Monthly Archives: May 2014

At Home: One More Flash Fiction Story

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This will be the last of my flash fiction prompts and examples, though I will occasionally post a flash piece here. They’re so much fun to write and such a testimonial to crafting practice that I wouldn’t stop myself from writing them if anyone asked me to.

For today’s work, I chose two possible directions for us.

The first prompt comes from Nancy Stohlman. This marvelous writer/artist posts frequent flash fiction prompts on her website and writes some delicious stories of her own. Please take the time to drop in and experience a master of this story form. The prompt I chose for my purposes is #3 on her chart, which asks the writer to

“Find a story you’ve written that isn’t quite working. Chop it down to exactly 100 words. Give it a new title.”

If this one tickles your fancy, by all means, tackle it. If you’re like me, you have story ideas overflowing from tidbit files on your hard drive. Take one out for a short spin.

Or, you could do the following prompt from Flash Fiction Chronicles, one of the best journals around that zeroes in on the short form and encourages all writers to take the plunge with them. Our prompt from the “Chronicles” looks into the aspect of adages/clichés/figures of speech, etc.

The Saying Goes … Think of an old expression such as “The early bird gets the worm” or “Penny wise and pound foolish” and write a story about it.”

There are hundreds of directions to go with this one and the more twisted one can make the result, the more fun the journey. Keep in mind the 100 word limit.

As for my own writing fancy, I chose the latter, since I’ve already given you a chance to see how I carved a former story down to the appropriate size. We’ll see if you can figure out the adage used as the base note for this little introduction piece.

Illusions

She sat, examining flaws revealed by the mirror above her dressing table. Her eyes would never reshape themselves into feline dimensions. Her nose wouldn’t rise sharply at the end.

—Sigh—

Why had Raymond married her? She wasn’t striking or handsome. She was merely acceptable by his family’s reckoning.

Discontent shadowed her eyes, turned down the corners of her mouth.

Behind her mirror, Raymond watched Eleanor’s continued disbelief. She possessed a beauty that surpassed the ordinary. Yet, she could see only words; waspish stings of jealous, lesser females.

He would again mount his campaign to enlighten his fair Eleanor, his queen.

the end

And in case you’re wondering what adage or cliché I chose to use, it was “The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence.”

Enjoyment in writing comes in myriad forms and sizes. Take a chance, stretch your comfort zone. Try one of these little prompts and see where it takes you. You might just find an alluring, nay habit-forming, fascination with Flash Fiction.

Happy writing, all. I hope you’ve enjoyed this month’s activities as much as I have. This next month will be full of challenge for those who’re brave enough to take it on.

Sunday I will be outlining all of the particulars concerning our little poetic challenge and how it will work for those out there who want to partake.

Until then, enjoy yourselves. Have a terrific weekend, and I’ll see you back here in June, with poetry in two. Happy writing.

 

Reminder about Upcoming Poetry Contest

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This is a short reminder, for all of us, that June will bring in a “small” poetry contest. “Small” because the forms accepted will be Haiku and Haiga, both short Japanese verse forms.

The winner of the contest will be awarded a poem poster of their poem placed on the winning photo poster of Linda Evan-Hofke from my photo contest in March. Linda wanted to pass on the fun and offered the photo up for use as a poster with a winning poem.

So, get those poetry-prone fingers tapping on keys, putting down thoughts of possible poem themes in the upcoming fun.

Tomorrow I’ll have this month’s last flash fiction post with another bit of fiction fancy to spur you on in your short fiction endeavors.

Have a terrific day, peeps, and I’ll see you then.

At Home—Flash Fiction and a Character Theme

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First off, let me apologize for not showing up yesterday. After my critique group meeting broke up in late afternoon, I was unexpectedly called out of town and didn’t get home until the wee hours of the morning. After having only three hours sleep the night before, an early morning alarm wasn’t on my agenda. So now you know why I missed my own deadline.

So, with that out of the way, let’s get to it.

Flash writing has now found definition in our lexicon of fiction forms. As someone who tends to write long, this form affords me valuable writing training. It requires concrete/action verbs and nouns. It requires those two parts of speech also to do the work of adjectives and adverbs. It’s the ultimate in pick-up games for a fiction writer.

