Tag Archives: using image prompts in flash fiction

Warmup Wednesday

Image: Mary, Queen of Scots, Death Mask. CC2.0 photo by Dave McLear. Image sourced: https://flashfriday.wordpress.com/2015/08/19/warmup-wednesday-29/

Image: Mary, Queen of Scots, Death Mask. CC2.0 photo by Dave McLear.
Image sourced: https://flashfriday.wordpress.com/2015/08/19/warmup-wednesday-29/

Aschenputtel’s Axe

Good things come, right, Mama? Not to those who work, like you said, but to those who wait.

My step-sister. Cream of any crop. I knew she had to have a secret, and that I’d find it. Her beauty’s like an oil slick on water, covering an evil soul, and I watch through her keyhole as she lifts off her mask. That perfect face, not her own, in its locked glass case.

I heft my weapon.

I ran her bath; the herbs should make her sleep. I will have time. I’m nimble and quick, and I get the job done.


So, yup. My time for writing flash fiction has gone down the tubes lately; I’ve been busy, and life hasn’t afforded a lot of creative time. This story (while I’m happy to have written it) really demonstrates that writing flash is much like using a muscle; if you don’t keep it warm and limber, you gradually lose the power in it. So, it’s not a great story. It took me far too long. But, nevertheless, I’m happy that it’s here, in public, and not rattling around my head.

Have you checked out Warmup Wednesday! lately? This prompt image (along with the tight restrictions – 100 words, and include some sibling rivalry!) came from there. If you reckon you can do better (and, let’s be fair, you probably can), slide on over and let’s see what you’re made of. Happy writing, y’all.

Flash! Friday – ‘Checking In’

Image: The Beggar. CC 2.0 photo by Image_Michel. Image sourced: flashfriday.wordpress.com

Image: The Beggar. CC 2.0 photo by Foto_Michel.
Image sourced: flashfriday.wordpress.com

Checking In

I settle, cross-legged, on the pavement, my sleeping bag furled beneath me. I hold out my empty cup, trying to remember coffee. I run my dry tongue over my film-coated teeth.

But, I remember: I chose this. There’s no going back.

They clip-clop past me in their heels and polished brogues, with their suits and their pretence. I feel like sticking my leg out and tripping someone, just to see. Just to see if they’d see me, then.

But I’ve worked hard to be invisible.

She stops unexpectedly. Smiling. Tall. Expensively slim. She smells good. I don’t know her, yet I know. How has she found me?

‘It’s time, Agent,’ she says, crouching.

‘Pardon, love?’

Her smile tightens. ‘Enough. You’ve been recalled to active duty. Report to Control by oh-eight-hundred, tomorrow.’

I give her the full benefit of my teeth. ‘Dunno what you’re on about, darlin’.’

She says nothing. Her gaze skewers me.

‘But I left,’ I tell her, my false grin dying.

‘Nobody ever leaves the Service,’ she replies, not unsympathetically. Then, she wrinkles her nose. ‘And do something about that smell, won’t you? Decorum.’

As she walks away, I gaze into my still-empty cup, and sigh. I suppose a small advance would have been too much to ask?


This week’s Flash! Friday challenge was to create a mini-tale from the prompt image, above, which also had to include a spy. Well, I included two, even if one was off-duty (though, as the story asks, is one ever off-duty if one is a spy? Anyway). I wrestled with this piece of flash, just a bit, and I’m glad to see that I beat it into submission, even if it’s a bit of fluff, really, which doesn’t say very much. At least, dear readers, I wrote it, and for that alone I’m glad. By the by, have you ever thought about entering a Flash! Friday challenge? Well, if you never have, this might be the week. There’s a special prize on offer today – as well as being in with a chance of winning, you might also win one of two Golden Tickets to take part in the next FlashDogs Anthology. I already have one, so you’d be joining me and a host of other wonderful folk in a great celebration of all things flash, and indeed, fiction. Give it a go.

The weekend is nearly here, and I hope a good one awaits you all. May it be wordy and bright!

Flash Friday – ‘Judge, Jury, Executioner’

First woman jury, Los Angeles, 1911. Public Domain photo by the Library of Congress. Image sourced: flashfriday.wordpress.com

First woman jury, Los Angeles, 1911. Public Domain photo by the Library of Congress.
Image sourced: flashfriday.wordpress.com

Judge, Jury, Executioner

He looks so fine up there, his head thrown back, a thick pulse thudding at his throat. If it weren’t for his shackles he could almost be in church, a pillar of righteousness.

But instead he’s in the dock, and I’m here.

