I follow an account on Twitter that provides daily six-word story prompts. The account name is Writer.ly and its handle is @WriterlyTweets. I like doing these micro flash fiction stories, as some writers might call them, because it’s challenging to come up with a unique, cohesive short-short-short story. I like to force myself to think outside the box and not go for the obvious. For example, one of the recent prompts asked for a story about a swarm. For many people, that immediately conjures an image of an onslaught of bees or other flying, stinging insects. I wanted to write about something unconventional that can swarm, so that’s why I went with the Elvis fans story.
Anyway, from time to time I’ll be curating collections of these stories and posting them here on my blog. I highly recommend giving it a shot yourself. It can be addictive and it’s a fun brain-tease that keeps the creative juices flowing. Here is my most recent collection from the past couple of weeks. The prompt I responded to is underneath each of my stories.
Hide and Seek
Grace is seven years old. Hide and Seek is her favorite game. Her old Uncle Pete would play it with her almost every day. Then he started asking if she’d touch his secret spot and if he could touch hers. Grace told him, “No,” but Uncle Pete is hard of hearing. Now Grace stays in her hiding place for a long time. Uncle Pete can’t understand why. She still loves to play Hide and Seek, but only by herself.
“Where were you last night?” was something Tina gave up asking many breakfasts ago. She heard Rich purposely clattering dishes in the kitchen, as if to say, “I’ve been home all along and have just gotten up.”
He popped his head out the screen door to see her in the Adirondack chair he’d grown to hate.
“Nope,” she replied without taking her eyes off her book. She took a sip of her tea as the door slammed closed.
The Big Log
“The Big Log” by Robert Plant was on the radio. We were parked deep in the woods across from Mr. Conway’s peach orchard. We left the engine running. It was the beginning of December. The Catholic school girl and the future felon in the back seat of a 1969 Oldsmobile Cutlass.
I wanted to be on top.
I glimpsed my reflection in the rear window as I straddled him. I knew then I wouldn’t come. He came right away.
Last time, he damn near shit his pants. This time he was ready. He gritted his teeth and steeled his will. He knew it would happen again any minute. He stifled a small whimper. Beads of sweat trickled into his eyes. The intensity of anticipation was enough to make his knees buckle.
Finally, the doorbell rang.
He nearly passed out.
“Ok, kid. Do it again.”
The Boy Scout walked away, then back up the steps, finger poised.
She wore the necklace he’d always told her matched her eyes. She grabbed the photo album that he’d made of her 30th birthday party. He would light up when he saw her. They would sit and talk about years past. She rehearsed what to say. When she arrived the nurse gave her his room number. She took a deep breath and entered.
“Hi, Dad,” she said.
His vacant eyes searched her face. “Who the hell are you?” he bellowed.
Back in 2012, Esquire magazine held a short short fiction contest in celebration of its 79th anniversary. The only two rules were that you had to compose a story that did not exceed 79 words in length (excluding the title) and you could only submit one story.
Piece of cake, right?
I worked on several stories that took me a couple of weeks to write, edit, re-write, re-edit, until I finally settled on the one I thought was the strongest and submitted it. Writing short, in this case very, very short, is much more challenging than one might think. The stories were judged on the following criteria: 25% plot, 25% characterization, 25% theme and 25% originality.
I didn’t win.
That’s okay, though. I’m of the belief that no writing effort is a waste of time. I had a lot of fun challenging myself to keep my writing tight and expressive in just 79 words. Not sure I succeeded, but the process is just as important as the end product.
Below is the (non-winning) entry I submitted to Esquire. It’s a bit dark, but that’s how I roll sometimes. It’s loosely inspired by an alleged real-life event that took place in my hometown when I was a kid.
I’ll post more of these 79-word stories over time and attempt to write some new ones.
Off the Beaten Path