killing blow

Flash FictionThe story below is a great example of why I love 100-word flash fiction. There’s a lot happening in a very short amount of space. That’s the compelling challenge of it.

Can you tell a real, full story without saying much at all?

I’m not saying this is a prize-winning story. I mean, I think it’s good, but that’s hardly the point. What I like most is what you can’t see. What it was like to write it.

I didn’t really understand economy of words before I started writing flash fiction. I always felt like part of the challenge of writing was coming up with enough to say. Now I know the real challenge of writing is taking the story you want to tell and boiling it down to the barest essentials.

It’s not about cramming in more words, but assassinating the unnecessary ones. I know of no better way to learn that skill than by writing flash fiction.

The prompt for this one comes from The Prediction:

100 words maximum, excluding the title, of flash fiction or poetry using all of the three words above (‘bruise’, ‘benevolent’, and ‘margin’) in the genres of horror, fantasy or science fiction.

Have a great weekend, everyone.

killing blow

He won by a narrow margin. The crowd loved it.

It was different for him. His side hurt, bruised from armpit to waistline. There was a deep cut on his left forearm from the chainsaw. He was fairly sure his nose and two of his toes were broken.

But that wasn’t the worst of it.

They called him ‘the benevolent butcher’. Others took their time in the end, but he always went for the neck, quick and clean.

But it wasn’t benevolent for him.

He could still hear them begging for their lives. Every one of them. Every night.

Advertisements

bodies

Flash FictionYou know what I really like about 100-word flash fiction? The challenge of packing an entire scenario into such a small amount of space. If you can make 100 words feel like a whole story (or at least the intro to one), that’s a beautiful, artful economy.

It’s also really good practice.

Mark Twain said, “Writing is easy. All you have to do is cross out the wrong words.” And that’s true except for one small detail.

The wrong words are everywhere, constantly trying to sneak into the story. But when you only have 100 words, a crazy small number, you don’t have space for the wrong words. Or even words that are okay, but not great. Every word has to count. It teaches you to write in a unique and powerful way.

Oh, and it’s fun.

This week’s prompt is brought to you by The Prediction, and it goes a little something like this:

100 words maximum, excluding the title, of flash fiction or poetry using all of the three words above (‘Shakespeare’, ‘six’, and ‘pattern’) in the genres of horror, fantasy or science fiction.

Enjoy, and have a wonderful weekend.

bodies

It was fucked up. Is that okay to say? I dunno. I ain’t no Shakespeare, but you get the point.

Murray thought there was a pattern to the deaths, so we followed the trail.

Me? I wasn’t too worked up about six dead dogs, but I didn’t want no kids finding a severed head in the alley like this was The Godfather, you know? So we followed Murray’s pattern to this warehouse. That’s where we found the bodies.

Not dogs. People this time. A shit ton of ’em.

Jesus. Is that okay to say?

Fuck it. There was a lot.

the nightmare begins

Flash FictionOne of my first memories of enjoying horror was watching Twilight Zone: The Movie with a friend when I was a kid. It wasn’t terrifying by any stretch of the imagination, but it was unsettling. And yet, it was also cathartic.

When I saw the writing prompt posted on The Prediction this week, my mind drifted to one of the sequences from that movie. Without even pausing to question it, I started pounding out a 100-word ode to the vignette I remember best, which was based on the classic 1963 episode, “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet”.

Admittedly, I took some liberties with the set-up. John was way too high-strung to have been working on a crossword puzzle prior to his discovery. But, you know, the prompt.

While I hope you enjoy it, the story below is a nostalgic trip for me and me alone.

How about you? What was the first scary story you remember liking even though it pushed you a bit? Why did you like it? What was the feeling that came with the fear that made it weirdly fun?

Here’s the prompt:

100 words maximum, excluding the title, of flash fiction or poetry using all of the three words above (‘crossword’, ‘crude’, and ‘itinerary’) in the genres of horror, fantasy or science fiction.

