Flash fiction is, by definition, well, fast. Like the Flash, or a flash-in-the-pan. Sometimes it’s a flash of inspiration. Flash fiction is generally considered anything less than a thousand words; one group I regularly participate with sets it at exactly 99 words, another puts it at exactly six sentences, and both groups provide writing prompts.
I was intimidated by the limitations and the cues at first. Short stories are hard to write anyway (for me), and further parameters looked scary. But flash fiction has turned out to be a goldmine of inspiration and creativity. It is a wonderful vehicle for fleshing out characters and getting ideas for scenes. Even more, it is an excellent way to hone one's skill as a wordsmith: when words are limited, you weigh the value and necessity of each and every one. Diarrhea of the keyboard, be gone!
Flash fiction goes back as far as Aesop. More recent practitioners include O. Henry, W. Somerset Maugham, Walt Whitman, H.P. Lovecraft, Ray Bradbury, Franz Kafka,and Papa Hemingway. I take baby steps in the footprints of gods.
Congress of Rough Writers January 19 flash fiction challenge: In 99 words (no more, no less) begin a story with "Once upon a time..."
ONCE UPON A TIME
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Once upon a time…
Jane Doe flushes under the smiling, expectant gaze of this most attractive man. Imagine, someone asking her out to dinner! Here is proof that her efforts are worthwhile, a few dollars a month for the gym and access to a shower, her thrift store clothes carefully selected. Maybe she's pulling it off well enough to fool a potential employer.
She entertains Cinderella’s daydream for a second, then shakes her head regretfully. He likes her now, but what happens when he finds out she squats in an abandoned house? At least Cinderella had a proper home.Congress of Rough Writers January 6 Flash Fiction Challenge: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a rebellion.
WE DON'T LIKE YOUR KIND HERE
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Jane Doe pulls the bills from her pocket and counts out the correct number, handing them over. The cashier’s stare seems as weighty as the backpack Jane wears. Now she sees the tight line of the mouth, eyes hard and glittering as diamonds. She accepts the change thrust at her.
“Go on now, “ says the cashier shortly, jutting her chin toward the door. Why so rude? Then Jane remembers her backpack, the bedroll screaming, “Street person!”
“I said move along,” the cashier snaps.
Carrot Ranch Congress of Rough Writers December 9, 2015 flash fiction prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write about a looky-loo:
The woman beside her looks out the window as the bus grinds along Third Avenue, twisting her neck to peer toward the top of Columbia Tower. Office workers stream out as the skyscrapers dazzle in the deep twilight. The woman shifts from cheek to cheek in the seat, hands clutching and reclutching her shopping bag, gray streaks in her hair belying the excited child within. No sophistication in her hair or clothes. Her mouth is a little O of wonder.
Oh, to see the city that way again, for the first time. Before familiarity, and other things, bred contempt.
|atmtx/mostlyfotos, used under Creative Commons license.|
Carrot Ranch Congress of Rough Writers prompt, November 18, 2015: In 99 words (no more, no less) write dance into your story.
Insomnia, what’s new. Still homeless. For soothing she pulls out her iPod, with some precious charge, wondering what song will shuffle up.
Johnny Cash. She is up, dancing around her sad, cold little squat. The guitars are a steady thrum, Johnny’s voice a rich rumble, ringing in her ears. Time slips, and it’s not her own feet anymore. She’s a little girl, and her father is dancing her around while she stands on his feet.
The song and the magic end, her eyes open. Those aren’t her footprints on the gritty floor. They’re too big, and she’s wearing socks.
Carrot Ranch Congress of Rough Writers prompt, November 11, 2015: In 99 words (no more, no less) write about a place of comfort that is a refuge.
|cindy47452 Flickr/Creative Commons|
It’s been a long day, selling newspapers on the corner. Cold temperature, cold people. “Get a job,” she kept hearing. Hello, I’m trying, and meanwhile I’m hawking newspapers, not dealing drugs or breaking into your house.
Back at the dank abandoned house she did break into, she struggles with damp shoelaces and slides into her sleeping bag fully clothed.Troubles whuffs and curls up beside her.
Pretend there’s a campfire. She’s not homeless; she’s camping. Camping is temporary, voluntary, fun. Arms around the warmth of the dog’s neck, sleeping bag slowly warming, she drifts into the haven of sleep.
Carrot Ranch Congress of Rough Writers prompt, November 4, 2015: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a frozen story. Is the weather the source of freezing or is a character frozen by emotion or lack of it? It can also be a moment frozen in time. What does it reveal?
She wakes resentfully with the realization that winter has arrived. The calendar may say autumn; the weather gets the last word.
She shivers and sits up. Thin light fingers around the boards on the windows. Troubles raises his head and whines hopefully: “Kibble? “ At least she can't see her breath. Yet. But it's November. The heavy leaf coverage, her camouflage as she sneaks in and out, is nearly gone.
You can have a sleeping bag, insulating pad, the comfort of a dog beside you on the floor. But when you're homeless and squatting, you can't have warmth. Not truly.
Carrot Ranch Congress of Rough Writers Flash Fiction Challenge, September 30, 2015 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about a return to home.
It was a relief to be off the train. Almost two days, including a tortuous 8-hour layover in metal chairs. She’d only had money for her ticket and a sandwich she couldn’t make herself eat. But she’d slept. Maybe Sam would feed her.
He had to, didn’t he? At least he’d come for her.
“What the hell,” he said as she opened the car door. “You just left? Why come here?”
“It’s home,” she said. “Where they have to take you in, right?”
Bristly silence. She looked out the window as the car pulled out, ignoring her angry stomach.
Carrot Ranch Congress of Rough Writers Flash Fiction Challenge, September 9, 2015 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about someone or something that’s lost.
KING STREET STATION
Same bus stop bench, different day.
Traffic choreographs itself. Buses fart, horns blare, an argument approaches and fades as a couple walks by. Over the parapet, in the tunnels, a train clangs as it shuffles up to the platform.
A train. Quiet. Away. Being rocked to sleep, able to sleep.
She hates this city. Oh, she’d wanted to be here, she’d thought, but reality has been harshly different. She’s been trying to live someone else’s life.
Leave it all behind. She has the money, just enough. A ticket. Home. Just go.
Carrot Ranch Congress of Rough Writers Flash Fiction Challenge, May 13, 2015 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that shows a hard place and a connection.
THE YELLOW ROSE OF KENNEDY
It feels subterranean inside the ruined cabin. Dust motes eddy in the light fingering through the glassless window. This gold-panner's squat has long since been picked clean of souvenirs. Fine dirt like powder covers the floor. Smell of decay and old scat.
Outside again, he is brought up short. Growing hard against the cracked and weathered wood under the window is a vibrant green rosebush, blooms at once shy and defiant in this desert wilderness. Not wild; deliberate.
Who planted it? A woman, in a mining camp? A cultured forty-niner? That is the story he would like to hear.
|Adam Baker/Creative Commons|
Carrot Ranch Congress of Rough Writers Flash Fiction Challenge, April 25, 2015 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about a vice.
“You’re late again.” I stop in the doorway. “I smell weed in here.”
She shakes her head no.
“I know what I smell.”
“I had my window open all night,” she protests.
“Awful warm in here.”
“I cranked the heat.”
“Weed is a lot less bad for you than booze. But if you’re going to toke, go outside.”
Raised eyebrows, sideways smile. Did my mother really just say I can smoke dope?
“Get to school. No more truancy hearings.”
I thought I was resigned to everything. Magenta hair. Piercings. IUD. But this is the first lie I know of.