Tag Archives: flash fiction

A story composed entirely of one-syllable words

One of my most read posts ever is this one, a piece on why inflated, pretentious writing sucks. Part of what shaped that view was an essay I read in college that only used single-syllable words to demonstrate the beauty of simplicity. The title and author of that essay has long since left my memory, but the idea remains an important one to me.

I don’t know what made me think of it, but I decided tonight to try something similar with a work of flash fiction. Normally I revise the hell out of my stories and agonize over every line, but this is a raw experiment. That’s the fun of blogging, I suppose, not worrying about perfection or publication or adding to your body “legitimate” work. Tell me what you think, or try one like it on your own blog and post a link in the comments.

car

Barb Meant It

I know she saw me. I heard the noise, turned, and our eyes locked. Her teeth were bared, like a dog’s.

She meant to hit me.

In court, Barb tells the judge I “ran out.” She says she could not stop in time. Blah blah blah. It was pure chance she hit me, of all the scum on Earth, she says. Or, she tells the judge, it was guilt. That is, I ran out in the street to snuff it on a car hood from guilt for what I did to Gail, and by pure luck it was her car hood. A death wish, she calls it, which is a bunch of shit. I have no guilt, and, trust me, no death wish. I like it here. Well, I liked it back when I had yet to be mashed by a car.

Be straight, Barb. Own it. You meant to hit me. You meant to bounce me off your hood. You meant for my bones to break, my flesh to tear, my life to bleed out. I don’t blame you. You knew what I did to Gail. Worse, you knew I had fun with what I did to Gail. Poor Gail, still not found.

In court, I want to shout, “I know where she is, Barb. No one knows but me.” I want to taunt her with, “I played with her for days, Barb. She was lots of fun, first warm then cold.”

What would you do? Barb just lied! She said she did not see me, and they buy it for God’s sake. I want to hurt her soul with talk of Gail and all the bad things I did.

But Barb can’t hear me or see me. No one can. Not since I heard that car noise, saw Barb’s teeth and mad eyes, and felt that big, hard slam. A man turned to a bag of blood and bones, in a flash. A bag of bones deep in the cold ground now, just like Gail.

A ghost, doomed to walk that space not light or dark, up or down, in or out (or some crap like that… it’s not like they tell you), I go to court to hear Barb lie. She lies real good, and I guess she thinks court oaths are a joke too.

I mean, how could I have known Gail had a twin? A twin who is a stone cold bitch, natch.

************

My inspiration for this subject matter came indirectly from a “literary suspense” novel I just finished in which the killer, a mutilator of women, escapes at the end. I don’t mind dark or violent content (duh, I write horror stories), but I do find this conclusion distasteful and unsatisfying. Many good books have forced us to identify with a bad person or a criminal. However, this particular work left me feeling that the writer had two agendas: to set up a sequel and to screw with reader expectations, the latter of which is fine in some circumstances, but not in this one. Either that, or the writer truly thinks we like this repugnant character. I hope not. Anyway, the killer in the above story gets no such mercy from me.

Update: A two-syllable word found it’s way in thanks to a last-second tweak before I posted. Example # 753 why you can’t edit your own material.

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Worst 100-Word Story… My Version

So apparently there’s this newfangled concept I just found out about called “being ethical.” Basically it means I cannot enter a Worst Story contest I am judging because I will be “biased.” Can you believe that malarkey? Think of the time and effort I’d save by winning a prize that’s already in my possession!

Anyway, now that my worst story contest is over and the winner announced, I might as well show you what I would have submitted (title not included in the word count). I hope you think it sucks:

Brock and Gwendolyne

Love Reflected is Love Unaccepted

By Eric J Baker

“Gwendolyne!” Brock proffered feelingly.

“Don’t,” Gwendolyne chirped in response, feelingly. She turned away.

“But… I don’t love you,” he announced, somewhat less feelingly.

She turned. “What?” She was surprised.

“I am in love with Robotman,” he declared with finality. He turned. “It’s true.”

She turned. “But I love Robotman. What shall we do?”

“I don’t know.” They turned.

From a distance, Robotman watched with unnecessarily luminous eyes, unbothered by the sunlight glinting off his chrome. He did not love either of them. He lacked human feeling. He wasn’t even sad about it. Then he activated “Giant Mode” and flew away.

**************


Worst Short Story Contest… We Have a Winner!

Captain Kirk

Or should I say “Winner?”

Many fine entries were submitted. The depths of badness (in 100 words or less) were plumbed. New types of terrible were discovered.

It came down to two finalists for me. Like all those who entered, both are terrific writers in “real life.” It takes that kind of talent to pull off creative awfulness. But there can only be one winner. And that winner is:

Tuesday, the force behind the WordPress blog From Tuesday With Love (no links, because pingbacks ruin the surprise). What set her story apart was not only its badness but that she wrote it in the voice of the air-headed characters who appear in the text. It also made me laugh the most, which is pretty much my only real criterion here. Tuesday is soon to be the proud owner of William Shatner’s Transformed Man CD. It is the first prize in the history of contests that actually nets the winner a tax refund, given it’s undesirability and negative value. Ain’t she lucky?

