Friday, September 18, 2015

Flash Fiction Contest #1

**Flash Fiction Contest #1 is CLOSED.**
The next contest runs Friday, Oct. 16, 2015 at 6 a.m. ET to Sunday, Oct. 18, 2015 at 3 a.m. ET.
Check the #OAFlash hash tag for sneak previews starting the Monday before.

Good morning, everyone, and welcome to our first flash fiction contest! I'm so excited that you've stopped by. In just a moment, I'm going to give you a story prompt and you're going to scurry off and create flash that will dazzle me. Before we get started, let's get the rules out of the way.

The Rules
  1. This should be an original work of fiction written by you. Don't plagiarize. Don't violate copyright laws. Don't write fan fiction. Don't write thinly veiled fan fiction. Added 10/2: Copyright law says that song lyrics are off-limits, but song titles generally are not.
  2. You need to use the prompt's idea, but you don't have to use the actual words in your story unless I specify. If I can't figure out how your story relates to the prompt, I'm not going to pick it, even if it's the best thing I've ever read in my life, ever, of all time.
  3. Post your entry in the comments section by 11:59 p.m. Pacific Time on Saturday. Any entry after that date will not be considered. IMPORTANT NOTE: That means posting here (a publicly accessible blog) uses your First Electronic Rights for this piece, even if you're not chosen as the winner. If you're not sure what that means, I suggest googling it because it's an important thing for a writer who is or wants to be published to understand.
  4. This is a PG-13 blog, so please write your entry accordingly. I'll be flexible with most things, but absolutely no gory horror or erotica, graphic depictions of violence or abuse, or racism/sexism/homophobia/etc. Misanthropy is fine, though, since I'm a bit of a misanthropist myself. (Don't tell anyone.)
  5. Stay within the word count. I will use MS Word to check, and if you've gone over--yes, by even one word--I will disqualify you. The point of flash is to cram a good story into a small space, and most flash markets are inflexible on their word counts, so practice, practice, practice.
  6. Anything violating these rules and/or that we deem as contrary to the positive nature of this blog may be deleted without prior warning.
  7. Added 9/20:  Winners are welcome to enter again (please, come have fun with us!), but I won't choose you again for three months.
  8. Added 10/16: Include your name (or at least, what you want your badge to say) and your Twitter handle (if, ya know, you're on Twitter).
If you have any questions, feel free to post them in the comments.

So now that we have that out of the way, let me get some more housekeeping clear before I give you your prompt.

The Picking of the Winner

I plan to have the winner posted by Sunday at 10:30 p.m. Eastern (because that's my bedtime). Whether I can or not will depend on how many entries we get.

I will be judging the entries based on my own personal preferences. This is for fun and practice, although we may offer prizes in the future if you guys like this event enough. So just to be clear, this week's prizes are 1) bragging rights, 2) a nifty badge that Awesome Operative Toni Kerr created that you can use on your blog or website or paste to your forehead, and 3) to improve your own writing.

I know I said that in my intro post, and some of you might have thought, "Isn't that quaint?" but I really mean it. For a long time, I worked on one novel at a time, linearly, one foot in front of the other. And that's fine--if that's your bag, baby, I'm not criticizing. But when I started working on short stories, my creativity expanded. I was astounded, to be quite honest. The more stories I'm working on at a time, the more ideas I have. The more ideas I have, the more motivated I am to get things written. Now I'm churning out short stories, and I have a big, ol' list of ideas I can pick from whenever I have a spare moment to write something new. Perhaps if you haven't done something like this before, we can help you dip your toe in that water.

All right, so enough about why you should do it. If you're still with me, I'm sure you're convinced. So what's going to strike my fancy? It depends.

Here's some things I like: speculative fiction, surprises, quirky characters, likable villains, short-winded purple prose, moral gray areas, harmless snark, amusing misanthropy, dark and twisty plots, stories with a beginning/middle/end.

Here's some things I don't like: bugs/spiders, poetry, long-winded purple prose, typical hero protagonists, character/setting sketches, stories that end without closure or end on a note that makes me scratch my head.

But--and this is a big but, which I also like, a hee hee hee--don't let that stifle your creativity. Maybe my prompt gives you a great idea, and you're sure I won't like it. Who cares? If that's what's in you to write, write it, post it, get passed over by me, and go on to expand it into a bestselling novel with a six-figure movie deal.

Then again, maybe I'll love it. That's a lesson for the writing world at large, too. In the words of the illustrious CC Finlay, who, by the way, you should be subbing to on a regular basis:

All right, enough babble. Here we go.

Flash Fiction Prompt For Friday, September 18, 2015

Length: 500 words or less
Prompt: Learning how to walk
Deadline: Saturday, September 19, 2015 at 11:59 p.m. Pacific Time
Number of entries accepted per person: 2

Go forth and write!


  1. This was fun! Here's my attempt!

    The twelve-hour operation was over hours ago, but the anesthesia hit Amit harder than me. My first chance at freedom? Spent in bed, like always. It didn't matter that the nerves and ligaments and muscles were all in the right places now or that the nanobot results were stellar. Until Amit opened his perfect eyes, we wouldn't be doing any walking.

    A nurse hurried in and checked our file. I bared my teeth at her. She scurried out. Ha.

    With our right hand, I poked Amit's cheek. Dead to the world. How could the drugs affect him more than me? My twin and I shared half our organs.

    I poked him again, then gave up.

    Death by boredom.

    TV was stupid. Internet was stupid. Amit had twice as many followers on Twitter. His smile never forced anyone away.

    I turned to him. Maybe Amit's popularity would plummet...if they saw him drooling on his pillow.

    I held my phone so both our heads were in the picture and smiled. Damn. Even with drool his face was friendlier. I clicked anyway.

    Post-op. Waiting for sleepyhead so we can finally learn to walk.

    Seconds later, I had twelve faves. I had fans too.

    "Hey, Mahesh." Amit's voice sported that edge that said he was seconds from freaking out.

    "It's fine," I told him. "They're ready when you are."

    He rubbed his eyes with our left hand. "And the nanobots?"

    "Doc says they're working as they should. Give 'em a wiggle." I held my breath. That had been the hardest part of watching him sleep: waiting to see theory turn into reality.

    Our right toes flexed, then our left. With a grin, Amit lifted each leg in turn, bent each knee. "Have you tried?"

    I swallowed. "Doesn't work for me. But that's what the docs said to expect, right?"

    He leaned his head against mine. Before he could try to say something to make it better—nothing could make it better—I pressed the call button.

    That same nurse skittered into the room. "Yes?"

    I kept my face neutral. "We're ready."

    "Wonderful. I'll let them know." She smiled at both of us. But longer at Amit. Whatever.

    "Can you imagine, Mahesh? We can go anywhere now. We can walk into a restaurant. Stroll through a park. Where to first?"

    I closed my eyes. Wide blue water, sparkling under the summer sun. Would it feel different from the hospital pool? "Granny's lake," I said.

    Amit beamed while he paddled happily with our feet. "The lake it is!"

    We bumped fists, and I cursed myself. Amit didn't deserve an asshat brother. With a shallow breath, I scrolled on my phone. Twitter. Own tweets. Delete.

    The team of doctors stormed our room. "Gentlemen, who's ready to learn how to walk?"

    Father squeezed into the corner, his camera ready. My cheeks stretched wide, even though I knew what it looked like to outsiders. Amit and I pushed ourselves up from the oversized hospital bed. We were ready.

  2. Look at them. They can do whatever they want. They want to eat? They walk to the pantry and get food. They want to play? They walk over to the toy box and pick something out. If they want to go outside, they put their shoes on and walk out the door.

    I don’t even have shoes. The one they call “Mom!” put some on me today. I liked how they squished my toes, even though it made it hard to yank off my socks. I bet they would have tasted amazing, too, but before I could get one in my mouth Mom! ripped them off my feet and put them back.

    “When you start walking, little one,” she cooed, in that special voice she only uses with me. I stared at the shoes as we walked away (Correction: Mom! walked, I rode in the uncomfortable metal seat), but she didn’t notice because the short one and the shorter one got into a fight. The shorter one cried, which was nothing new. I didn’t even bother to reach for the shoes and squeal because Mom! was busy brushing imaginary dust off him and yelling through her teeth at the short one.

    Dad! appeared after the shorter one stopped crying. “Look at these slippers, honey!” He handed Mom! a pair of brown shoes. Too big for me, but I reached for them anyway. “They’re soft. Feel them!” He put the shoes in front of me and placed my hand inside them, as if I couldn’t do it myself.

    Back at home, I was put in the mesh cage while Dad! walked around in his new soft shoes and the short one and the shorter one chased each other. Look at them! Legs pumping, feet pushing off the ground, moving forward. It’s so simple! So maddeningly simple! A wail of rage and frustration bellowed from my throat.

    “I think she wants out,” Dad! said to Mom!, who shrugged.

    “I’m making dinner. You keep an eye on her.”

    “Yes, I will. I will keep an eye on the princess,” Dad! said. He made a funny face at me, lips scrunched together, eyes bugged out. His face went back to normal suddenly, as he pulled the white thing out of his pocket. “Hello?”

