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)
I’m pleased to announce the creation of “Fictional Campfire“. This brand new blog will offer me a place to work on my fiction writing skills without worrying about how it fits with the “Other Side of 40” theme. I hope that you can drop by and maybe pull up a camp chair. The fire is burning, and the stories are just about to start.
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)
I got this song stuck in my head this week, and just couldn’t get it out. Even now it’s still in there, making the inside of my brain look like the floor of a movie theater after a show (can I get a clean up in theater 1 please!). So I’m going to do what any person that has an earwig (song stuck in their mind) would do, and that is share! (insert evil laugh) With any amount of luck it will go visit someone else, and leave me to pick kernels out of my ears.
You have to love the Swedish Chef, even though you can’t understand him. To me he will always ranked up there with Emeril (bam!) and Chef Julia Child (bon appétit) as one of the greats. Bonus points if you can you figure out what he is making? Think about it, it will come to you (eventually)!
Så tills nästa vecka, njut! (Swedish for “So until next week, enjoy!”)
(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