Contrarily, poets have less trouble with writing in this format. Why? Because they already use verbal shorthand when they put together poems. A one hundred word poem is very long and most poets don’t engage in storytelling of that length.

Have you come up against FF parameters and experienced other problems with putting together your little stories? If so, drop a comment in the box and we’ll go through them next week as part of our finale for the month. Until then, let’s look at a themed prompt and my example of one way to tackle it.

I’m using Character as my theme for today’s exercise. You can easily pull material from anywhere or about anyone to create your story to fit the theme. But what do I mean by Character?

Character as a theme

We all know what a character is, in a general sense. Every story has one, whether our stories are carried by telephone, newspaper, TV, etc. When you call a friend on the phone, your conversation is all about character when you pause long enough to think about it.

In today’s instance, character as theme simply means centered writing about a specific person, place, or thing and an aspect of story action affecting that character. It could take many forms and still be flash fiction.

Example 1: Poetry with a Character Theme

The Tangled Web

 

It began with a tiny thing;

A lie of that day’s convenience.

A first strand in the web you wove

To make yourself important, and

Disguise truth you could not bear shown.

 

More silk strands followed to entrap

The weaver in tales unforgotten,

By those brought to emotions ruined.

Thoughtless weaving. Strands delusions,

All make to tangle the weaver.

 

Go now into your web of lies.

Seek only new fools to believe.

© Claudette J. Young 2010

A deceiver of friends and family is found out and exiled (sort of) in this seventy-five word pronouncement of character. It tells the story of a conviction carried out against a defendant–found guilty of taking advantage of others, deceit, and mental cruelty.

Okay, that interpretation might stretch things a bit, but when I wrote it, those were the charges brought up in the trial.

Example 2: Memoir (From a longer piece posted here) Fictional character Dreamie Simple in “Dreamie’s Box.”

 I didn’t seek marriage. I protected friends and their families. Mother counted on that. Seventeen years with Martin was my sentence.

 Martin had secrets tangled up with my mother. He wanted respectability. I gave him that.

 Now I’m charged with his murder. Considering my actions, few would refute the possibility. I collected nearly a million dollars in insurance—a hefty motive. My own secret life, with a different identity, may convict me.

 I can’t defend myself. I laid out plenty of motives. Honesty is preferable, but naiveté is different. I learned the whole truth can put a needle in your arm.

This example is a trimmed down version which originally had 479 words. Trust me, carving away that many words isn’t easy. I almost pulled my hair out on this one, but it gave me yet another lesson in editing and revision, which is always beneficial.

The point is that this memoir of a novel’s character can serve in many ways. It allows practice in flash fiction. It gives the writer a use and practice in character development, and it works to serve as an editing and revision tool/lesson. Not bad for 100 words, is it?

Now, on to my flash fiction piece for this theme. I’ll do a short memoir piece for a character in a fantasy series that I’ve just begun to put together. It’s for one of the primary characters, Reibe. (Note how I have several uses from this one bit of writing.)

Composing an Apprentice

 I didn’t do anything wrong. I played my music. They asked me to.

 Am I responsible? Why do they grasp at me—call out for me? Did they all lose their minds?

 I want to go back to Riverton, back to the mill. Life was simple there. I worked. I ate. I slept. Not like here where everything and everyone is complicated. No one is unkind. In fact, they almost smother with kindness.

How can I understand these Theusans with their foreign ideas? I must work hard to become the trader I’m supposed to be? Mistress Cleone makes leaving impossible.

My character, Reibe, confronts his conflict of not fitting into his new role as an apprentice trader. He has another, perhaps greater, conflict though. For some unknown reason, when he plays his music (on a flute) those who hear him react in a way that frightens him, even as it confuses him.

The reader finds out that this new life isn’t as straightforward or simple as Reibe’s old life at the mill in Riverton. It doesn’t matter, in this case, what kind of mill that was.

The reader also learns that his new position places him with kindly people who have foreign ideas—immigrants perhaps. The introduction of Mistress Cleone also adds to the layers of the story and Reibe’s plaintive thinking. The implication asks the reader to fill in the blanks however she will. Readers are good at that.