    I waved, but he ignored me. I got placed on the floor while he walked away. The short one and the shorter one were on the couch, faces turned towards the screen on the wall. They weren’t likely to look at me anytime soon. Mom! had her back to me in the kitchen. I could smell that she also wouldn’t pay attention to me.

    I dragged myself to a chair, pulling myself up until I was standing. I let go with one hand. Laughter erupted from the couch. A loud beeping from the kitchen. In the background, Dad!’s voice from another room.

    I let go with the other hand.

    Legs pumped. Feet pushed. Moved forward.

    Look at me.

    Look at ME.

  3. Laney pulled the curtain back and peeked out the side window. The tulips were blooming. Last time she’d looked out, there were daffodils. She dropped the curtain and went back to her chair. Tomorrow, she told herself. Tomorrow, I’ll go for a walk. Maybe to the corner. Then next week, to the store, or the coffee shop. Maybe even the park.

    No. Not the park.

    She sat in the dark, staring at the rabbit ears on the old TV, and daydreamed of next week. She’d feel better then.

    Laney shuffled into the kitchen the next morning and opened the refrigerator. She sighed and closed the door. Time to order groceries. She made some coffee and ate her last granola bar as she placed the order online and checked her email. She stared at her inbox. Another email from her sister. Why couldn’t Jen understand? Next week, she emailed. I’ll come over next week.

    Her morning nap was interrupted by noises outside. Sounded like a semi-truck. Laney frowned. She heaved herself out of the recliner and looked out the window. A moving van? The Lewis’s house next door must have finally sold. A young woman directed three men with furniture as a young man corralled two small children.

    “Those kids’ll be all over my tulips,” Laney said to the curtain. She sighed and went back to keep the recliner company.

    Three days later, there was a knock at the door. Laney jumped in the recliner, her heart racing. Had something happened to Jen? The kids? But no. It was the young woman next door.

    “Hi! I’m Emily.” The woman held out a plate of cookies with a smile. “We’re going to be neighbors, and, well, I hear you don’t get out much, so I thought I’d bring you some cookies.”

    Laney stared at the plate. Last year, she would have taken cookies to them. “Thank you.”

    “You’re welcome.” Emily looked around. “You have a fantastic porch. You should use it more often. If our house had a porch like this, I’d sit out here all day.”

    Laney stepped out and looked around. The old house had a big wrap-around porch, with a swing and ceiling fans. It was the main reason she and Roger had bought it. She sighed as she realized that the thought would have made her cry a year ago. Maybe she ought to sit on the porch.

    “Would you like to sit with me and have a cookie?” she found herself asking Emily. “You’re right. I ought to spend time out here more often.”

    Emily smiled. “I can stay for a little bit, but I need to get my steps in.” She pulled out a pedometer. “I walk every day when the kids are in school. I walk from here to the park and back. Would you like to walk with me sometime?”

    Laney took a deep breath. The park. Well, she had to get out sometime. She needed this.

    “That sounds great. Thank you.”

  4. A step. The eleven month old wanted one tiny step forward. With determination similar to an Olympic medalist, she lifted her left leg, while her small, chubby right leg wobbled. In an instant her body swayed and she steadied herself using the table as her security blanket.
    “That was much too close.” Her mother’s voice quivered and she leaned toward Sophia with her arms stretched out.
    The dad’s arm went around her waist. “Nope. Let her be.”
    The child looked up, scrunched her forehead, and let go. Again she lifted her left leg; this time it landed a quarter of a foot ahead of her body.
    She lifted her right leg and brought it next to the left.
    Her father smiled, nodding his head, and whispered, “You see, give her a chance.”
    “But she’s so tiny. I don’t want her to get hurt.”
    The mom placed her blonde head on his shoulder.
    “Darling her bottom is well padded. The rug is beneath her. Even the bumper surrounding the table has a foot of batting. She won’t get hurt.”
    He kissed the top of her head.
    The mom lightly slapped his arm and then sighed, “Stop exaggerating it’s only about an inch.”
    He laughed, “That’s because you couldn’t stuff anymore under that cover.”
    The mom peeked at the child, and said, “Oh, my. She’s half way down the table and we didn’t see it.”
    The dad twisted and said, “Well, how about that. “
    The intensity in the child’s eyes focused back on a red ball. Sophia grunted, lifted her right leg, and then lowered it.
    Her mom wrung her hands, “She must be exhausted and tired. Why don’t we scoop her up and let her have a snack? And then her nap?”
    She went to move around him, but he pulled her back.
    “Let her finish. She can eat and then nap afterwards.”
    “But she’ll be overtired. And then she’ll be cranky all afternoon.”
    Sophia took two more steps and reached the end of the table. Her eyes stared at the ball and she pursed her lips.
    “Honey, she can do it. We just have to relax.”
    He nuzzled her neck and lowered his voice, “Sophia will let us know when she’s had enough.”
    Another few steps and then the child fell to the floor with a thump.
    “Oh, I can’t stand this,” her mom reached for Sophia, but he pulled her back.
    “No matter how hard it is, we can’t jump in every time we think she needs help you know.”
    Sophia pouted and then stood up, holding on to a chair. She ventured with one foot in front of the other she continued her journey, until she plopped down in front of the ball. She grabbed the ball, and squeezed it; triumphant written all over her chubby face.
    Her mom rushed to her side and squealed, “My big girl! You walked across the room!”
    “She sure did!” He snickered, “And without your mama’s help. I’m so proud!”

