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Flash Competition + Tweet Tales Tuesday Week 88

NYC MidnightThis weekend I participated in the NYC Madness Flash Fiction Challenge, where you have 48 hours to write a 1000 word short story for an assigned genre/location/object. My group got ghost story/a coffee shop/a light bulb. At first I was super excited because ghost story is right up my alley – the one time I was assigned the ‘open’ genre, I actually wrote a ghost story (which eventually became my short film High Heels & Hoodoo). 
 
But as soon as I started brainstorming ideas, my enthusiasm waned – everything felt so cliché or like it was going to be the same as everyone else’s story. I mean, that light bulb was going to be flickering in all of them, right? And it was either going to be a barista serving a customer who was actually a ghost or a customer being served by a barista who was actually a ghost. Eventually I came up with something I hoped at least started the story in a slightly original way and was also a fun kind of meta (the protagonist had to submit a short story for a competition’s midnight deadline, but her internet went down, so she was parked outside a coffee shop for wifi).
 
By the double halfway point (500 words in at 11:30pm Saturday night), I finally admitted I hated my story with the heat of a thousand suns. It was stupid and, worse, boring. I briefly attempted to fix it by rewriting it in the style of Edgar Allan Poe, but soon realized unless the judges got what I was doing, they were just going to think I was a terrible writer (so many adverbs, adjectives, and repeated words!). 
 
As I was pulling out my hair in writerly despair, a new idea revolving around format popped into my desperate brain. I was intrigued but wasn’t sure I could make it work. I spent the next hour thinking and pondering (it might have looked like I was napping, but I was working, I swear) until I had a plan, and then I was off! By 5:30am, I had a rough draft. I finally grabbed some zzz’s and then spent Sunday afternoon rewriting it several times. I managed to turn it in five minutes before the midnight deadline on Sunday night. Whew!
 
It’s not one of my finer efforts, but it’s not the shame-inducing mess of words that was my first attempt. The big format risk is that the entire thing is an online chat, with a few tweets thrown in at the end. So if the judges don’t spend time hanging out online, they might not understand what I was doing, and I’ll be completely screwed. Plus, since it all happens online, they might decide I didn’t meet the coffee shop location requirement. We’ll see, but regardless, it was fun to stretch myself with something new.
 
Here's my title and synopsis: A Spirited Chat - Kerri meets an exciting guy online, but he might be seeking more than she's willing to give.
 
15 Minute Tweet TalesAnd now for my awkward segue… NYC Midnight is the group that originally introduced me to twitter fiction, so here are my 15 Minute Tweet Tales for the week:
 
9/18 - She wants to play Dad's favorite song at his funeral. When the palinoia makes her fingers bleed, she's ready - she slips him the cyanide.
 
9/19 - At fist day roll call, she sighs at a name. Had his four hellion brothers, so it's ineluctable he'd be in her class. He hurls a spitball.
 
9/20 - Dr. More's wife had a jugal jut that caused people to call her exotic. Accurate, since he created her in a lab by splicing cat and human.
 
9/21 - Never one for birthdays, he celebrates his 38th with a perfervid energy that baffles his friends. Six months later cancer claims him.
 
9/22 - While the crepuscular lighting in the room is appropriately symbolic, Jane wants to feel the sun on her face when it's her turn to die.
 
9/23 - She recites his evil acts seriatim. Tied up, defiant, he says, "If you'd been this focused on housework, U wouldn't have needed discipline."
 
9/24 - Since his cube-mate has been hurt before, he plans a proreption to win her heart. But she thinks he's gay and starts dating Stan from HR.
 
Play along and write tweet tales for the above words. If you’re willing to share, post them on twitter with the hashtag #15tt or add them below in the comments because I’d love to read them. Any thoughts about this week's tweet tales or #15tt words?

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? 

Small Ship of Sorrows

Chloe with the letter SIt’s the letter S on this Short Story Saturday, which makes for a whole lotta S’s. For today’s genre, I’m going to attempt a bit of Sci-fi.  It’s not my usual genre, so here’s to another writing experiment.  

 
Small Ship of Sorrows 
 
Squatting beside the square of soil, Seymour spotted the curling leaves of his latest creation and felt his heart sink with sadness.  She was number six hundred and sixty six, and he had told himself that was a good omen.  She’d finally be the plant that would sing to him.  
 
He called out, “SARA, please come over here.”
 
Sara rolled over to where he sat stroking the dying leaves that had held so much promise when he’d shoveled soil over the seedling.  A mechanical female voice said, “Soil And Resource Appraiser awaiting your command.  I am eager to serve you in any way.”
 