And here’s the story…

the nightmare begins

It started with a scrapping noise.

John sat his crossword to the side. His itinerary said they weren’t scheduled to land for another 30 minutes. He slid over a seat and looked out the window.

There, on the wing, was a figure–a crude silhouette set against the night sky.

Suddenly, he was tumbling. A free-fall of terror brought on by the insane image. And that’s when he heard his own voice irrationally screaming about a man on the wing. He knew they wouldn’t believe him, and he knew just as well it was true.

A nightmare at 20,000 feet.

the turning

Flash FictionI really wanted to use a prompt for this week’s flash fiction, but I may have forced this super short story. The content is fine. Conservative word choices, which are mandatory if your limit is a measly 100 words. I have no issue with the flow, either. It’s just that there’s hardly even a complete scene here.

Even when I’m writing a story as short as this one, I like to leave the reading feeling like they’ve witnessed something. This plays out more like you’re about to witness something, but then it just stops. Like a dream you wake from right when it’s getting good.

That’s okay, I guess. I’ll chalk it up to the potential beginning of something longer. But, eh–I’m still not thrilled with it.

Some days, that’s how it goes.

The prompt comes to us from The Prediction:

100 words maximum, excluding the title, of flash fiction or poetry using all of the three words above (‘contour’, ‘prevaricate’, and ‘recipe’) in the genres of horror, fantasy or science fiction.

the turning

“Forgive my prevarications.”

“English, please.”

The first nodded by way of apology. Hector couldn’t help but notice how the contours of his pale skin caught the light.

“Of course,” he said. “The recipe is simple enough. However, the one who possesses it possesses great power. Not only over my kind, but over all.”

Great. Another noble vampire.

Hector was done. “Spare me the speech and hand it over. That was the deal.”

The vampire nodded. “That was indeed the deal, but heed my words. ‘There is a tide in the affairs of men.‘ With this, you turn it.”

fire in the gray

Flash FictionThis week is unusual for a few reasons. 

One, I’m late with my fiction post. Okay, so that’s happened before, but never this late and never for this reason. I had a migraine. It was my first, and it was not fun. It was most likely a result of the combination of having been sick, allergies, and more than my fair share of stress.

Prior to Friday, I had an academic understanding of what a migraine is. Basically, a really, really bad headache. That descriptions falls far short. It’s hell. Anything that makes you feel like your life would be better if you didn’t have a head is bad.

I couldn’t tolerate looking at a computer screen on Friday, so I didn’t bother trying. Most of the day was spend sleeping, which was about the only thing that made me not want to seek out the Red Queen. Saturday and Sunday were better, though I didn’t feel completely myself just yet. Apparently migraines don’t go down without a fight. Even after the pain subsides, you feel exhausted and mentally fuzzy. Oh, what fun.

But on Saturday, for God only knows what reason, I decide to write about the experience. A poem, no less. I shit you not. It’s right below. I swear.

I don’t write a lot of poems these days, and I wasn’t at my sharpest on Saturday, so I can’t promise literary gold. (Hell, I never promise that. Anyone who does is almost certainly a hack.) But whether good or bad by the Pritchard scale, I can assure you this particular poem is authentic. I wrote it while the feeling was very fresh. Make of it what you will.

Here’s the prompt, once again from The Prediction:

100 words maximum, excluding the title, of flash fiction or poetry using all of the three words above (‘buckle’, ‘deficit’, and ‘purple’) in the genres of horror*, fantasy or science fiction.

fire in the gray

I buckled.
Overdrawn, my mental account showed a
deficit
the likes of which left me reeling.

The pain came.

Like waves breaking on an icy shore,
like stars colliding,
imploding into themselves.
Like all the years, their weight, their worry,
compressed into one throbbing
purple mass
pushing the boundaries of my skull.

Out.
The pain wanted out.

For my part
I would have set it free,
but my head and heart held it,
fire in the gray,
a fierce, smoldering blaze
overtaking all other thoughts.