The judge reviews the evidence, making it sound even more damning than the prosecution had. Gruesome injuries, he drones. Overwhelming strength. I tremble, but the defendant doesn’t hang his head; he stays straight-backed, his eyes fixed in the crowd, on one face in particular.
I don’t have to look to know which one.

When I caught my husband sneaking out at night, I did nothing for the longest time. I waited. I chose my moment carefully, following on silent feet. When I saw him embrace another man – this man, whose life I’m about to judge – a rage like hellfire filled my bones and blood.

So I crept to his house. I murdered his wife. It was as if a demon overtook me.

And when they dragged him to trial, this fine innocent man, he confessed. To spare my husband, he confessed. To spare me the shame.

‘Madam Foreperson. Your verdict, please.’

Like a coward, I rise and condemn him, and his eyes never leave my husband’s face.


This week’s Flash! Friday (which I heartily recommend you try) asks participants to write a story between 190 and 210 words (I barely scraped in!) based around the image prompt, above, and the ‘concept’ prompt of ‘Man vs. Self’. The image prompt was of a jury of women sitting in judgement, and perhaps it’s because of my love of folksongs with their dark, twisty deeds, but the first place my mind went when I thought about interior conflict was this: what if you were judging someone for a crime you knew they hadn’t committed, but you had no choice but to convict them?

Well. And so, this tale was born.

Again, I make no claim to have written a ‘good’ story. It’s a story which didn’t exist an hour ago, and that – for me – is enough. I’ve been finding story-writing tough lately, and so any week in which I can get a story to coalesce long enough to capture it is a good one. Let’s hope it’s a good sign for the rest of the day’s endeavours!

Alors, my loves. I must fly. Happy weekend, one and all, and make sure to do some creative thinking over your down-time. It can only be, I’m assured, a Very Good Thing.

Warmup Wednesday – ‘Unjessed’

The Falconer, Central Park, New York City. CC2.0 photo by Matt Karp.  Image sourced: flashfriday.wordpress.com

The Falconer, Central Park, New York City. CC2.0 photo by Matt Karp.
Image sourced: flashfriday.wordpress.com


There was a time I relished your captivity. Rules. Regulations. Proscriptions. Thou shalt not. It was safe. I was a bird in the hand, watching the world, unwilling or unable to fly.

One blue day, I leapt and was carried, and the sky took me, and it was good. Better than had been promised. Things were different from up here. I called to you, but you couldn’t see. You wouldn’t.

You wait for my obedient return, my bowed head, my supplication. I hear your voice calling, I feel the old pull, but my head bends only to the wind, now.


One of Flash! Friday’s new initiatives is Warmup Wednesday, where participants are asked to write a story of exactly 100 words (no leeway!) based solely around an image prompt. The stories are not judged, and so it’s purely for the fun of creating something new. It’s been so long now since a prompt actually kicked anything off inside my brain that when I saw this image, and it chimed exactly with how I was feeling, I knew I had to write. I did, and I’m so glad.

Because, guess what? It really made me feel better.

A story is, of course, about whatever a reader wants it to be, and I hope that anyone who reads this particular piece will take their own meaning from it. But, personally, it has come from a very deep place of anguish and uncertainty, born out of comments recently made in the media by an Irish Catholic bishop, which shook me to my foundations and made me sick to be a person of faith. It is harder and harder with every passing day, it seems, to be a person of faith in modern Ireland, and to feel the beliefs which have always sustained you slipping away, one by one. I’m not sure what this story ‘says’, but all I know is I’m glad I was able to get the impulse to create it out of my head.

And now, on with your Wednesday. Have a good one. Do some writing, maybe.

Flash Friday – ‘Initiation’

Ye gods and little fishes be praised. It’s Friday, and I’ve actually managed to write a piece of flash fiction for the first time in weeks.

I might cry. Seriously.

Kenya Kittens. CC 2,0 photo by Kerri Lee Smith. Image sourced: flashfriday.wordpress.com

Kenya Kittens. CC 2,0 photo by Kerri Lee Smith. Image sourced: flashfriday.wordpress.com

I had almost given up hope that I’d ever manage to pull the cat (no pun intended) out of the bag ever again, truth be told. My brain’s been a bit out of kilter lately. But this week’s Flash! Friday prompt stirred up several ideas in my poor old skull, and I went with the one that floated to the top.

And so, without further ado, here it is.



‘What you waiting for? Do it!’

The pellet gun’s heavy in my hands, and there’s sweat pooling around my fingers. I stretch them out and resettle them on the trigger, but it doesn’t help.