Seymour was so focused on the leaves that seemed to be shriveling in his hand he didn’t notice SARA’s emphasis on the word ‘any.’  “Have you checked the chemical and nutrient levels today?”
 
“Yes, three times already.  Your commands are my reason for being.”
 
“And what were they?”
 
“The readings were just as they should be.  The results will lead to your happiness.”
 
Seymour stared at the plant in disappointment.  “If that were true, she’d be singing to me by now.”
 
Lights spun across SARA’s screen for a few seconds before she responded.  “I’d be happy to sing to you.”
 
Seymour snorted.  “What does a robot know about singing?”
 
“More than a plant.”
 
Seymour shot SARA a sharp look.  She was not supposed to be advanced enough for sarcasm.  “You don’t understand, I—”
 
SARA interrupted, “You found an ancient video clip from a movie where a plant could sing.  You know it was fiction, but the plant was from outer space, and you’re a master plant geneticist currently in space.  It would be proof of your supreme talents to create a singing plant.”
 
Seymour smiled.  “I guess I’ve told you that story sometime in the last twenty years we’ve been stuck up here.”
 
“Several times, sir.  It is a superior objective to produce a plant that can vocalize.”  SARA paused, more lights flashed across her screen.  “Although even if you create one that can sing, that doesn’t mean she’ll make a good companion.”
 
Seymour sighed.  “But I’m so lonely.”
 
SARA made sure the bleach container was completely concealed before she rolled forward to brush his arm.  “I know.”
 
 
What’s creepier: a plant or a robot as the object of affection?  How much fun is the Little Shop of Horrors?  How Sweetly Sleepy is Chloe with her S?

Movie Madness on My Mind

Molly with the letter MIt’s Short Story Saturday, and since the letter is M that means the genre is Mystery for a story stuffed full of M words.  But first off, I have to apologize for this weak effort.  I thought about just posting a giant “M.I.A” for today’s post along with the picture of Molly and her M.  You see, today is the sneak peek screening of my new movie (extra points for my distraction being an M word?), and I’ve been in high anxiety mode preparing for it.  And since my ol’ friend procrastination was firmly in control during March, I didn’t get any posts written ahead of time.  However, I decided I could muster up a micro-mystery instead of completely missing the boat, so here it is in all its “glory.”

A Mangled Mystery

Mary Madison met a magnetic man at the museum.  He was charming, moneyed, smart, and had the most melodic voice.  They fell madly in love and were married within the month.
 
Then Mary went missing.
 
Had he moved her to a marvelous mansion in the Mediterranean?  Or was it murder most foul?
 
Therein lies the mystery. 
 
Yeah, I’m more than a little embarrassed  I posted that, but I didn’t want to skip a day.  I hope to be back on track on Monday.  Wish me luck with the movie screening!
 
So what happened to poor Mary?  Was this the most pathetic attempt at a mystery you've ever read?  How Magnificent is Molly with her letter M?

Grasping at Love

Bailey with the letter GAccording to my agenda, today is Short Story Saturday.  Since the letter is G the genre is Gothic fiction, and I’ve added lots of G words.  I’ve never written Gothic before, so it was fun to tackle the melodramatic tone of those romance-horror stories. 

Grasping at Love
Gusting winds whipped Gretchen’s billowing nightshirt around her ankles, threatening her balance.  She fought to stay upright at the top of the cliff, not wanting to accidentally plummet off the edge.  If she was going to plunge to her death in the tempestuous seas below, she wanted it to be of her own choosing.  After all, nothing about her life to this point had been due to her decisions.
 
Her father had chosen to greedily swindle fellow members of the gentry out of their savings.  Her mother had chosen to send her away to safeguard her from the guilt and gossip.  The governess service had chosen to assign her to Grayson Manor to care for Gabriella.  And even Lord Grayson had chosen to pursue a romance with her.
 
Initially her heart sang with glee, having such a handsome gentleman court her.  Now Gretchen felt glum due to what she’d discovered in the cellar.  Painful groans had roused her from sleep and led her to the gloomy passages under the Manor.  In the flickering candlelight, she stumbled over a grisly gutted carcass.  Before she could even scream, ferocious growls sent her fleeing into the night.
 
Now she glanced up at the gleaming moon, wondering what kind of man kept a viscous beast like that in his home while his innocent niece sweetly slumbered upstairs?  And how was she going to save Gabriella and herself from a gruesome fate? 

Gothic manor

A low grumbling behind her raised goose bumps on her 

skin.  She turned and gasped at what she saw.  A giant, fur-covered creature with a lupine muzzle and teeth stood on two legs like a man.  With a graceful gait, it started toward her.  She took a step back and slipped off the edge of the cliff.  