And there you have it—my small story memoir in 98 words. I hope you’ll all experiment with this theme. Have fun with it. It can take you to unforeseen places. I’ll see you again here next week with the final bit of flash fiction for the month.

Happy writing, everyone. And don’t forget to share your story, if you wish, so that we might all share in your experience.

 

 

POV and Mindfulness

texture-003-001Today I posted on my other website (2voices1song.com) about mindfulness and application. In this case, the mindfulness dealt with POV (point of view) and character development.

Writers must consider this aspect in whatever they write. Yet, by using a more mindful approach to POV, the writer benefits personally, as well, on a daily basis.

When you get a chance, stop by and discover what I’m talking about.

I’ll see you all again tomorrow with the next installment of Flash Fiction on a prompt plan.

 

At Home with Personality of Flash Fiction

 Does flash fiction really have a personality? I think it does. It’s short—seldom written over 1000 words. It’s concrete in word use with few descriptors. It is also thought-provoking.

Flash fiction requires that the reader fill in blanks, to add personal touches to the presented story that fleshes out the raw and undetailed specifics given. That’s a definite personality.

And on that note, today’s prompt comes to us from Flashy Fiction Friday. Back in February, writers were asked to perform the following task.

PERSONALITY TRAITS

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In a little self-discovery, choose three facets of your personality. Create a character for each, giving them names and descriptions. Now place them in a Doctor’s waiting room. One of the three is terminal. Write this scene.

Now you have the assignment I tackled for this week. As writers, we use our personal traits for characters all the time. But do we really dissect the traits we’re giving those characters?

I can’t say that I ever have until now. The character simply grows from one spark of “She’s a strong personality.” “He’s really into gardening, especially veggies.” Or perhaps something like, “She never trusted a person until they proved themselves first.”

I’ll bet you do much the same thing when you begin writing a story, or putting together an outline. Well, now’s your chance to put mind to inner speculation. What three facets of your personality will you choose to expose to the world?

Here are my three choices:

  1. Quick to begin a project, but slow to finish it.
  2. Strict, personal sense of honor
  3. Endless enthusiasm for learning about something new

Characters by trait:

  1. Terrence Carter—Handyman with own business. Overweight, balding, 52 years old.
  2. Chester Manners—Retired grandfather of five. Healthy and fit stone mason, happily married, and looking forward to first granddaughter’s wedding.
  3. Olivia Kaston—Seat-of-the-pants life of a photographer. Mid-thirties, slender, bouncy.

On The Bright Side

Chester Manners’ index finger throbbed. He wanted a painkiller.

From across the waiting room Terrence Carter asked. “What’d you do, Chester? Mash it?”

Chester shook his head. “Here for a prostate check, Terrence?”

Terrence’s face reddened.

“I’m sorry, old friend. The pain is fierce this morning,” explained Chester.

Olivia Kaston flipped magazine pages and chuckled.

“What about you, Olivia? You’re too perky to need a doctor,” Terrence said.

She glanced at the men. “Thanks, Mr. Carter. I’m here for my chemo schedule. The bright side is that I‘ve lived ten glorious years longer than Mom.”

 the end

One hundred words doesn’t allow for much personality sometimes, but I tried my best with this one. I kept these characters in the same order of presentation as in the tiny portraits above.

One thing I would say here, though. While I was writing this, which took me about an hour to get it under word count and in a form that I could accept, I realized that I liked these characters and that this could easily be a piece stretched into a full-blown short story for a number of different venues.

I enjoy having an exercise morph into something usable later. I encourage you to try your hand at this one. I hadn’t done it before—but then there are myriad exercises I haven’t tried before. I appreciated this one’s requirements. It helped me in many ways.

Please try it and drop your effort into a comment here or leave a link in a comment to where readers can see it.

Happy writing, all.

 

 

 

 

 

At Home with Flash Fiction Prompts

Today marks the second of this month’s flash fiction prompts. All you need is one hundred words, any genre, telling a complete story.

One unique quality of flash fiction determines its effectiveness for many readers. The sparse word count doesn’t allow for descriptors in the main. Nouns and verbs must pick up the slack to work as their own elaborators. Within 100 words, especially, concrete and specific are what matters in the story arc.