‘You too chicken, man?’ Allen laughs. I can see his crooked teeth.

‘Poor widdle baby too afwaid to shoot?’ Dean pulls a face, all big eyes and pouting lips. ‘Poor baby afwaid Mommy’s gonna spank him?’

‘Shut up, you guys,’ I mutter. It’s not a smart move. Allen smacks me hard on the arm and steps in close, his breath invading me. I feel the stinging outline of his hand tingling under my skin like a barb. Like I’m in a pit, sides all steep, and there’s a lion coming for my blood.

‘You wanted this,’ he whispers. His words leave a wet cloud on my face. ‘Don’t forget that. There’s guys’d kill to be where you’re standing.’

I blink away. The kitten’s still tied, wide-eyed, too scared to even mewl. Allen fixed the stake down, so it won’t move. The wire’s already cutting into its tiny leg. It knows. I know.


Time the shot with my heartbeat. I’ve only got one pellet.

I swing and take out Allen, and then I run.


The photo prompt was the teeny little kitten, above, and we had to include the character of a ‘gladiator’ – perhaps not literally, but described in terms strongly enough to be evocative of a gladiatorial battle. I was struck straight away by the fact that the image was of a kitten (a baby lion?) looking fearful, and how that was such a reversal of the typical gladiatorial scene, and then my story began to take shape.

So, it’s not the best piece of flash ever written. It’s not going to win any prizes. But, you know? I think it might be the first piece I’ve managed to write this year. That’s sort of scary. Friday the 13th is lucky for some, I guess! Let’s hope this means my mojo is well and truly back… and happy Friday to one and all. Hope to see you on the Flash! Friday podium this week!

Some Resolution-ish Things (and a bit of Flash)

Things are starting to settle back into their normal grooves. People are going back to work. Heads are fuzzy, but clearing. The wrappings and trappings of festivity are being put away. Decisions are being made, darnit. Chins are being set, chests puffed up, arms folded.

This will be my year.

This... will... not... beat... me! Photo Credit: lostinangeles via Compfight cc

This… will… not… beat… me!
Photo Credit: lostinangeles via Compfight cc

January’s good for that sort of thing, isn’t it? February is usually the rock upon which January’s determination founders, but we won’t think about that just now. Right now, we’re on board with positivity. Change. Improvement.

And so this year – this year of our Lord two thousand and fifteen, however that happened – I resolve a few things.

To be more patient. I had a dream last night in which I was a customer in a shop which offered me shoddy service, and I got tetchy with the store assistant. I woke up annoyed with myself because I know the dream reflects reality: I do get tetchy too quickly when things don’t go my way. So, patience. Tolerance. Deep breathing. Smiling. I resolve to do all these things, and to keep doing them.

To read more. I know this sounds odd, because I read a lot anyway. But you can never read enough. Amirite?

To blog less. I’m sorry if this upsets some of my die-hard fans (What? I so have die-hard fans!) but I know that blogging every day can sometimes mean my content isn’t as tip-top as I’d like. So, I’m giving advance warning that my blogging schedule will, most likely, change over the next while. I’m not sure yet exactly how I’ll manage it, but I can promise at least two posts a week, and – with any luck – at least one of those will be on a Wednesday or a Friday which will mean a new story each week, too. It’s a work in progress. Bear with.

To take better care of my health. Mental, physical, all of it. I don’t see the doctor enough, for lots of reasons. I muddle through. I cross my fingers and hope. My luck will run out one of these days, and I want to avoid that. So I’ll be scheduling a health check as soon as possible.

To stop panicking. Stop laughing, all of you.

To learn something new. Maybe a language. Maybe computer programming. Maybe a craft. Who knows? I’ve got to keep the old brain ticking over, is all I can tell you.

To be tidier, generally, than I am at the moment. Mentally, as well as literally. My office is a mess. My house is controlled chaos. I feel, somehow, that this is indicative of my inner reality. So, if I clean up a bit more I’ll instantly become the paragon of virtue and accomplishment to which I’ve always aspired. Right? Right.

And – that’s about it. I’m sure there are at least ten million ways I could self-improve, but I’ll have to work on these few for the moment. If you’re going to eat an elephant you’d better use a long spoon, and all that. (What?)

Anyway, look. Here’s a bit of flash fiction.

