Writers logo

Official (Unofficial) Ekphrastic Challenge Rules!

That's a mouthful! How about "Rules for the Send me a Photo Challenge?" Yeah... That's better.

By Mackenzie DavisPublished 3 months ago Updated 2 months ago 5 min read
Top Story - January 2024
Official (Unofficial) Ekphrastic Challenge Rules!
Photo by Joanna Kosinska on Unsplash

Update 2/6: Bit of a delay in posting the winners! My apologies. Should be up this evening.                      


How dare you all send me 30 photos! It’s like you took me up on my challenge or something. Seriously, though, why aren’t more of you posting your glorious photography for us all to see? I spy brilliant camera-genius artistes amongst us!

If you missed the deadline for submitting photos, never fear! I plan to run this challenge again in a few months.

Anyway, I suppose you’re wondering what exactly this challenge will consist of. If you’ve given it some thought, you’ve probably guessed that this will be a writing challenge. Check. And if you’ve given it even MORE though, you’ve deduced that the writing will be based on the photos you submitted. Right again!

Basically, I used a random word generator to assign each of the photos to the people who submitted them (sans one AI image, unfortunately. See my note here). There was only one person whom I did not know, so I’ll leave them dubbed “the parakeet photo person” in the list.

Your mission — should you choose to accept it (though, I suppose you already have) — is to write at least one micro or sudden fiction story based on the photo I’ve assigned you. I’ve decided not to opt for poetry, as I feel that photos don’t always evoke poetry and that it’s something the writer has to feel moved to do. Because I’m assigning the images, y’all will not have such a luxury. So, no poetry.

The word count maximum is based on Reedsy’s guide, which restricts micro fiction to 500 words and sudden fiction to 750 words. It’s your choice, given your photo, how long you would like it to be. But my word count minimum is 300. I would like there to be enough space for an immersive narrative to emerge. So to recap, story word count should be between 300 and 750 words.

I say, “at least” one story because I don’t want to limit your creativity, especially if you feel that one of your later stories is better than your first. So, no limit on the number of entries! (Yay! Though I feel a wave comin’...)

I will be using a rubric, like last time, as I feel like that went over well with everyone. Though I do not disparage anyone who chooses winners based on personal favorites, I would like to establish some structure in how I do it because, hey, I hate making decisions when I’m enjoying myself. Plus, I’d like to feel that there is some rhyme and reason to the winners!

There will be 3 prizes and a few runners-up, which will be decided during the judging process.

  • First Place: $10
  • Second Place: $5
  • Third Place: $2
  • Runners-up: $1

* If anyone has Ko-fi, do let me know. They don’t take out fees, so, hey, anything we do to avoid that, amirite? 😀

The Rubric

Total: 100 points. 110 with bonuses.

Story is based on the photo = 40 total points.

  • Takes the basic subject of the photo and incorporates it to some degree into the story = 15 pts.
  • Unique spin on the photo = 15 pts.
  • Story complements the photo in some satisfying way (i.e., the two go together well) = 10 pts.
  • Story has a solid beginning, middle, and end, or at the very least, leaves the reader in a different place than they began = 50 total points.

  • Solid premise (not gimmicky, kitschy, or underdeveloped) = 30 pts.
  • Emotional heart (no matter the genre) = 20 pts.
  • Story clearly demonstrates a unique and careful thought process. Does not fall back on easy tropes, tired plots, or predictable characters. Contains an element of narrative surprise, in other words = 10 pts (with an additional 10 bonus points if done particularly well).

    Feel free to ask me any questions in the comments!


    Aaand now….


    …here’s the line up!


    Photo Assignment List

    I literally numbered everyone's photo and name and then "rolled" the generator to give me a random number. I paired that number to the name as it appeared in the list on the Google Doc (also reflected below). The picture under your name is the picture you're assigned.


    Davina Zinn McKee

    Mike Singleton

    Celia in Underland

    Leslie Writes

    Andrei Z.

    Chloe Gilholy

    Natalie Wilkinson

    G.A. Botero

    Judey Kalchik

    Roderick Makim

    Lamar Wiggins

    Dana Crandell

    Harbor Benassa

    Mesh Toraskar

    Donna Fox


    Rachel Deeming

    Suze Kay

    Oneg in the Arctic

    Gerard DiLeo

    Hannah Moore

    Angie the Archivist

    Rachel Fendrich

    Randy JK

    Rebekah Conard

    Paul Stewart

    Alex McEvoy


    Parakeet Photo Person

    Lana V Lynx

    Note: Some people have been wanting to swap photos since I've posted the list. While I'm not opposed to that, I do want to say that my intention with this challenge is to, well, challenge you. I chose to randomize the photo assignments so that none of my knowledge of any of you would bias those pairings. If you do not like your photo, I understand. But I also want to encourage you to think more creatively about what you can do with it. I'm not intent on forcing you to write; quite the contrary! So, how can you include an element of the photo, the symbolism of the image, etc., into your story? We don't have to approach this in a linear, purely logical, "what you see is the story," fashion. We are writers, yeah?

    Please use the photos as the featured image to your story. If you write multiple stories, don't feel like you have to have duplicate featured images, but do please include it somewhere so we know that it's for the challenge. 🤓 Please drop your story links in the comments of this article! (You know, typical unofficial challenge stuff. 😁)

    That's it! (Ha, as if it wasn't a lot of information.) Happy writing, everyone! I’m super excited to see what you publish in the upcoming weeks.