The runner up, in very close second, is the one and only Roger Colby, author and provider of in-depth writing talk on his blog Writing is Hard Work. His entry was a masterwork of circular storytelling, pointless conflict, and lifeless conclusion.  Tuesday’s and Roger’s stories appear below.

Tuesday’s winner:

There were girls by this lake where a monster was living it like a loch ness monster or something but then other people didn’t believe there was a monster and they just thought it was fog or something. Anyway there were these two girls and they were talking and texting on their phones and it made the monster mad so he went Grrr. The one girl asked the other girl what’s that and the other girl said what’s what and then the first girl said I asked you first. Then the girls got ate by the monster because they’re annoying.

Roger’s runner-up:

“Harold.”
“Yes, Grant.”
“What is in that brown bag?”
“Cancer.”
The two men stared at each other.  Harold was sad and Grant was also sad.
“You have cancer in that bag?”
Harold and Grant turned around and looked towards the sun.
“Yes, I have cancer in that bag.”
Sure thing he had some cancer in his bag and the bag was all crumpled and not able  to handle the cancer.
“I’m just kidding about the cancer, Grant.”
“Why would you kid about that, Harold?”
“‘Cause I’m a kidder, Grant.”
The two men walked towards the sun, still really sad.

*******

Thanks so much to all of you who entered. You really all did a wonderful job. If you submitted and would like me to run your story for the enjoyment of everyone, please say so in the comments and I will in the weeks ahead!

*******

 If you haven’t gotten enough of my shenanigans, check out Kris Keppler’s podcast of a recent blog post of mine right here. Thanks Kris! You should be on NPR.


It’s not too late to enter my Worst Short Story contest!

Frankenstein Meets the Space MonsterI’ve gotten some good, I mean bad submissions so far, but I hope to see even more drek before this whole thing is done. Make the judging really painful for me!

You have until 11:59:59.999999 p.m. on September 30th to enter. The rules, prize, and other details are here, but the basics are: I’m looking for the worst short story you can write in 100 words or fewer. This is real Blaze of Glory stuff. Make your family proud.


Enter My “Worst Short Story” Contest!

dog typing

Why pay money to some jerk to submit your writing when you can enter my contest for free? Especially when the winner of my contest gets a real honest-to-goodness prize?*

That’s right; I am sponsoring my very first ever Worst Short Story Contest.  I’m looking for the absolute worst piece of flash fiction you can come up with. I want clichés, cringe-inducing dialog, hideous metaphors, and whatever else you can squeeze into 100 words.

The rules:

1. Your story must be 100 words or shorter. I’ve haven’t got all day!

2. It must be something unpublished that you wrote.

3. It must follow qualify as a work of fiction with at least one character and some sort of conflict.

4. You are not permitted to cry if you win. There’s no crying in fiction.

Sign here if you agree to these terms _________________________ (go ahead and write on the monitor. It’s fine)

*Anyone can enter, but I’m only shipping the prize within the continental U.S. I love you, but my love is worth $2.50 in first-class shipping, not some crazy airmail amount. More details below.

If I get swamped with entries, I will have to come back to this post and update it as “closed.” If I don’t get any entries, I will be embarrassed, so make sure you submit something. I am the judge, jury, and executioner, and I will announce the winner at the end of September (21 days from now, which is plenty of time for you to come up with something dreadful). I will run the winning entry in October, along with three runners up, if I get enough submissions.

Want to know what you are playing for?

Only a brand-spankin’ used copy of William Shatner’s The Transformed Man, featuring such classics as “Mr. Tambourine Man” and “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds.” Sweet!

shatner 001

Estimated prize value:  Negative $3

HOW TO ENTER: Go to my contact tab above and e-mail your story (pasted into the e-mail only… no attachments, please) with the subject line: Worst Story Submission.

Disclaimers: As I wrote above, I’m only mailing this CD within the continental U.S. first class via the USPS, because overseas shipping is insane. Trust me, you don’t actually want this “music.” If the winner comes from outside the lower 48, I will instead donate $5 to a an established national or international charity of her choice, provided it is not in any way religious, anti-gay, racist, or political, and I reserve the right to ask for a second choice if I am morally opposed to the first one. Oh yeah, I’m asking for one-time rights to publish the winning entry and those of up to 3 runners up (if I get enough submissions), mostly because it sounds cool, like I’m a publisher or something. One entry per person, please.

Good luck! I think?


Hey, Writers. Are You Brave Enough for This?

brave

I thought of a fun idea. Well, fun for me but potentially mortifying for you. Sound enticing?

Who among you is bold enough to offer up a piece of your writing for me to edit in public? By that I mean you send me a flash story or essay, and, right here at Clawing at the Keys, I will post the original piece, followed by the piece with my edits visible, and finally the revised version, in one sequence.

Your submission should be an original, unpublished, and self-contained work by you, either fiction or nonfiction, under 250 words, and not previously edited. Second or third drafts are probably a good choice. No erotica or excerpts, please, for different reasons.