  5. Semua pasti memiliki keluahan dengan kesehatannya, jangan pernah bilang saya baik-baik saja sedangkan anda sendiri nantinya akan terserang oleh penyakit. Jagalah kesehatan anda dengan dibantu oleh sebuah supelem alami yang diproduksi menggunakan teknologi modern termutakhir dan sudah berstandar indoneisa. Menjadikan produk alami buatan perusahaan China ini sangat diunggulkan di dalam hal pengobatan. Segera coba kekhasiatannya. Cek langsung di bawah ini :

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  6. Semua pasti memiliki keluahan dengan kesehatannya, jangan pernah bilang saya baik-baik saja sedangkan anda sendiri nantinya akan terserang oleh penyakit. Jagalah kesehatan anda dengan dibantu oleh sebuah supelem alami yang diproduksi menggunakan teknologi modern termutakhir dan sudah berstandar indoneisa. Menjadikan produk alami buatan perusahaan China ini sangat diunggulkan di dalam hal pengobatan. Segera coba kekhasiatannya. Cek langsung di bawah ini :

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  7. You yawn as you wake from the anesthesia, greeted by the doctor pulling back the curtain. He places a breathing mask over your face as you realize… you weren’t scheduled for any surgery.

    A scared child under the covers and a twin under the bed. You draw your blade slowly with a wicked smile, which to kill first?

    The reflection in the mirror grins at you malevolently. Suddenly its smile drops and turns to terror as it points to something behind you.

    You look down at your body, the same dream every night. Tonight though, cold breath brushes the back of your neck.

    You mimic your mother as she mouths, “Only boring people get bored.” You giggle as you pull your hand from her neck and let her head fall to the floor.

    Ben Baxter @TheBenBaxter



    It was late Autumn and a bad storm was brewing. Dark, billowy clouds appeared ready to burst. In the distance, a young sparrow flapped his wings wildly, hoping to make it home before the clouds released the water and quenched the earth.

    Suddenly, from out of nowhere, an odd-looking creature appeared before his eyes. The blue stranger had a round, swollen body, a long tail, but no feathers or even a beak.

    Never in his life, had the little bird seen such an ugly beast. It did not look like a bird. It did not look like a plane. It did not look like anything he had ever seen flying over the clouds.

    Bolts of lightning flashed around the bird as he struggled to maintain his balance. The stranger did not appear to be worried about the storm brewing around him.
    “Maybe he’s a foreigner,” the bird chirped.

    The puffy stranger continued to float upward. It bobbed its body back and forth and swished its tail in frenzy. As it came really close, the creature nodded. The sparrow had to warn him.

    “A storm is coming!” he hollered. “You need to find shelter soon!”

    The creature did not answer. He just continued on his merry way and totally ignored the warning. It was obvious that he was not concerned about his fate.
    “Maybe he didn’t hear me,” said the little sparrow.

    The melon-shaped beast continued to rise until it slipped into the dark, ominous clouds and disappeared.

    A short time later, a second creature appeared. This one was green and it too had an inflated body.

    “Your friend just traveled into the clouds and vanished!” the little bird yelled at him. “I tried to warn him about the storm but he did not listen!”

    The green stranger also snubbed the friendly bird and continued its upward voyage behind his friend. Then, it too, slipped into the thick, grey clouds and disappeared.

    “Why didn’t they listen to me,” said the frustrated little bird.

    The weary sparrow was almost home when a third creature floated by. This one looked like the other two except that it was green.

    “I must warn him,” said the little bird. “Maybe this one will listen.”

    “A storm is brewing! You need to find shelter soon!” he hollered at the bloated stranger as it whizzed by.

    Again, the creature did not say a single word and simply followed its friends into the dark, murky clouds.

    The little bird watched as the creature slipped into the clouds and then it fizzled out.

    “I’m so sorry,” said the little sparrow. “I really tried to warn them of the danger but they just ignored me.”
    The strange creatures were balloons.

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