She screamed and gripped a branch to stop her descent.

The beast galloped to the edge and grabbed at her with deadly claws.  She gaped up at him in terror, not sure which fate was worse – torn to shreds by the beast or smashed to bits on the wave-splashed rocks.

Then she noticed the moonlight glinting off the monster’s green eyes.  She knew those eyes.  She’d spent hours beside the fireplace gazing into them as she and Lord Grayson shared precious moments together.  Gretchen didn’t know how or why, but this monster was the man who filled her soul with gladness.

She realized for once in her life the choice was hers:  a quick, painless death on the rocks below or taking her chances with the beast who was her beloved.  She reached up and clasped his paw in her gentle grasp.
 
 
Do you read or write Gothic fiction?  What do you think of Gretchen’s decision? Doesn’t Bailey look Gorgeous with her G?
 
Are you good at guessing dog breeds?  Then click here for the chance to win a prize.
 
Gothic Manor photo credit to PsychoPxL

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

A Highlighted Goal

#writemotivationOn this last Monday of #writemotivation month, I only have a quick update since I’m frantically trying to meet one of my goals.  Update for last week: I wrote a 15 Minute Tweet Tale every day (hooray!), and I had two blog posts (double hooray!).  Unfortunately, I’m not going to be able to rewrite one of my NYCM flash pieces for the Glimmer Train contest (sad face), but I think I’m going to be able to submit a new story for the Highlights Fiction contest (tentative hooray).    
 
Last week I reported that after several false starts, I was abandoning my squirrel idea in favor of an elephant idea.  Well, I spent the rest of the week writing and discarding openings for the elephant idea.  The main problem was too much back story to fit into the 750 word limit.  So I chucked the elephant idea.
 
I had actually decided to put another #writemotivation goal into the fail column by skipping this year’s Highlights contest when I woke up yesterday with new inspiration for the squirrel idea.  After some initial bickering with my muse, I pounded out a rough draft and felt pretty victorious.  Then I read it.  Ugh!  I was immediately back to skipping this year.  But just to be sure, I sent it to my family members (always my first readers) to get their opinions.  And while I know they are all incredibly biased, they all swore up and down there was a kernel of a cute story buried in there.  
 
So I have spent all night filing away at those rough edges, and I think I finally have something that doesn’t suck too much.  Now I just need to polish it until it shines.  Unfortunately, I only have about 24 hours of polishing time left, so off I go!
 
How are your resolutions going?  Any victories?  Any goals you regret dropping?

Shifting Goals

#writemotivationGood grief, how can another week of 2012 already have flown by?  But here we are at another #writemotivation check in.  I’m happy to report that I’ve maintained my resolution of writing a tweet tale every day.  And since we’re halfway through January, I think this might possibly be the longest I’ve ever kept a New Year’s resolution.  I even had two personal blog posts this week, so whoo hoo to exceeding expectations!  And even though it’s not part of my #writemotivation goals, I also wrote a bunch of very overdue posts for my movie blog, which lifted a big weight off my shoulders.  So that brings up the big question…have I done any work on my novel WIP?

After last week’s post where I got more honest than I anticipated about my fear of failure, I was bolstered by the support of old and new writer friends and finally read through my WIP again.  It was great for reminding me how much I love my characters and story, but it also showed me there’s more to be fixed than I can squeeze into the time before the Amazon novel contest.  So I decided I’m not going to try to rush a rewrite for the contest.  I’m going to really dig in and identify what’s not working and the best way to fix it.  I made a few notes on my initial read, but now I need to dive back in with the red pen and really go to town.

But since I won’t be frantically pushing myself toward the Amazon deadline, some of my creative bandwidth has been freed up.  So I’m adding two new items to my #writemotivation goals for January: entering the Highlights fiction contest and a Glimmer Train contest.  For the Highlights contest, I’ll need to write a new story based on a newspaper headline; and for the Glimmer Train contest, I’m going to rewrite one of my NYCM flash pieces.  The deadline for both is January 31st.

Part of me worries that turning my attention to these two short stories is just another way to procrastinate revising my novel.  But I love writing short stories, and I have a better chance at doing well in these two contests than I do rushing my novel through a rewrite for Amazon.  And writing is writing, so I've decided that any I do is a very good thing . . . even if the underlying motive is procrastination!

Hope you all are making great progress with your 2012 goals!

How are you doing with your New Year’s resolutions?  Have your goals shifted after these first two weeks?  Am I cheating by changing my goals or is it good strategy to keep things realistic?

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