If you are brave, insane, or masochistic enough for this adventure, please volunteer in the comments section below. We will exchange the actual piece via e-mail later. If you are not brave enough, please leave a comment anyway. I am emotionally vulnerable and will assume you have forgotten about me.

Note: You will not receive a prize for participating. However, several years from now, you will be able to say, “Hey, remember that thing that happened that time?”

Second note, even better than the first one: Please don’t send something you are passionate about and intend to publish later. This is for demonstration and for fun, so don’t waste a passion piece on me. Send fluff.

Third note, when notes start getting boring: If I get multiple volunteers, I can do more than one post. However, if a piece needs extensive rewrites, it won’t serve the purposes of fun and demonstration, so I might pass.

Ciao!

________________________________________________


Mole People Fan Fiction

I never knew until my last post how much you loved Mole People, so I’ve decided to dip my toes in the fan-fiction pool for the first time ever. Thanks for the inspiration! My apologies to Universal Pictures for the copyright infringement, but they shouldn’t have made their mole people so damned sexy.

And now, without further b.s., the greatest work of Mole People Fan Fiction ever created:

Levity is the Mole of Wit

By Cire Nhoj Rekab

mole manBella Swan and Darth Vader sat back to back, their hands bound with tree roots, as the Mole People brought forth armfuls of sticks. Here, deep within the Earth’s crust, a breeze issued from an ancient lava tube, chilling Bella’s arm and shoulder exposed by the tear in her dress.

They were about to die, burned alive in sacrifice to the insect god Garfoobel.

The raven-haired Bella showed no fear (a childhood injury had paralyzed her face muscles, which often led people to wonder if she could act feel emotion at all). Yet she was fearless not from bravery. Being this close to Vader, feeling the firm muscles of his black-caped back press against her flawless, porcelain skin, hearing the masculine hiss of his breathing apparatus… made her feel so alive. “Let them bring fire,” she thought. The burning she felt for Vader was hotter than the torches of a thousand Mole People.

But Vader pondered not love or fire. He thought of what he had witnessed just hours before aboard the Enterprise, a scene that shook him to his very respirator: Captain Kirk and Spock, lying in passionate embrace beneath satin sheets, violating Starfleet regulations nine ways to Sunday. Despite all his power, Vader could not Force the image from his mind.

“I see you’ve resigned yourselves to your fates,” said Ian, the Mole Person in charge of gathering flammable materials for sacrifice. “That’s good. Your little wizard friend, with the funny glasses and the yellow and maroon scarf… he thought he could defeat the great god Garfoobel, but he was wrong.”

Bella thought that skull stuck in the dirt over yonder had looked familiar. If she weren’t so busy brooding, the realization would have made her scream, “Haaaarrryyyy! Noooo!”

Vader mustered all the menace he had in him and turned his helmeted face toward the Mole Person. “Ian. I am your father.”

Ian tossed another branch on the pile. “No you’re not.”

“Search your feelings,” Vader said, impressing himself with his soulful delivery.

“One,” Ian said, “Mole People don’t have feelings. And two, that’s my dad right over there making Garfoobel’s tea. His name’s Archibald but, of course, we call him Stan.”

Damn, Vader thought. That worked so well last time. If only he could shoot finger lightning like the Emperor, this would all be over in a jiffy.

Garfoobel!

Garfoobel!

“Come on, then,” Ian said. “Over to the stake with you. And no funny business.” He hoisted the entwined couple to their feet and shoved them toward the iron post at the center of the Circle of Sacrifice. “You’re actually doing the topsiders a favor, you know. Without human sacrifices, Garfoobel would be up there smashing up the place. So think about that when the fire starts to lick your toes.”

The voice came from behind them. “Stop right there! They’ll be no sacrifice tonight!”

The Mole People, Bella, and Vader whirled around (which should have been a physical impossibility, given that the lovely waif and her planet-destroying love interest were tied together). Standing before them was Dr. Who, pointing his weird little screwdriver thing. His travelling companion, Clara, clung to his arm.

“And why not?” the Mole Person asked.

“Because,” said the natty Time Lord, “You cannot kill trademarked characters like Bella Swan, Darth Vader, and Harry Potter without the expressed written consent of Lionsgate, Disney, and Warner Brothers!”

An epic battle was about to break out when the exceptionally beautiful Clara turned from the page and gazed directly into the eyes of the guy writing this story, which startled him, to say the least. “So why are you wasting your time writing this bollocks? Especially when I’m standing right here, waiting for you to notice me.”

“Well,” the writer said, finding the attention she gave him rather implausible given the severe attractiveness mismatch. “I’ve got this Mole People thing going, and I really ought to–”

With that, Clara stepped through the writer’s laptop screen, into the room, and put her arms around his neck. “You’re new at fan fiction, so I should tell you that you can make it end however… you…want.” She tapped his nose with her index finger for punctuation.

And they lived happily ever after.

Clara (Jenna Louise Coleman),  formerly Dr. Who's time-travelling companion.

Clara (Jenna Louise Coleman), formerly Dr. Who’s time-travelling companion.