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.

better than

Bullshit

There is a quote that’s attributed to Abraham Lincoln by some and Mark Twain by others. Regrettably, we don’t know who actually said it. Still, there is a punchy sort of wisdom to it that’s hard to dispute. It goes like this:

Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak and to remove all doubt.

The picture above echos a similar sentiment. If you can’t say something worth saying, keep quiet. Silence is better than foolishness, lies, nonsense or filler. Better, in other words, than bullshit.

I have three thoughts on this as it relates to writing.

1. All first drafts are shitty. First drafts are rarely gems. More often, they are sloppy and crude, but they are also private. Very few people are going to parade their first drafts around like proud parents, and the few who do are badly in need of a true friend to pull them aside and quietly say, “No. We don’t show that to people. Put that away…” Writing crap is simply a part of the writing process. I don’t know of any writer that can help it, famous or not. Truman Capote is credited as saying, “Good writing is rewriting.” I’m inclined to agree.

You can’t apply the silence-is-better-than-bullshit principle to first drafts or you’d never write another first draft again. My first drafts are full of holes–characters are inconsistent; sub-themes (and sometimes the main theme) are all over the map; the dialogue often sucks; and, perhaps worst of all in terms of end result, first drafts are learning experiences for me as the writer. I don’t really know where things are headed in the first draft. That’s when I find out.

All that to say, first drafts (or anything you write just for yourself, like a journal) are exempt from this rule.

2. Everyone has something to say that is worth saying. I think this point is pivotal, or else I end up sounding like an ass in the next point. (Generally, I try to avoid sounding like an ass. It pisses Vye off.) No matter who you are or what your perspective on life is, there is some message you are meant to speak. Once you discover that message, once you know what it is, speak it without apology.

Everyone may not be crazy about your message. Some may even call it bullshit. However, if you know it’s a message that resonates with you, then it’s not bullshit no matter what anyone else says. It’s your message and you are most yourself when you’re speaking it.

3. Say things that are worth saying; the rest of the time, shut the hell up and listen. My experience is that most of us like the sound of our own voices, even in print. As a result, sometimes we say things that deviate from the important. We sputter nonsense and fluff because we want to be saying something and we haven’t put in the hard work to figure out what is worth saying.

Let me reiterated the first two points: It takes work to find your message. The things you ramble to yourself and your close friends during that period are okay, even if they aren’t particularly amazing. But there is a message (or more likely, messages) you are meant to deliver. When you find one of those, speak it loudly and clearly and without a hint of embarrassment.

When you aren’t sure what to say, or when you’re certain that anything you speak will be (at best) a shot in the dark and (at worst) an outright lie, keep quiet. Take those opportunities to listen to others who are speaking and learn from them. Grow. Allow your own voice to form itself. A balanced life, whether you’re a writer or not, should be made up of times when you speak and times when you listen. Make sure you’re doing both, and try to time them well.

Silence is better than bullshit. When you speak, make your words count. Say the things only you can say that are worth saying.

quotes

Today, we take a break from our regularly scheduled programming to bring you quotes from some of my favorite authors. These quotes are about writing…and about life–really, where does one stop and the other start?–and I hope they provide you with some encouragement and inspiration.

“As far as I’m concerned, the entire reason for becoming a writer is not having to get up in the morning.” – Neil Gaiman

“And as a writer, one of the things that I’ve always been interested in doing is actually invading your comfort space. Because that’s what we’re supposed to do. Get under your skin, and make you react.” – Stephen King

“Seeing yourself in print is such an amazing concept: you can get so much attention without having to actually show up somewhere… You don’t have to dress up, for instance, and you can’t hear them boo you right away.” – Anne Lamott

“Terror is the desire to save your own ass, but horror is rooted in sympathy.” – Joe Hill

“Don’t worry, fairy vomit is no doubt sweet-smelling to humans.” – Martin Millar

“There are mysteries which men can only guess at, which age by age they may solve only in part.” – Bram Stoker

“Most people will spend their lives doing jobs that they don’t particularly enjoy, and will eventually save up enough money to stop doing those jobs just in time to start dying instead. Don’t be one of those people. There’s a difference between living, and just surviving. Do something that you love, and find someone to love who loves that you love what you do. It really is that simple. And that hard.” – John Connolly

“Never laugh at live dragons.” – JRR Tolkien

“Evil isn’t the real threat to the world. Stupid is just as destructive as Evil, maybe more so, and it’s a hell of a lot more common. What we really need is a crusade against Stupid. That might actually make a difference.” – Jim Butcher

“Education without values, as useful as it is, seems rather to make man a more clever devil.” – CS Lewis

“Always do right. This will gratify some people and astonish the rest.” – Mark Twain

“Too many people live the lives other people think they ought to, following orders they don’t agree with, for causes they don’t believe in. They live lives that don’t matter, that touch no one and change nothing. For better or worse, you and I stared evil in the eye and didn’t flinch. We raised our swords and went to war, and even if we didn’t win we kicked some ass along the way. We made a difference, and that’s all any man can ask.” – Simon R. Green

“You fail only if you stop writing.” – Ray Bradbury

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