How I burned,
stoked in a heat
wrought of my own lingering unease.


*I dare you to argue that a migraine isn’t horror. Go on. See what happens.

first lesson

Flash FictionThis week hasn’t gone as planned. I had ever intention of hitting the ground running, powering into a fresh, new year with gusto. My immune system had other ideas, and I’ve spent the last several days sick as a dog. (Boy, that’s a weird phrase when you think about it.)

I hate being sick. You’d think spending a few days laying around would be relaxing, but not so much when your throat feels like you’ve been gargling acid and you’re producing enough mucus to lubricate a small car.

Yeah, it’s gross. I’ve been living it. Welcome to my hell.

The original plan was to get back to the series I’ve been slowly developing and begin to bring it to a close. The thing is, I just don’t feel like it. Instead, I’m going with a short, 100-word piece again this week.

Once again, the prompt comes to us from The Prediction:

100 words maximum, excluding the title, of flash fiction or poetry using all of the three words above (‘bark’, ‘chess’, and ‘dry’) in the genres of horror, fantasy or science fiction.

Enjoy.

first lesson

“How’s the wine?” she asks.

“Dry.” Like the once-abundant well that was her potential. Before she got greedy.

She thinks this is chess. She’s positioning her rook. Lining up her bishop. She has no idea I have a bazooka aimed at the board.

“What did I tell you, Cecilia? Before I taught you a single spell, what did I say?”

Realization finds her, but she remains silent.

“To be humble!” I bark.  Deep breaths, and then, in a much softer voice, “A lesson you will soon learn.”

Her pupils shrink.

The wine tastes bitter now.

very dangerous

Flash FictionWhen I saw this week’s prompt from The Prediction, all I could think of was that epic line from Raiders. Initially I tried to unthink it, but that’s some kind of unattainable voodoo.

(Don’t believe me? Don’t think about a purple giraffe. Eliminate the idea of a purple giraffe from your mind. Visualize anything but a purple giraffe. Now, close your eyes. What do you see?)

After a few minutes of mental fluttering, I just decided to roll with it. Lead with it, even. Make it work. And that got me thinking.

Sometimes the process of writing is like that, at least for me. My mind will attach itself to something and there’s just no getting away. Usually, it’s something abstract or tangential or random or just plain weird. The temptation to sidestep it has everything to do with not looking like a freak.

The trick is to quiet that voice in your head and let the story be what it wants to be.

Think of this as the inverse of ‘kill your darlings‘. Sometimes your mind will birth some strange little suggestion and you’ll have a helluva time pushing past it. When that happens, stop fighting yourself and allow that random detail a place in your story. You can always edit it out later, and letting it in may create the needed space for something pretty kick-ass that you haven’t even considered yet.

In the case of the story below, I’m not crazy about it in its current incarnation. However, I love the idea of this little vignette, and I can easily see it playing out as a longer scene in another work. I would never have made it to the part where the narrator describes summoning Psykhe had I not been okay with the Indiana Jones reference right in the first sentence.

As I mentioned, this story is based on a prompt from The Prediction:

100 words maximum, excluding the title, of flash fiction or poetry using all of the three words above (‘asp’, ‘personality’, and ‘theft’) in the genres of horror, fantasy or science fiction.

Enjoy it, and I hope everyone’s 2016 gets off to a wonderful, creative, promising start.

very dangerous

“Asps,” he quotes. “Very dangerous.”

It’s only a couple of garden snakes, but what does he know? He’s a black hole of both intellect and personality. But we’re half way through the seance and I kind of need him right now, theft of a soul being a tricky business and all.

I shush him and begin the chant. He grins, such a shit-eater, and joins me.

Wind blows. Incense burns. Candles flicker. And Psykhe comes.

The butterfly-winged bitch wants tribute. A trade. His eyes go wide when I point at him.

Very dangerous, indeed, I think.

 

%d bloggers like this: