I have a guest storyteller over at the Fictional Campfire today!
Over the past few weeks I have read quite a few really great pieces of short fiction. Back at the beginning of April, Haley Whitehall offered her readers a Flash Fiction Challenge. This really got the ball rolling for me writing wise. What is Flash Fiction you ask? First you take a prompt like “It was a dark and stormy night” and challenge writers to produce a short story of a set length.
The result has been some of the most fun, twisted, surprising, clever, shocking pieces of fiction that I have read. Currently I have taken part in 3 challenges so far (include my own) this month. It gets a bit hard to find all the stories, so I figured that I would dig them all out and put them in one post. Keep in mind that this is not all the stories out there (there are so many) just some of the ones that I enjoyed.
Haley Whitehall’s April Flash Fiction Challenge – rules as follows; You must start your story with the sentence:”She had been warned, but now it was too late.” The story must be 500 words or less. Challenge ends May 1st.
- “The Well” by Selena Wolff
- “She had been warned, but now it was too late…” by Sandra Bell Kirchman
- “Message Waiting…” by me from Other Side Of 40
- “There is no place like home” by Billie Jo Woods
- “To love and to cherish” by badluckfairy
- “She Had Been Warned” by Mike
- Untitled by Michael Pallante
- “Glitched” by Elle Rohan
- “Double Spaz” by Pia Newman
- “The Gun on the Desk” by me from Fictional Campfire
- “213 (A Story)” by Sonia G Medeiros
Other Side Of 40 Flash Fiction Challenge – rules as follows; Must start with the sentence “I cared what she thought, so when she dared me I knew I was in trouble”. Story must be 500 words or less. Challenge ends May 1st.
A second Challenge from Haley Whitehall Write a Historical Flash Fiction Story – rules as follows; create a piece of Historical Fiction of a length of your choosing.
- “Flax” by Knittingknots
- “Journey by Train” by Billie Jo Woods
- “Barrage” by me from Fictional Campfire
- “A Demise of my Own Doing” by Yikici
I hope that you take some time to read these wonderful stories. I can tell you that they are well worth the time to do so! To all the above writers, thank you for crafting such wonderful tales!
Photo “287.365” by rbbaird (Flickr)
Photo by kpweker (Flickr)
Don’t blame me OK! This is totally not my doing. When you find yourself muttering under your breath when you edit your story for the 50th time “Why did he challenge me?” please remember its all Haley’s fault!
She dared me to issue my own Flash Fiction Challenge. Thinking about it now, I’m pretty sure she said “I double dog dare you! ” and according to the “Rules” I now have to do it.
So here goes -
I formally Issue this Writing Challenge!
Create one fictional story of 500 words that starts with the sentence “I cared what she thought, so when she dared me I knew I was in trouble.”. Challenge ends May 1st.
I’ve read some super stories written for Flash Fiction challenges in the past few days, so please participate! As with Haley’s challenge, include a link to this post on your blog, and/or add a comment with a link to your flash story on this post.
Have fun and I look forward to reading some more stories!
Its been a while since I let my creative side loose. This story is my response to Haley Whitehall’s Flash Fiction Challenge . Haley from Soldiering Through the Writing World who has been a guest blogger on the Other Side of 40 before, has thrown down the gauntlet with the following challenge. Write a 500 word story (before you count, I used all 500) that must start with the sentence – “She had been warned, but now it was too late.” Below you will find my offering.
(Haley, thanks for the much-needed kick in the creative pants.)
She had been warned, but now it was too late! The text messages were all the proof needed. Alone on the rain-soaked front porch of the house she stood frozen, trapped between fight or flight. Staring at the doorknob and fiddling with the keys, Sara replayed the events of the last half hour over in her mind. It was a nightmare come to life.
It had been a good day at work, and she had felt quite pleased with herself that nobody had figured out her “little secret”. Smiling, she had shut down her computer when her cell phone alerted her to an incoming message. Checking the ID she didn’t recognize the number, so she opened the text. “I know” was all it said. A cold shiver ran down her spine. She snapped the phone shut and quickly looked around. Not a soul in sight. She took a deep breath and flicked off the desk light.
By the time she exited the elevator, she had convinced herself that it had been a wrong number and was nothing to worry about. Shoes clicking on the foyer floor, she walked past the guard at the security desk.
“Night Sara” he said as she came along side the counter, “any big plans tonight?”
“Nope Dave” was her answer “just a nice quiet night. See’ya.”
The guard smiled as she left the building, then picked up his cell phone. She was unlocking her car when the text alert sounded again. The ID was the same number, and this time the message said “I’m waiting”. This can’t be happening she thought. Quickly she got into the car as she scanned the parking lot. No one was visible. Frightened she jammed the car into gear and speed off towards home.
Her breathing had slowed down by the time she had pulled into the driveway. She was resting with her head on the wheel when the phone chirped a third time. The same number, and this time the text said “soon”. No this wasn’t real, this happened to other people not her! Looking at the street she saw nobody around, so she bolted from the car to the front door where she stopped.
Finally Sara thrust the keys into lock, and pushed the door open into the waiting darkness. Her hand found the light switch, but it didn’t work. Slowly she edged down the hallway towards the kitchen. From the darkness of the living room she heard a bump followed by a low curse.
“Hello, is there someone there?” she challenged, as fear twisted in her chest.
Suddenly the lights blazed on revealing her friends and co-workers.
“Surprise! Happy birthday Sara!” they shouted.
Sara screamed and fainted.
A few hours later as the sounds of laughter spilled from the house, no one noticed the man dressed in a security guard uniform standing in the backyard shadows. He opened his phone to check the clock. Oh well he thought, I have time and besides, she had been warned.
Photos: (Top left) “Street” by jijis (Flickr), (Bottom right) “Stormy Night” by Christina Welsh (Flickr)
(Post by Haley Whitehall)
For those of you who don’t know me I am a historical fiction writer. I view my computer as a time machine. When I am at the keyboard I am powering to a different era—the 1800s. Readers usually read for pleasure—especially when they read fiction. According to Bernard DeVoto (1956), “As a fiction writer, you’re expected to transport a reader. Readers are said to be transported when, while they are reading, they feel that they are actually living in the story world and the real world around them evaporates.”
Wow. That almost sounds like magic—having to make the real world evaporate. When readers feel like they are a part of the story, sympathizing with the characters and following in their shoes then they are said to be in the fictive dream.
It isn’t magic. It just takes a lot of practice and skill. It takes a delicate balance of suggestive “showing” and enough “telling” to make the protagonist not seem distant. I am still working to achieve the “perfect” balance as I was originally taught that “telling” was bad and should not be used at all.
I transport readers to the 1800s using three main instruments:
- Description. People don’t ride in horse driven buggies anymore. Physical detail pulls readers into a story by setting the stage. I don’t stop with what can be seen. In order to be truly transported back in time all five senses need to be addressed. I describe the thunder of cannons, stench from cigars, bitter taste of chicory coffee and the prickly cotton bolls. For an idea of this read my post War with Pen and Rifle.
- I use period words and, depending on the character, dialect. To make sure that my words are period I look them up in an etymology dictionary. For example, “to puke” as in vomiting didn’t originate until 1961. Therefore, my characters vomit.
- I also write in the historical mindset. My characters are not going to be concerned about global warming. My characters are going to be concerned about who is poisoning their livestock. Today we can’t imagine the horrors of slavery and treating people like animals but in the Antebellum South that was accepted. I catch people, and even myself at times, laughing or being disgusted when reading historical fiction novels/watching historical fiction movies. To think that people actually believed blood letting would cure them… well, they did.
When time traveling with the fictive dream the key is to make the prose natural. As with all genres, too much author intrusion, such as the overuse of dialogue tags, because they disrupt the dream. By that I mean that they wake readers to present, reminding them that they are reading a story not living it.
I thought this was great advice from Hilary Mantel in 10 Rules for writing fiction (part two), “When your character is new to a place, or things alter around them, that’s the point to step back and fill in the details of their world. People don’t notice their everyday surroundings and daily routine, so when writers describe them it can sound as if they’re trying too hard to instruct the reader.”
Of course if you don’t write historical fiction you can transport your readers to other places. Outer space for a sci-fi novel, a dragon’s layer for fantasy and New York City for realistic fiction—I’m sure you get the idea. As writers we have the transporter in our hands. We just have to set the coordinates then press GO.
Look for future posts on my blog Soldiering through the Writing World about transporting characters and making them dream the fictive dream.
By Haley Whitehall
They call this place no man’s land. But even as humanity tries the destroy each other, nature still exists here. The careful observer will see that the animals have not quit this place. Sadly the rats grow fat on the spoils of man’s follies. And here too, the plants fight their own battle. Each day springing up a new. Green leaves reaching for the sunlight, only to be buried again by the weapons of this war. Nature is persistent. With each set back it rallies, then tries again. You see, the earth will always heal its wounds. It will find a way.
I am also here. It is hope that brings me to this place. As long a small spark of it exists, I will follow it. I am the thousands of happy memories that help these men endure. I am the hand of a friend that pulls someone up when he has fallen. I am the comrade that shares his meal when there is little to eat. Some would call me a spirit, or perhaps an angel. While being similar to both and different as well, I am simply life.
Death walks here too. He is the dark to my light. While hope sustains me, he thrives on misery. Every night we wage our own war. While he destroys, I save. It has been this way for eons, and I feel it will never change. for as long as man makes war, I will have no peace. But still, I hope that one day there will be a time when man can exist with his fellow-man. But tonight I have work to do, and I must hurry.
There is a soldier out here too. He lives now, but should death get to him first he will be lost. I can’t let that happen. His thoughts of his loved ones are like a beacon to me, and soon I find him. Half hidden in the muddy water of a shell hole. Though wounded badly his soul is strong, but he will not last the night here. I must find help. Back beyond the tangled wire and churned mud is this man’s squad mate. Soon I stand beside him. He is peering into the night searching, hoping to see a sign of his lost friend. “Come find me” I whisper to him over and over. Then as if he is recognising a far off sound, he nods. He has heard!