Spying, 1972. CC photograph by Daniel Teoli, Jr. Image sourced: https://flashfriday.wordpress.com/2015/01/02/flash-friday-vol-3-4/

Spying, 1972. CC photograph by Daniel Teoli, Jr. Image sourced: https://flashfriday.wordpress.com/2015/01/02/flash-friday-vol-3-4/

Soda for Shirley

Every day. Every day, he showed up, same time and place. Rain, shine – hell, even if it snowed.

Snow? Huh. Stranger things had happened.

He’d only stopped for a soda. One, because he didn’t have enough for two. A soda for Shirley, with a straw and a pretty pink napkin around the cool, sweating bottle. He’d only left her alone for a second, just long enough to hand over his dime.

But when he’d turned around, Shirley was gone, and a yellow Beetle was pulling away. A yellow Beetle with a strange shadow in the driver’s seat and no licence plate, going too fast.

He hadn’t heard the bottle smash. He ran, but it didn’t matter. He lost the car at the next intersection, heart ripping inside him. It vanished, and his baby sister with it.

So now, every day, he showed up, same time and place, waiting.

When the Beetle came back, he’d be ready.


Happy New Year, all y’all, followers old and new. I hope you have a fantastic twelve months ahead.




Flash Friday – Old Saint Nick(ed)

Wanted: Santa Claus. CC artwork by Kevin Dooley. Image sourced: https://flashfriday.wordpress.com/2014/12/19/flash-friday-vol-3-2/

Wanted: Santa Claus. CC artwork by Kevin Dooley.
Image sourced: https://flashfriday.wordpress.com/2014/12/19/flash-friday-vol-3-2/

Old Saint Nick(ed)

Freddie’d be the first to admit he’d been an amateur, in the beginning. Trying to stay awake all through Christmas night? He couldn’t believe he’d ever tried that. Not for real. Half the kids in the world tried that old ruse.

It never worked.

Eleven o’clock would come, Christmas Eve, and it’d be like someone pulled the shutters down. Freddie had long suspected foul magic. He’d sleep like a log till well after Old Red-Suit had been and gone, and the presents left behind would seem like an insult. Try again next time, little man, they’d chuckle. Try better.

Well, this year, it was on.

He’d planned it for months.

Titanium-core netting over the fireplace? Check.

Steel bolts to seal off the chimney? Check.

A hyper-sensitive pressure trigger on a brain-rattling alarm? Check.

Freddie settled back with a cookie, smiling. This year, he vowed. This year, Mr Claus, I’ll be the judge of who’s naughty, and who’s nice. Capisce?


Ho Ho… Ho? So, this week the story prompt on Flash Friday was a captive Santa. Something a lot of kids have dreamed about, I’m sure – certainly, I was one of those oh-so-nosy types who couldn’t just leave Santa Claus alone to carry out his very important work, but who had to try to figure out how it was all done – but I never went to the lengths Freddie has gone to. I’m not sure what’ll happen next in this terrible tale of woe, but I sure hope Santa escapes, because I get the feeling Freddie’s not the type who enjoys sharing… imagine if one kid, one mini-megalomaniac, had control of Santa’s power? The chaos!

This story is likely to be the last I’ll post this side of Christmas, as I’ll be away next Friday and probably not near a computer. So, it’s a happy Christmas from me, and a happy Christmas from Ol’ Saint Nick, and a fond farewell for a wee while. Happy reading! And make sure to get your Flash! Friday entry in on time this week…

Writing Wednesday – ‘Walter’

Photo Credit: Thomas Hawk via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: Thomas Hawk via Compfight cc


He was a small, scattered-looking man, maybe fifty, out of place here in this brash, chromed diner. His clothes looked older than he was, hair so dirty it seemed painted on, but I noticed him mainly because his eyes never lifted and his hands – dark and thin and quick – never stopped moving.

As I watched, he pulled a measuring tape out of his top pocket, and used it to take the width and height of the shelves near the register. He shook his head, muttering, as he replaced the tape and fished out a tiny black-covered notebook, wrapped around with a rubber band; then, he found a pencil behind one grimy ear and used it to make a note. Replacing pencil, band and book took only a blink, and then he was off once more, measuring the booths, the register, the width of each floor tile. The staff worked around him, and the customers – regulars – never blinked.

‘What’s going on with the little guy?’ I asked the waitress when she brought my order. She concentrated on placing my dishes down before answering.

‘Walter?’ She didn’t need to look. ‘Comes in a lot since his wife passed. Harmless old coot.’

‘Mm?’ The coffee was as good as their sign outside had promised. The waitress would’ve made the trip worthwhile all by herself, come to that. ‘No kids?’ She didn’t answer, but her eyes softened, and I knew.

