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?
Last week I participated in the first round of NYC Midnight’s micro-fiction challenge. It’s a good thing we were allowed to submit three entries, because the reactions I got in various places really drove home how subjective this whole writing thing can be. NYCM provides forums where you can post your stories for feedback, and there the overwhelming favorite was the one on domestic violence. However, I also posted them on twitter, and the favorite was the poop joke – I even got retweeted by several people I didn’t know, which felt awesome. But when it came time for the judges to pick the top 25 from each group to move on to the voting round, the only one of mine they selected was the one about the reluctant wedding: Sick of being poor, Amy clasped the withered hand of her rich groom & choked out the words, “I do.”
Even though I didn’t feel that was my strongest of the three, I was just happy one of mine was moving on to the next step. So then NYCM had the public vote on their favorites. The three with the most votes in each group (plus two picked by the judges) would move on to the final round. I was surprised to find out last night that my wedding story had the second highest amount of votes in my group, so thank you to everyone who voted for me.
That meant today was the finals, and all 100 writers who moved on were assigned the same word: oxygen. Today was crazy busy with some high stress things happening, so I didn’t have time to angst and fret over my entries like I usually do. Fortunately, three ideas came to me very quickly, and arrived pretty much already in bite-sized chunks, so I did not have to spend forever trying to whittle them down to less than 100 characters. Considering the very small amount of time I had to work on them, I’m pretty happy with what I submitted.
1. Amy told him sex without oxygen would be a rush. A belt one notch too tight makes her a millionaire.
2. The greedy fire consumed the room’s oxygen making her husband’s death less painful than Sue planned.
3. Despondent from being the 3rd wheel, Oxygen split from the Hydrogens, flinging the world into chaos.
After I wrote #1, I was trying to find a three-letter name (have to keep it short!), and I picked ‘Ami.’ Then my brain started itching thinking I’d already used it before. So I looked up my first round stories and saw that I'd used ‘Amy’ in the wedding one that advanced me to the finals. Then I realized this new one actually made a perfect sequel for the wedding one and changed the name to ‘Amy’ to match.
Should I write a third one where Amy gets caught to make it a trilogy? What micro-stories can you come up with for ‘oxygen’?
NYC Midnight is a group that runs all types of contests throughout the year where they challenge participants to be creative in a short amount of time, whether it’s writing screenplays, short stories, micro stories, or even making movies. Depending on the contest, participants are assigned a genre and other parameters, and then have a time limit for producing their work of art.
One of my favorite contests for the past several years has been the Tweet Me a Story challenge. We are assigned a word and have only a few hours to create complete stories in 140 characters that incorporate the exact word. Apparently NYCM decided that wasn’t enough of a challenge, so this time we have to create stories only 100 characters long. Yikes!
Today was the first round of the micro-fiction contest, and I was assigned the word ‘words.’ I wasn’t very inspired, because first of all, it sounds weird to say, “My word is ‘words.’” But also because ‘words’ is not one of those words (see what I mean?) that has more than one meaning, so there’s not much to play with in terms of using one of the more obscure definitions.
We are allowed to submit three entries, and I had six ideas I played around with and tweaked at all day. When the midnight deadline rolled around for me to submit, these are the three I turned in:
1. Sick of being poor, Amy clasped the withered hand of her rich groom & choked out the words, “I do.”
2. As her husband aimed his gun, Tanya smiled - her daring words had finally freed her from his fists.
3. Sam told him to sit, but the dog confused his words; now the priceless rug is peppered with turds.
Have you ever participated in any of NYCM’s contests? Have you written micro-fiction before? What micro-fiction can you come up with for the word ‘words’? (never stops being weird)
Babblings of a Boob Tube Junkie
I’m a writer and filmmaker exploring the magic of stories. I’ve always loved to read and watch television and movies, and now I'm creating my own stories via YA novels, short stories, screenplays, and even short films. I’m also an animal lover with a menagerie of pets; and, yes, I’m one of those people who puts party hats on their dogs and makes them “cakes” for their birthdays.
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My Short Films
If a cat predicted your death, how would it change your life?
A greedy party girl is so determined to get what she wants that she employs the dangerous magic of a Gullah root doctor.
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