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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?

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?

More Micro-fiction

 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’?

Keeping It Short and Sweet

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)