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Close up of grey rock with primitive circular stone carving

Tucked away in the hills of Argyll, just a few miles from Lohgilphead, are the world-famous prehistoric ‘cup and ring’ marks of Achnabreac. These mysterious patterns were carved into rocks throughout Scotland, Ireland, England and Wales and around Europe, in Greece, Italy, and as far north as Scandinavia...

  • Read on to find out more about our new short story competition for ages 10 and up!
  • UPDATE! Due to popular demand, entries now close 28 February, with a winner to be announced in March.
  • Teachers: Download a poster for the competition here.

A mystery from the deep past...

Grey and brown rock with primitive stone carving of circles

What did these strange markings mean? That’s a matter still hotly debated by scientists, archaeologists and experts. Advanced dating techniques place these carvings in the late Neolithic and early Bronze Age, and they are often found near trade routes, hunting grounds, and sources of water. As they are carved on boulders or cave walls, they are known as ‘petroglyphs’.

What function did they serve? Could they have been connected to the herding or hunting of wild animals? Perhaps they were boundary markers, showing where one tribe’s territory ended and another’s began. One thing is certain, the stones were considered to be of great spiritual value - many stones carved with these symbols were later incorporated into tombs, cairns and other burial sites.

Tell us a story

Grey and brown rock with primitive carvings

The true meaning of the Achnabreac petroglyphs has been lost in time - but we know they were important. What kind of story can you tell, inspired by these ancient markings?

Perhaps you could imagine the people who carved the symbols, and the rituals they performed.

Maybe you could write about how the symbols were used by the descendants of the original carvers.

You could write about a modern-day character discovering the rings, or a set of carvings like them - they were only uncovered in 2008, after heavy rainfall revealed the carved rocks.

Or perhaps you have an even more interesting idea…?

Competition time!

We want to read your short stories inspired by the Achnabreac cup and ring carvings. We’ll pick the best story, and publish it on our blog - plus, the winner will receive £30 in book tokens. Entries close on 28 February, and we will announce a winner soon after. Best of luck! Need some more inspiration? We've shared a few of our favourite creative writing hacks below. Competition rules are at the bottom of the page. 

Short story tips and tricks

Many novels opened up and laid besides each other on a flat surface and different orientations to one another, creating a large surface area of black and white text

Photo: Patrick Tomasso on Unsplash

Here are our three favourite writing tips, from one of the masters of the short story, Kurt Vonnegut. He famously developed 5 rules for writing, but these are the three we think you should always try your best to follow:

“Give the reader at least one character they can root for.”

A likeable, interesting main character always makes a short story more fun to read! Although you should also never underestimate the appeal of an evil, unlikeable villain character, either. But remember - many villains believe they are in the right.

“Every character should want something, even if it is only a glass of water.”

Stories get their shape and their pace from the desires that motivate each character. When bringing a new character into your story, think about what they want. They should make this apparent in everything they do or say.

“Start as close to the end as possible.”

Short stories are often about packing lots of detail in a short space - so skip ahead! Start where the action takes place, rather than spending a lot of time setting the scene, or describing a character doing mundane things, like waking up, or walking somewhere.

Research your story

The rules

  • Open to anyone resident in Scotland, ages 10 and up.
  • Entries must be your own, original work, previously unpublished in print or online.
  • One entry per person.
  • 500 words maximum length.
  • Entries close 28 February.

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