1. Possessed by Pallav Goyal – Engaging writing, interesting voice. A lot of the other stories were conceptually much larger and more full of potential, but this one showed the most control over its material. A good call, given that the piece is short. Also, good storytelling.
2. Webcomics by Llama – I’d have given this first place if it had covered a bit more ground, good writing. The images don’t really contribute to the story, though they are effective illustrations – even though they are from other sources. So treating this as a prose piece. But I like the writing. Next time, use the images as narrative devices as well if you’re aiming at comics, or be confident and stick to only text.
3. Stella and the Cake by Shashwat Chandra – Very interesting premise, and fun writing as well. But this is a good beginning to a book, not a story in itself. I’d love to know more about the world and what happens in it, but this felt too constrained by the rules of the contest.
Overall, the quality of storytelling I saw in this set of submissions was higher than that seen in several of India’s mostly wildly bestselling novels. So keep writing, people. If there’s one bit of constructive criticism I have overall, it’s to remember to calibrate the depth of the concept you want to tackle with the length of the piece. Several writers picked up large, book-level ideas and then struggled to tell a clear story over a small wordcount. You have to be a really powerful writer to accomplish that, but it never hurts to try of course.