purest of characters, presented with an ageless appeal.

Ah. And of course, I can't forget the series that sits right beneath The Lord of the Rings on my shelf of fantasy favorites:

The Inheritance Cycle, by Christopher Paolini

Not only are the Eragon books spellbinding, but I feel a longstanding sense of kinship with their creator, Christopher Paolini. We were both homeschooled in our early years, raised rurally, and deeply influenced in creative spirit by the trees, rivers, rocks, and other natural surroundings. Trees became havens for wood elves. Rivers swam with deadly merfolk. And always, always, there were winged harbingers of destruction—yes, there were always dragons in the valley.

I can't keep it to myself any longer. I'm thrilled to announce that the Vocal+ Fiction Awards will return in October, 2022. The theme of the Awards will be Fantasy Fiction, and the Head Judge will be the Dragon Rider himself: Christopher Paolini.

Christopher Paolini, NYT bestselling author of Eragon

More details will come soon, including the official prompt and the timeline for entry. Head over to the Vocal+ Fiction Awards page and enter your email to stay up-to-date on all these announcements. You really don't want to miss this opportunity—it could be life-changing. (Hey, might as well sign up now for a yearly Vocal+ plan, currently half-off for a limited time at $49...)

I'm so excited to go on this journey with you all. In the meantime, you might want to re-read your favorite fantasy books. Start writing today. Start meeting your fellow creators on Vocal by leaving comments and feedback. Start doodling pictures of dragons. Take a long walk in the woods, because it's going to be a year of literary Magic. As Christopher would say: "May your swords stay sharp!"

Now, without further ado, here are the winners of The Fantasy Prologue Challenge:

The Winners:

1st Place: "The Bridge Burners" by Jen Gossoo | $10,000

There weren't always dragons in the Valley. Their code just appeared one day, courtesy of some anarchic Editer, injected into the fabric of reality without warning or reason.

In late April, clumps of pixels were spotted crackling like electric confetti in the sky over the lake, the apple orchards, and the arid brown hills. When night fell, these clandestine clusters gave witnesses the impression of sentient comet tails made up of microns: pink, yellow, and cyan.

2nd Place: "The Thief of Reason" by Madoka Mori | $5,000

There were not always dragons in the Valley. I will see them gone from that place once more.

I received my mask in silence, and all about were silent also. There were no cheers. No celebration as the clanmothers inscribed my mask with its first sigil. They thought as did my father: this was a pledge of death. Perhaps they were right. But it is said both friend and foe are better met face-on. Death comes for us all regardless; whether we seek it or run from it.

Better met face-on.

The Runners-up

*Results are listed in no particular order*

  1. The Winter People by Jen Julian
  2. The Sacred Stones by K.P.
  3. Fading Light by CD Mosby
  4. The World Beyond the Wall by BT
  5. A Hop, Skip, And A Universe Away by MikMacMeerkat
  6. The Lost Legacy by Lauryn May
  7. Lyrics of War by Lilia
  8. Stories of Dragons by Addison Horner
  9. Mirta by CJ Miller
  10. Valley of Dragons by M. A. Mehan
  11. Beasts of Salt & Steel by Ally North
  12. The Dragon Lands, Chapter One: The Remnant Daughter by Ryan Smith
  13. The Caffeinated Musings of a Mostly Normal Grad Student by Alex Low
  14. The Blue Dragon by T Gale
  15. The Dragon Exam by Sierra Knoxly
  16. True Morels by Andrea Standby
  17. The Eyes of the Storm by Jordyn B
  18. The Accidental by Sena Andeo
  19. The Last Seer by Annie S
  20. The Ocean in December by Kayla Goldberg
  21. Vale of Dragons by Michael J. Wine
  22. Out of the Caged Sea by Charlotte Lesemann
  23. Harbinger by James Farrell
  24. Fiona by Oli Morris
  25. Fifty Six by Nathanael Johnson


About the Creator

Joshua Luke Johnson

Former Head of Content @ Vocal

Interview with Christopher Paolini:

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Comments (84)

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  • D. L. Lewellynabout a year ago

    Congratulations to the winners. Just starting out on Vocal and finding so many amazing voices!

  • yasmine Babout a year ago

    very good

  • Nona Lunemannabout a year ago

    A good platform

  • yesenia neibartabout a year ago

    Congratulations to all the winners and I send my best wishes to them.

  • Ringler Kuceraabout a year ago

    Articles worth reading

  • Shadow Jamesabout a year ago

    Congrats Everyone.!!

  • Atta Hussain about a year ago

    amazing Article

  • Amysticabout a year ago

    Congrats to all the winners i send blessings to all :)

  • CarmenJimersonCrossabout a year ago


  • Cédric Boogaertsabout a year ago

    Great article

  • C.V. Thomasabout a year ago

    It's absolutely wonderful to read the minds of so many creative souls. You are all an inspiration

  • Bugsy Wattsabout a year ago

    Congrats to all the winners! So cool that Paolini will be judging a competition. I actually said, "woah, cool" out loud when I read that.

  • Mister Voidabout a year ago

    Did anyone even like my story, Silenced? ._.

  • Meela Wardabout a year ago

    I’m gonna enter in the campfire competition too also I have a story in the fantasy prologue as well and I’m excited for the next fantasy challenge cause I’m currently reading the Eragon series myself. Congratulations to all of the winners you did an amazing job.

  • Rebecca Jane Edmondsabout a year ago

    Although I didn't enter this challenge, I appreciate Fantasy as being a brilliant way to help in everyday life. This site is motivational and will help me, with my future of writing. I hope. And congratulations to the winners...

  • Addison Martinezabout a year ago

    I feel like I saw the advertisement entirely too late in the contest. Regardless I'll thank you guys anyway since you gave me a place to START the story I've had in my head for years. I don't have the skill set as most professional writers, or the time to hone them, but I have a story and what little feedback I got, It wants to be heard.

  • Eladio Del Castilloabout a year ago

    “Mad as hell” that I did not even get a mention. Congrats! To those that did.

  • Mariann Carrollabout a year ago

    Thanks for the Announcement ♥️

  • Bryan Blearsabout a year ago

    Has anyone else entered the campfire horror story competition? It'd be great if you could give my submission a read... if you post a comment on it I'll return the favour!

  • M. A. Mehan about a year ago

    I am in shock! Congrats to the all the winners and other runner-ups and thank you for such an awesome community where I know my words can have impact!

  • Congratulations to all the winners and runners up, and to everybody who entered. I mean hey, I got a really cool chapter of my book series out of this !

  • Roger Stefaniabout a year ago

    It was my first challenge here and it was fun to write from a prompt. Congratulations to the winners, I hope to learn and grow as a writer by reading all your work.

  • Jerry V Jackabout a year ago

    Quite fun for an old fart. My 1st and only entry into anything similar since I was about 14. After reading the wonderful stories I can now truthfully tell my wife..."I am NOT a writer"!! Keep up the good work one and all!

  • Ralph Brewabout a year ago

    It was fun. My first entry into a Vocal challenge. I am a bit confused though, as I received a message just before entering the story which told me that I had a few months free Vocal Plus membership but when I enquired further I was told that had already lapsed. So I don't even think my story was judged, although I was able to enter my piece via the competition portal. Sigh. And Damn I need a beta reader as I discovered two glaring spelling errors after I posted; too late to edit as I was denied that privilege.

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