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?