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National Flash Fiction Day

Today is National Flash Fiction Day (NFFD), which is a day to celebrate the art form of the very short story.  I love writing flash fiction - it’s a fun challenge to create characters in such a small space and still get the reader to care about them and their situations.  Also I’ve always been a fan of twist endings, and flash is the perfect medium for twists.  

I regularly participate in flash fiction competitions held by NYC Midnight, which is where I met the fabulous writer Rachael Dunlop.  Rachael is part of the team organizing Flashpoints to celebrate NFFD, so I heard about this fun writing activity from her.  Flashpoints combines the public spontaneity of a flash-mob with creating and sharing a story.  The full explanation is here, but basically: you go somewhere public, get inspired, scribble down a very short story, and leave it for someone to find.  This sounded both exhilarating and a tad bit scary to me (no editing? no deleting and retyping every word choice 20 times?), so I was on the lookout for the right time to Flashpoint (does it work as a verb?).

A few weeks ago, my brother and I had a sneak peek screening of our latest short film High Heels and Hoodoo at the Indie Grits Film Festival in Columbia, SC.  We had dinner with out-of-town family members, which finished sooner than we anticipated, so we ended up at the screening over an hour early.  I was pacing to burn off nervous energy and trying not to fret, when out of the blue I remembered Flashpoints – what a perfect way to distract myself!  

Jocelyn with Flash Story at Indie Grits

I glanced around the lobby of the theater at the other people waiting to see the films, and the idea for a story popped into my head.  I pulled my handy-dandy notebook out of my purse and started scrawling.  When I was done, I took a picture of it “in the wild” like the Flashpoints website requests.  I also took a close-up picture so I could transcribe it for sending to Flashpoints.  And I even took a picture of myself with it because I was all dressed up and since that so rarely happens I needed a photo for posterity.  Then I left it in the lobby – I pity the poor person who tried to decipher my chicken scratch.

If you’re interested in reading the “masterpiece” I wrote that evening, you can find it here on the Flashpoints website.  

It was a fun exercise, and I encourage all my writer friends to take a moment today to write a quick short story in celebration of National Flash Fiction Day.

Do you enjoy writing flash fiction? How are you celebrating National Flash Fiction Day?  Are you thinking about finding your own Flashpoint? 

Second Campaigner Challenge - Nursery Nightmares

Surprise, surprise, I'm right up against the deadline for Rachael Harrie’s Second Campaigner Challenge.  Again.  Ahhh, procrastination - how I embrace you. Anyway, Rachael's made it extra tough this time with five different prompts and five different ways to use those prompts.

Prompt 1:

Two people are sitting together under the remains of a concrete bridge. Their backs are against a rusted bridge support. One person’s leg is cut. The other person has wet hair. 

Prompt 2:

(Source)

Prompt 3:

(Source)

Prompt 4:

(Source)

Prompt 5:

(Source)

 

Second Campaigner Challenge

Do one or more of the following:

  1. Write a pitch/logline for a book based on the prompts (less than 100 words)
  2. Write a short story/flash fiction piece of less than 200 words based on the prompts
  3. Write a poem with a twist using the prompts as inspiration (in less than 200 words)
  4. Write a story/poem in five sentences, each sentence based on one of the prompts
  5. Write a poem/flash fiction piece (in less than 200 words) about the water pear *without* using the words “pear”, “spoon”, or “droplet”.

For added difficulty/challenge:

  • Complete at least three of the above activities and tie them all together with a common theme (feel free to either state the theme in your post or leave us to guess what it might be)
  • Write in a genre that is not your own

I completed three of the activities, and I think my title gives away my unifying theme. All three take place in a dystopian world, which is not my usual genre,

Nursery Nightmares

First up is option one - write a book pitch, and I've incorporated items from all five prompts. According to Word, it's exactly 100 words.

In a world where London Bridge still stands, nothing is the same: Red Rover refuses to come over, the Spoon cheats on the Dish with a pear, Jack and Jill’s hill is actually a garbage dump, and instead of twinkling, the Little Star exploded.  But from amongst the chaos, a special girl emerges: songs dance through Mary’s head and narrate how things are supposed to be.  She’s always been quite contrary, so she sets out to put things right.  She’ll need all her courage (plus all the dynamite she can find) because whatever it takes – London Bridge is falling down.
 
 
Next up, I tackled option three - a poem with a twist, which I've based solely on prompt 1.
 
Jack Sprat and his hefty wife,
Were living a life full of strife.
 
They tried their best to keep food on their plate,
But who could guess the last time they’d ate.
 
The apocalypse had come
Without leaving a crumb;
 
So they spent all their days
Trying not to feel crazed, 
 
As they looked far and wide
For something that could be fried.
 