Here is the photo prompt for today, along with these words, “He looked up, resigned.” which must be used somewhere in your story. Good luck, and when you finish your story, place it in a comment here for all of us to share.

Courtesy of BJJones Photography

Courtesy of BJJones Photography

My story:

Dream’s Dust

He stood, head down, leaning against a post—the promised hero. One of the Magnificent Seven, a King of the Sun, a man of mystery.

I’d found my ultimate love, one I could never know.

He spoke, a soul-reaching timbre. “What were you looking for?”

“My future.”

“Why here?”

“You’re here,” I explained.

He looked up, resigned. “I’m too old for you, girl. It’s too late.”

“I’m old for my age.”

“Not that old,” he laughed.

My heart stumbled as he straightened.

One finger under my chin, his lips anointed my forehead. “Go home, darling.”

I wake, still thirteen.

You’ll notice that each verb acts. There is no ambivalence. Colors don’t matter here. Setting has no importance either. The only point both of interest and poignancy is the relationship’s dialogue between the two characters. The dialogue also needs few taglines. One seeks and one is sought after. One willing, one unwilling. The conflict doesn’t require any further tension than “will they-won’t they.”

The last sentence reveals page two—as Paul Harvey would say. The exchange occurred in a dream. Yet the conflict remains. The dreamer’s age of thirteen tells of self-knowledge and a sought-after love connection while accepting reality’s limits. It also points to the natural pubescent inner turmoil experienced by many young people.

Let me know, please, if I’ve met the challenge. I know this is 100 words, but did it complete the circle for a true story arc. Tell me what you think.

And don’t forget to share your stories. See you again soon. I may even have another review before next Friday’s flash fiction prompt.

Happy writing, all.

 

At Home with a Book Review of “Cheers, Chocolate, and Other Disasters”

Writers have an awesome job. We get to write stories for a living and tell tales out of school. We’re forced to read masses of books as if the store would run out if we didn’t get there first. We must study constantly to know what’s trending and what’s passé, who’s publishing what and who’s not publishing at all anymore.

These are perks and punishments, according to who’s relating what. But one of the most wonderful perks we get is the opportunity to write book reviews. Every book has a plus and a minus sign. Every story could go on forever, revealing layer after layer of an ever-changing onion held between our hands.

Mikki HeadshotMikki Sadil is a writer who delivers such a layered story. Her Middle Grade book, “Cheers, Chocolate, and Other Disasters” captures the attention early and never lets the reader go.

Alyson Joanne (AJ) Devlin is the kind of main character you want to spank one minute and cheer on the next. She’s spunky but sensitive, and her world has toppled into a morass of circumstances that threaten to put too great a strain on her young shoulders.

Sadil’s portrayal is made more powerful by the intensity with which she draws her characters. Even minor characters are given a roundedness not seen in many books for young readers. The reader can’t help but wonder if some of these personalities are plucked from flesh and blood examples.

It’s not often that an adult can get sucked into the world of middle school students and their personal dramas. It’s also not common when at the end of such a book the adult reader is looking for more of the story. This reader went looking for more. I wanted to know how she faired with her new boyfriend, what happened to her nemesis Celine Carroll, and her new friends and cheerleading partners.

I wanted it all. Not that the book ended in the wrong place or with threads left untied. Au contraire, all threads were tied into bows, but I wanted more. I wasn’t done with the story yet.

This amazingly fast read rarely paused for deep breaths. Mikki Sadil has a major winner on her hands with this one. I can honestly give it a Brava!

Now, the big question. Will there be a sequel? Will AJ make reappearance with new adventures? I don’t have answers.

As a reader, I’m gratified to know that Sadil’s first book, “Freedom’s Thief,” won’t stand alone as an excellent example of this writer’s talent.

If you haven’t read “Freedom’s Thief” yet, pick up a copy. The same thoroughness of detail, both material and emotional, brings the Civil War and and its issues, like slavery, to the forefront and breathes life into it for young readers on a level they can understand.

And on that note, I’ll close this review. I had a grand time reading “Cheers, Chocolate, and Other Disasters,” and I can hardly wait to see if there is a sequel. 

At Home with Angels

Good morning, everyone. I said it started today, and here it is—May’s first photo prompt.