Without fear for himself he climbs from the safety of his trench. He knows what he must do. As do I. Now I must keep my adversary from trying to claim the wounded man. He has, no doubt by now found him. But he will delay. He revels in the terror he causes. Never satisfied with just the victim, he will draw it out. Try to create more fear. More often than not, it is his downfall. For it gives me what I need the most. Time.
Death has decided to amuse himself tonight. Tormenting the living is also a favourite pastime of his. Moving quickly I join a group of soldiers. This time I whisper to one of them “Someone is out there”. I smile as he sends a flare skyward. The light replaces darkness, and there by the wire I see my counterpart. ” Here they come” I whisper to another man and he reacts by using his weapon. It barks out, casting streaks of fire across the land. This will give me some time that I need, but I must check to see if it is enough. I must hurry still.
Now back at the crater I see that my plan is working. The friend has found the injured man. With a new-found strength, they struggle to make it back to the line. I check the distance they need to go, then look to death. It will be too close. I must distract death a bit longer. Inspiration comes to me. I place my hand into the cold wet ground and search it. There! I close my fingers on what I need. A simple seed, not more that a black speck. With a grin, I pull my hand back away, and in its place stands a single red poppy.
I watch death approach where the flower now stands. He slows, then stops. As he bends to inspect it, I look back to the pair of soldiers. I watch with satisfaction as they drop back to the safety of waiting hands. Death does not see that though. He is busy stamping down the poppy. Now he stalks to the shell hole to find that his quarry has gone. I smile. I turn and leave this no man’s land. Time for a bit of rest. Tomorrow the game will start again. What will happen then I can’t say, but for now my brother. I win.
They call this place no man’s land. That is not entirely true. I am here. It is where I live, my kingdom if you will. The utter destruction and wreckage of spent lives. From all this I grow strong. My realm has been in many places through the ages. Mankind is so very kind to have continually provided lodging for me. It is in their nature you see. They have a wish to dominate each other, which they cannot control. This is how it has always been, and always will be. It brings a smile to my face for I am death.
I walk this land, through the darkness of night in search of the dead and the dying. This is how I feed. Out there tonight is my next meal. Some poor soul, barely clinging to this world, hoping beyond hope that someone will find him. That someone will drag him back from the edge of the abyss which is death. But he fears too. It is his fear that draws me to him. A sweet taste, to be enjoyed as a fine wine. Across the shattered land I glide. Past ruined buildings, and smashed war machines. I pause to admire their beauty. It is the by product of these, that feeds me so well.
Soon I stand at the top of a shell hole. There below me is my prey. A shattered young man, maybe twenty years old at the most. Slowly he raises his head, hope rising. Then through pain filled eyes he sees me, and knows me for what I am. He knows his time is short, that I will descend upon him and take him to everlasting night. His despair washes over me, and I drink it in. But I am in no hurry to take him just yet. Fear must be given time to age. And so I pass him by. It is enough now for him to have seen me, to know his fate is sealed. That soon I’ll return to gather him up. For now he is going nowhere. There is time yet, and there are many other toys to play with in my kingdom.
As I pass near the battle lines of one of the feuding sides, I here talking. I listen to their voices, hushed words to a friend unseen in the dark. Whispered so it is not loud enough for those on the other side to hear. But I hear their words, and decide to toy with them for a while. I reach down a grasp a wire, placed out here to slow down a foe. This will do quite nicely. With I small tug the wire shakes and tinkles in a metallic ring. The talking quickly stops. Alert, they are searching the shadows for the enemy. I repeat the sound, and a flare arches into the dark sky. Surreal shadows swirl around me and I feel as though I’m standing in the middle of a grand ballroom full of dancers. Shouts of alarm call out. Then a machine gun barks out, throwing its fiery streaks of light into the night air. The stream of death plays across me and I laugh. These foolish mortals, don’t they know that can’t kill me? I am death, I am the thing that goes bump in the night, I am their worst nightmare come to walk this earth. I can not be defeated.
Soon I grow bored with this game. Play time is done for now, but soon enough I’ll return to gather these men up too. In the end I alway do. They fear the night, which is good. They know one day I will wrap them in my cold embrace and remove them from this world. It is their fear that will guide me back to them. They have been marked as mine. Now I hunger, the time has arrived for me to eat. Back through the twisted landscape I travel. Then something catches my eye. I bend to look at it, and find it is a red flower. Out here in all this ruin, it grows. There is no place for life here! So I crush it under my heel. With a grin on my face I continue on, till I again stand at the top of the shell hole. But something is not right. There is no fear now. Gone is the terror of the dying man. No longer smiling, I jump down into the blasted crater to search but find nothing. How could this be? He is gone! My meal has fled. Then I remember the flower, and all is clear to me. Perhaps I shouldn’t have lingered, seen to my work instead of playing with the soldiers. As I climb back out of the hole a faint light flickers in the distance briefly before vanishing from view. Now I smile again. Well played brother, well played indeed!