But after miles without finding even an egg,
Mrs. Sprat got a nasty slice on her leg.
 
Her husband did his best to carry her back,
But her solid frame was too much for Jack.
 
He set her down against a crumbling bridge,
While she rambled on about their old fridge.
 
He flopped beside her, his hair dripping with sweat,
“I love you,” he said, his voice full of regret.
 
“I love you too, so accept my last gift.”
And she stabbed herself in a motion quite swift.
 
Jack gasped, screamed, and then finally cried.
“You’ll have plenty to eat,” she said as she died.
 
But he wasted away, ‘cause it wasn’t as simple as that,
For as everyone knows Jack Sprat could eat no fat. 
 
 
And for my third and final piece, I went with option four - write a story with five sentences where each sentence is based on one of the prompts.
 
A star exploded sending radioactive particles to a planet called Earth.  The particles bombarded a mischievous child in red who usually spent all his time in a corner, and they morphed him into a monstrous creature who destroyed cities while shouting, “What a good boy am I,” as he demanded children be sent to him as playmates (and sometimes snacks).  One brave family searched for a magical wooden weapon with the power to liquefy solid objects, since that was the only way to defeat the rampaging beast.  The monster had destroyed the only bridge leading to the weapon, so the family swam across the river; and when the father sliced his leg on a submerged rock, the mom stayed to tend his wound while the two kids hurried toward their goal.  The weapon’s unlikely hiding place was a landfill long abandoned, and the brother and sister searched for hours until they found it; and then they pretended to be the creature's next tributes to gain access to him, aimed the weapon, and the monster dissolved into water that swept across the land, cleansing it of the rubble he'd created.
 
 
Whew, I think I got sillier as I went.  Some of the sentences in that last one are real doozies!  If you thought my entry was worthy, you can go here and 'like' it - it's entry #108.
 
So did you tackle Rachael's prompt-apalooza?  If so, let me know where to find your entry so I can read it.  And let me know what you thought of my efforts in the comments.

First Campaigner Challenge - A Killer Sound

I wasn’t sure I was going have time to write something for Rachael Harrie’s First Campaigner Challenge, but I had so much fun last time I really wanted to give it a whirl.  Here are the rules in Rach’s words:

The monster's orange eye

Write a short story/flash fiction story in 200 words or less, excluding the title. It can be in any format, including a poem. Begin the story with the words, “Shadows crept across the wall”. These five words will be included in the word count. 
If you want to give yourself an added challenge (optional), do one or more of these:
end the story with the words: "everything faded." (also included in the word count)
include the word "orange" in the story
write in the same genre you normally write
make your story 200 words exactly!
 
So pushing up against the deadline as usual, here’s my entry.
 
A Killer Sound 
 
Shadows crept across the wall, as Daisy cowered under the bed.
She strived not to make a sound, while squeals of terror rang ‘round her head.
 
Her younger brother crouched in the closet, the door not quite shut;
Far too late to push it closed without risking the monster’s cut.
 
The beast stalked into the room, his feet leaving smears of blood;
And as he peered around, she prayed he’d not hear her heart thud.
 
Just when he turned away to leave, they both heard a frightened squeak;
Her brother had betrayed his hideaway as his terror reached its peak.
 
The creature’s orange eyes grew round, full of predatory glee,
And though Daisy was devastated, she knew this was her chance to flee.
 
But her parents had taught her better than that: they were mice not lowly rats.
It was her duty to protect him, even from brutal tomcats.
 
So she scurried from her safe haven to capture the killer’s eye,
And donned a courageous face to prove she wasn’t scared to die.
 
As her brother scampered to freedom, she had no regrets for the life she’d traded.
Then the feline’s teeth sank deep, and Daisy smiled as everything faded.
 
 
When I started this one, I thought it would be in the same vein as my entry for the first challenge from the last campaign – sort of a companion piece from the POV of a new victim rather than the kitty villain.  So I decided to try my hand at writing a poem to push myself and also set it apart from the first one.  I planned to have a light-hearted, funny ending like the earlier one, but as I was writing, that’s not the direction it took.  Since I was determined to use the “everything faded” ending, it seemed like Daisy had to die, and if she was going to die, I wanted it to be a noble self-sacrifice.  I hope reading this wasn’t too much of a bummer for your day; and if you thought it was worthy, you can go here and vote for #204.
 
I started and ended the poem with the challenge words.  I used the word “orange.”  I usually write YA thriller/horror/suspense, so I think this qualifies.  And it’s exactly 200 words (although meeting that part of the challenge ended up bungling the meter in a few of the stanzas *sad face*).  
 