Why an angle? I don’t know. It was the first photo I came to that really spoke to me. I looked at it and thought cemetery statuary and then, I saw a crypt where the angel stood at the foot of the entombed.

A question rose in my mind as to whether (as some people believe) a spirit, an intent, or a resonance can be trapped in stone to either affect or make itself felt by those who come in contact with it.

Possibilities began to swirl and a story was born. I hope you enjoy it.

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 Pride’s Price

“Good morning, Raymond. Did you rest well?”

Silence.

“You’re still pouting. Your childishness brought you here, you know. You always had to have more.”

A soft sigh of chill air swirls through the stone chamber.

“How does it feel to have your treasures stripped from your grasp, Raymond? Thieves have looted everything here, except me. Your orders stained my feet with your beloved Bella’s blood. Poor little Bella loved you with her whole heart.”

Another sigh of air.

“I’ll soon be alone. They’ve come for you now. You’ve become nothing more than a mystery note. Good journey, son.”

 

BTW, I took my interpretation from this prompt literally. I thought angels and statues, or a combo. The reader decides.

Yes, this is a story, not a vignette. Why? Because the voice of the statue tells the story of a man, Raymond. She introduces him with her first words. She comments on his personality with “pouting” and “childishness,” as well as his having to always have more.

She also tells of his “vast treasures” and the looters who absconded with them. The mention on his “beloved Bella” leaves the door open to interpretation by the reader. The reference could have named wife, daughter, or pet. But he’d ordered Bella’s blood on the statue’s feet. The reader’s speculation is satisfied by her/his own decision as to how and why the blood was used that way and whether a killing took place literally at the feet of the statue.

The unnamed statue also hints at the long association with the deceased throughout the piece. At the end, she states that thieves have come for him, that he has no real status, and then calls him son. In other words, she delivers a final blow against Raymond by telling him his fate. Was the statue a representation of his mother or something else entirely? Only the reader can decide.

So tell me, did the story satisfy, mystify, or merely bore the reader? Like/Dislike? Questions and comments are always welcome.

Now, it’s your turn to play with words. Put your story together and share it here. Don’t be shy. No one is standing in judgment. I like seeing how other peoples’ minds work, how they find their ideas and use them.

I’m looking forward to seeing everyone’s efforts. I’ll give you my comments as each story arrives. Enjoy yourselves with this. Happy writing.

At Home with May Flowers and Stories

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We’ve made it through April’s sea of poems to arrive on a shore of waves in May—waves of flowers and stories.

Huh?

For many of us, the really beautiful month is May, when the lilacs bloom and azaleas gather their frilled skirts in their arms and dance with the rhodies. Daffodils trumpet spring’s true arrival in a fanfare that wakes tulips and hyacinths and brings them out to play.

And along the way, stories held over from winter’s cold grip come out to chill or cheer the reader.

And that’s what we’re gonna do this month. We’re gonna play with words and build flash fiction from unexpected photo prompts. The call is going out for all readers to step onto this site, to play and share your stories.

There’s nothing to fear, no contests to compete in. We’re just taking a risk with our words, to capture a person’s attention and lure them in for a deeper look.

Beginning tomorrow, I’ll post a photo prompt once a week. I’ll also give you my piece of flash fiction done for the prompt. The story must never run more than 100 words. Okay, so that’s very short flash fiction. It’s okay. I’ll show you the elements in my piece, how much is intro, middle arc, and resolution/conclusion. Genre isn’t important here, except for those not allowed.

Your job is to let me know how you read it. Did you like it and why. Did you not like it and why not. You know how to do it. That’s when you get to post your own bit of story. One hundred words or less, a complete story (beginning, middle, and end,) sharing what came to you when you looked at the photo.

Let your inner storyteller out of her/his prison of shyness and tell us a tale. (No extreme violence or erotica, please.)

I’d like to think that I can lead by example. You get to let me know when I fail in that role.

And there you have it. A game with few rules. A challenge with little consequence. And a means of exploring a story form you might not otherwise have chosen.

Let’s have a great time with this, okay? I’d so like to see what you have to share by way of stories. Each of us has a few riding around in the mind’s pockets. Let’s bring them out into the daylight and let them shine.

See ya tomorrow. Happy writing, all.