The 16th Annual “Dead of Winter” Writing Contest

Stories submitted to the 16th Annual Dead of Winter contest (December 2016) must use the theme THE HAND OF FATE (your entry must follow guidelines below).

This year’s theme is inspired by the 50th anniversary of the cult horror film Manos: The Hands of Fate. You may take as much or as little inspiration from the film as you like. You do NOT need to use elements of it for your story, although we’d like you to be inspired and have included some ideas about that below. Your only “must” is to use the theme THE HAND OF FATE.


Manos is universally acknowledged as one of the worst films ever made but its fans have latched onto its endearing elements. If you invest an hour of your time in watching the weirdness unspool, you’ll find something memorable, whether that’s a line of dialogue, a thrift store quality prop, or the strangely charismatic Torgo (as well as “the haunting Torgo Theme”). There’s a good story buried inside this weird little movie.

Note: the commentary tracks make the film more bearable to sit through; both include supplementary material to pad out a two-hour run time so the film itself begins about a quarter to halfway through (look for grainy footage of a family in a convertible). Manos: The Hands of Fate runs a little over an hour.

There are also several articles, reviews, and synopses online.

Ideally, your entry will not only follow the theme THE HAND OF FATE but will also employ some element of the film that inspired it. Examples (plot & character) include:

  • A couple/family gets lost on their way to a vacation resort
  • A couple/family finds something unexpected when they arrive at their destination
  • A cult whose leader is betrayed by his/her assistant
  • A cult revolts against its leader
  • A man who embraces 60s-era masculinity finds himself at the center of a situation he can’t control
  • A child who replaces a beloved pet with something sinister
  • A woman whose physical beauty makes her a target of desire for one, a “prize to be won” for another
  • A caretaker who abandons his/her post and faces physical consequences
  • The making of a low-budget movie goes awry

You might also be inspired by the time setting (1966), geographic setting (rural Texas borderland), or the film’s underlying (and unintended) themes, like sexism or servility.

We are not asking for, nor will we accept, Manos fanfic or any point-by-point retelling of the story of Manos: The Hands of Fate. Do not use the characters of Michael/Mike, Margaret/Maggie, Debbie, Torgo, The Master, or The Wives. You may take inspiration from them for your original characters.


  • Stories MUST be based on the theme provided.
  • Stories MUST be set in winter.
  • Stories MUST fall in the horror genre*.
  • The word count range for DOW2016 is 2000–4000 words.


The contest opens October 1, 2016 and the deadline for submission is 11:59 PM ET December 21, 2016.

Email entries to dow2016[at] with the subject line:
Dead of Winter Contest Entry

Follow general contest guidelines and general Dead of Winter guidelines


Apparently when you make a bet about telling a horror story, you end up either with Frankenstein or Manos.

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