So are there shadows creeping across your blog wall?  If so, leave a link to let me know where to find your entry.  And if you have any feedback on my entry, please let me know.
 
Photo credit to darkwallz.com

First Campaigner Challenge

For my few readers who don’t already know this, as part of the Writers’ Platform Building Campaign, Rach is giving us challenges to flex our writing muscles and promote interaction.  The challenge for this week is:

Write a short story/flash fiction story in 200 words or less, excluding the title. It can be in any format, including a poem. Begin the story with the words, “The door swung open” These four words will be included in the word count.

If you want to give yourself an added challenge (optional), use the same beginning words and end with the words: "the door swung shut." (also included in the word count)

For those who want an even greater challenge, make your story 200 words EXACTLY!

This story is the idea that popped into my head almost immediately.  After reading some of the other stories and seeing how many people had gone dark and creepy with this challenge (something about swinging doors is automatically sinister), I took a stab at a silly comedy with potty humor, but it didn’t work, so I came back to this one.  My entry is #197, and it’s exactly 200 words. 

Sweet Revenge

The door swung open, and he crept inside, careful not to make a sound.  She sat at the table with her back to him, absently twirling a lock of red hair as she balanced her checkbook. The door swung open . . .

He took a step closer.  First she had ignored him.  Another step.  Then she had screamed at him to go away.  Two more silent steps closer to his target.  He’d show her no one treated him that way.

He unsheathed his weapon, its sharp tip anxious to taste her blood. 

She cursed and slammed her pen to the table.  He sank into a crouch, eyes boring into her, willing her not to turn around.  Revenge would be so much sweeter if she didn’t see it coming until he ripped open her flesh. 

With a deep sigh, she picked up her pen.  He inched toward her until he was in range.  Time for her punishment.  He pounced. 

She screamed as the point pierced her skin. 

A small droplet of blood trickled down her ankle.  She picked him up and hissed in his face.  “I told you to stay outside if you can’t behave.”

She shoved him through the kitty door, and the door swung shut.

I can’t wait to read the other stories – if you’ve written one, leave a link to it in the comments.

Photo cedit to Mattox

A Bloody Flash

I’ve been a NYC Midnight junkie the past two weeks.  This weekend was the first round of their fourth annual Flash Fiction Challenge.  Writers from around the world are divided into groups, and each group is assigned a genre, a location, and an object.  The writers then have 48 hours to write a story of 1000 words or less that incorporates those parameters.  I’ve participated the past two years, and I love the way it pushes me creatively during those adrenaline-fueled weekends.

For the first challenge this year, my group was assigned the genre of drama, the location of a blood drive, and the object duct tape.  I was kind of bummed about the genre of drama - I’ve had it a number of times over the course of various NYCM competitions and was hoping for something to push me out of my comfort zone.  Plus drama is so broad - almost every story is a drama in some way; and with my fondness for writing thrillers, suspense, and horror, I had to be careful not to cross too far over into one of the other genre categories.  This was especially tough this time given the location was a blood drive - the horror story practically writes itself!

I spent most of Saturday pacing around the house swilling coffee rejecting idea after idea.  Of the two that were my front runners, I worried one was too sci-fi and the other was too fantasy.  In their rules, NYCM states they encourage the creative use of the parameters, so I finally had the idea to push the meaning of “a blood drive.”  Instead of the typical setting of a mall or office building with chairs, nurses, juice, and cookies, I decided to interpret the phrase literally and have a bloody protagonist driving a car.  Once I settled on that, the details began to fall into place.  By 11:30 pm on Saturday night, I finished my first draft.  It was awful.  So terrible, I thought about starting over with one of my earlier ideas.

But after rereading it a few times, I figured out where it had gone off the rails and rewrote it.  I only kept the first paragraph, some of the plot points, and a few phrases I liked from the original.  I finished that draft around 5:00 am (oh, have I mentioned I’m a night owl?), and then immediately did another round of editing.  At 6:30 am I was still 227 words over the limit, but I decided sleeping on it was the wisest course of action. 

Once I woke up, I started the painful process of chopping and tightening and tweaking to make sure every word counted.  I also sent a draft to my brother, sister, and parents to read, since they are always my first readers.  They were all very enthusiastic, but they usually are, so they’re not the best barometers.  As the midnight deadline approached, I finally got the story whittled down to 994 words, and I was pretty happy with the story I submitted.  Here’s my title and synopsis:

A Long, Bloody Road - As time runs out for her son, Sarah’s not afraid to spill a little blood to save his life.

Have you participated in NYC Midnight’s flash fiction challenges before?  Which genres would you like to get?  Which genres would you dread?