    The deadline is February 1st and I’ll be judging through that weekend, results on February 5.

    And thank you so much for participating. 🙏🏻❤️🥰



    About the Creator

    Mackenzie Davis

    “When you are describing a shape, or sound, or tint, don’t state the matter plainly, but put it in a hint. And learn to look at all things with a sort of mental squint.” Lewis Carroll

    Find me elsewhere.

    Copyright Mackenzie Davis.

    Reader insights


    Excellent work. Looking forward to reading more!

    Top insights

    1. Compelling and original writing

      Creative use of language & vocab

    2. Easy to read and follow

      Well-structured & engaging content

    3. Expert insights and opinions

      Arguments were carefully researched and presented

    1. Heartfelt and relatable

      The story invoked strong personal emotions

    2. Masterful proofreading

      Zero grammar & spelling mistakes

    Add your insights

    Comments (55)

    Sign in to comment
    • Harbor Benassa2 months ago

      Here is my entry! I had to wait a while for it to get published: https://vocal.media/horror/escape-royale

    • G. A. Botero2 months ago

      Hi sorry I am late. Here is mine. https://vocal.media/stories/silence-the-wisdom

    • Rebekah Conard2 months ago

      Here's mine! With either 15 minutes or a few hours to spare; I don't remember what time zone you're in. lol! https://vocal.media/fiction/a-little-dirt

    • Natalie Wilkinson2 months ago

      Mackenzie, here is my piece for the challenge. I'm looking forward to reading some others in the line up, so far I've only read Dana's. Natalie https://vocal.media/fiction/lonesome-road

    • I've been working on this and am hoping to submit a story for publication tomorrow! That being said, a different story that I submitted three days ago (not for this challenge) still hasn't been reviewed, so I'm a little concerned about whether or not this story will be ready and shared here by the 2/1 deadline. If I'm eliminated because of that, that's fine, I understand! I just wanted to let y'all know that I am working on it!

    • Judey Kalchik 3 months ago

      Ok - I have a story forming- on it! Thanks for the nudge today

    • Alexander McEvoy3 months ago

      Salut Mackenzie! I finally found the words!! HAHA! Now Andrei and I's duel shall be completed! In all seriousness, though, I do so hope you enjoy what I've created for your challenge! It sure was a fun one! https://vocal.media/fiction/afterglow-gs2uh0weg

    • ROCK 3 months ago

      Hello! Shall I post my entry in vocal.media fiction? Thanks!

    • Lamar Wiggins3 months ago

      Awesome challenge, Mackenzie. I see the stories are rolling in. I've already read a few and will read more tonight! Here is mine. https://vocal.media/fiction/the-perils-of-hunting

    • Almost forgot to post this here, lol. https://vocal.media/fiction/the-whole-2x19a0ibn

    • This was such a great challenge. I wish I'd found it earlier. I did enjoy a few of the entries especially Leslie Writes one about the duck. Loved that story

    • Rachel Deeming3 months ago

      I wrote another one: https://vocal.media/fiction/sign-ox4w90xtz Like Gerard, I don't know who took the picture of the marvellous birdie. Could you advise me please, Mackenzie? Thank you!

    • Poppy 3 months ago

      Here’s mine 😁 https://vocal.media/fiction/the-day-paradise-shattered Thanks again for the challenge Mackenzie!!💙

    • rose amy3 months ago
    • Finally... here's my story for your challenge! I really liked Lamar Wiggins’ photo: “The Bronze Beauty”... so pretty! https://vocal.media/fiction/serena-s-song-mut0615

    • Leslie Writes3 months ago

      Here is my entry! I’d posted it earlier, but the link was messed up. Here is my entry! https://vocal.media/fiction/a-sitting-duck I had a wonderful photo to work with, so I want to give kudos to Rachel Fendrich! Thank you Mackenzie!

    • Gerard DiLeo3 months ago

      I've done the story for my assigned photo, MacKenzie, but I don't know who the photo is from. Can you tell me so I can annotate my story, at https://vocal.media/fiction/down-to-earth-pnfn0z8h? ?

    • Chloe Gilholy3 months ago

      I'm gonna start my entry this week. :)

    • Donna Fox (HKB)3 months ago

      Here is my first entry: https://vocal.media/fiction/the-angel-of-death-3b3b30l2e I am debating doing another one but am still thinking about the overall plot and things... 🤔

    • Tressa Rose3 months ago

      Man, so sad I missed this! Would have loved to have been a part of it! I'll definitely be looking out for the next one!

    • Lana V Lynx3 months ago

      I've finished mine, so impressed with myself as I have a bunch of deadlines for work to meet: https://vocal.media/fiction/dead-or-asleep

    • This looks like such a cool challenge, I ended up writing my own piece based on one of the pictures. You'll have to let me know if you choose to do this again.

    • This is great... Add me in next time!!! Looks like fun!!!

    Find us on social media

    Miscellaneous links

    • Explore
    • Contact
    • Privacy Policy
    • Terms of Use
    • Support

    © 2024 Creatd, Inc. All Rights Reserved.