Flashtastic Friday

It’s no secret that I like to write flash fiction – but do you?

National Flash Fiction Day (#NFFD) is coming up again soon. Based in the UK, but with a global outlook, the aim of the day (21st June) is to showcase the best flash fiction by posting a new, sub-500 word, story on the FlashFlood website every fifteen minutes for twenty-four hours straight.

Phew. Even writing that makes me feel tired.

For one week – starting today – the organisers are looking for submissions. Previously published stories are okay (so long as you let them know, and provide a link to the original publication); three stories (under 500 words apiece) per author is the maximum they can accept; there is no restriction on genre or subject matter, so long as you stick to the word count.

How utterly fab is that?

You can check out the full details, including how to submit, here. I will do my best (if my skirling, whirling brain will co-operate) to send in some stories for this year’s competition. I submitted in 2013, and one of my entries (‘Earthbound’) was chosen, which was wonderful. Even if you’re not picked, though, it’s still a fantastic thing to take part in an event which has as its sole purpose the celebration and promotion of flash fiction; it’s one of the most exciting and fresh forms of writing out there, if you ask me.

But it’s flash by name, and flash by nature; you don’t have long to get your stories in. So, don’t delay!

Hurry hurry hurry! Image: greenbookblog.org

Hurry hurry hurry!
Image: greenbookblog.org

Also, as I’m sure you’ll have noticed (because you’re all fabulously clever people), it’s Friday. That means Flash! Friday is currently running its weekly competition, looking for the best stories (sub 160 words) based around a photo prompt and a compulsory element which must be somehow included, if not necessarily directly mentioned.

This, as you might imagine, is not as easy as it seems.

It never ceases to amaze me how hard it is to craft a story – including protagonist, antagonist, world, conflict, crucible and resolution – into a tiny space. Not leaving cliffhangers is important; even leaving things unresolved is a huge no-no. Character arcs need to be respected and shored up with cornerstones of wise word choice, deft plotting and a sense of wholeness. Your story world doesn’t have to be completely sorted out by the end of your flash piece, but your character/s need to have turned some sort of corner or made a significant change. Sometimes, I get this right; a lot of the time, though. I don’t quite hit it. Like I said, writing flash is hard, and I’m no expert. Taking part in competitions is a great way to get better at it, though, particularly when your ‘competitors’ (they’re not really competitors) are so talented.

Anyway. This week, the picture prompt was this poignant image:

Image: archives.gov

Image: archives.gov

It is a photograph of a ten-year-old girl named Rose Biodo, and it was taken by Lewis Hine, a social historian documenting the plight of America’s child labour force in the early twentieth century. Rose is pictured carrying two full – and no doubt heavy – pecks of berries. The required element was ‘friendship’ – not necessarily the word itself, but the concept.

And here’s what I came up with. Judge for yourselves whether I hit the ‘brief’ or not.

Secrets Shared

Every bruise aches like it’s freshly planted. ‘If bruises were kisses,’ Rose and I sometimes say, half-smiling, eyes sad.

The sun’s high today. I’m thirstier than hell. Yet still I go, heavily laden.

He beats us for lateness. For spilling. If the berries aren’t best quality. ‘I cain’t use this slop!’ he roars. The boss. Mr Arbuthnot. Got to work up to saying his name, like climbing a rocky hill.

I’m in the dirt before I know it.

‘Lucy!’ Her little voice, her tiny hands. ‘C’mon. Get up!’

‘Rose, leave me.’ My tears burn. My throat’s full of ants. My breath tastes like blood.

Then I feel my berry-full peck, cumbersome, lifted. Rose’s hands around my back.

‘I got you,’ she whispers. ‘Girl, come on. I can’t do this alone.’

Slowly, head swimming, I stand. Rose, carrying my burden, takes my arm. Together we walk, looking for all the world like two true friends, heads together, secrets shared.

**

In other writing news, I’ve taken a notion that ‘Web’, my WiP, may need to be changed from third-person narration to first-person. Hallelujah. I guess all I can do is rewrite the first chapter in the new narrative voice, and see which works better. It would be great to have these epiphanies before you get almost 30,000 words into the work, though, wouldn’t it?

But where would the fun be in that?

Happy Friday, happy writing. Get Flashing, get submitting, and be part of National Flash Fiction Day 2014! Tell ’em I sent ya.*

*Not really. It won’t get you anywhere.

 

 

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