‘You all set, hon?’ she asked me, once she’d finished checking my condiments were in order. ‘Anything else I can get you?’

I threw her a hint of a wink and she smiled, a tiny pink point of tongue slipping out between her fine white teeth. Then, she was gone, and all I had to look at was Walter.

Curious, I got up, coffee in hand. Slipping into a booth, I was close enough now to smell the man.

‘Hey,’ I said, in a low tone. ‘Whatcha doin’?’

No reply. Walter didn’t even pause in his work. Measuring, noting, checking, comparing.

‘Walter,’ I said, louder. ‘Hey! What’s up with the tape?’ He flinched, but he didn’t look at me. I could see his eyes hopping like mayflies on a pond.

‘Gotta find it,’ he said. ‘The crack. Where she slipped out. Gotta be here somewheres.’ He sighed and licked his lips, still not meeting my eyes. ‘Gotta follow her.’

‘Who’s ‘she’, Walter?’ I asked, watching him fumble for his notebook.

‘Gotta find her and bring her back, and make sure she ain’t never gon’ leave again. No sir, she ain’t gon’ leave again.’

‘Who, man?’

‘She was took,’ he muttered. ‘Out through a hole in the world. Gotta find it. Gotta save her.’

‘Listen, I heard about your wife -‘ I began, thinking I understood.

‘No, no, no, not her!’ A rime of fear coated his words. ‘My daughter. My little girl.’ He met my eyes, and I drew back from the edge of him. ‘Gotta get her back before she hurts her. Don’t got much time.’

Before I could reply, he dropped his gaze and kept on going.

Flash Friday – ‘Remains’

Wine Glass, CC2 image by BlakJakDavy. Image sourced: flashfriday.wordpress.com

Wine Glass, CC2 image by BlakJakDavy.
Image sourced: flashfriday.wordpress.com


I drove home, but I shouldn’t have. I’d only taken a mouthful or two, but that wasn’t the problem.

I’d remembered the gloves while I prepared his glass. No touching!

I’d been careful about disposing of the packaging. Not there!

I’d waited, carefully, while the powder dissolved. Please! Not yet!

I’d flung my undrunk wine down the sink and stowed my glass in my handbag. Hide it!

I’d been careful.

I’d touched nothing without good reason. I hadn’t used the bathroom. I’d kept my hair wound tightly – but even if one had escaped, I could explain that, couldn’t I? Transfer from his jacket, or something? I’d barely breathed. I’d disturbed nothing.

But I’d had to hand him his wine. Gloves off.

And I’d wiped the glass afterwards. Hadn’t I?

I pictured it, on the railing of the sun-filled balcony, his cooling body on the ground.

And all I could see was distortion, whorls and smudges, and what remained of me.


This week’s Flash Friday competition marks the beginning of its third year – can you believe it? – and my first one as a Dragon Captain, or one half of a judging team. This isn’t one of my judging weeks, though, so I’m assured I can take part! The dragon’s bidding element has been removed, so all the competitors have to go on is the image prompt, above, and the stipulation that the story fits neatly and perfectly into 160 words.

So, the effort above is what I came up with. I’m not sure it’s going to cut the mustard, but even if it doesn’t, I’m glad to have dragged my scattered brain into some sort of shape this morning and made a story out of what I found. Is this the week you’re finally going to give it a whirl? Go on! Tell ’em I sent ya.

Flash Friday – and Flashversary!

Red Sunset, by Petteri Sulonen.  Image sourced at: flashfriday.wordpress.com

Red Sunset, by Petteri Sulonen.
Image sourced at: flashfriday.wordpress.com

Gunpowder Treason and Plot

‘Penny for the Guy!’

‘Please, mate. Penny for the Guy?’

An elderly man stops, smiling. ‘Comes around quick, eh?’

‘Hopin’ we’ll raise loads this year,’ says John. ‘For the new statue, an’ that.’ He wipes his running nose on his sleeve.

‘Good lads. I’m sure St Fawkes would be proud.’

He’s barely turned and gone two steps when the air shreds with a boom. Then a gust of flame, like a dragon awakening in the bowels of the city, gushes along the skyline. Faintly, we hear screaming.

‘My God,’ says the old geezer, stumbling back. ‘My God. Virgin preserve us!’

‘What’s goin’ on?’ John gets to his feet. ‘Is it –’

We spin as another explosion cuts off his words. All along the river, we watch London burn.

‘The Recusants,’ whispers the old man. ‘Finally. We are repaid in our own coin.’ Orange flames dance in his wide, wet eyes.


So, er. Nothing like an image of a burning city to make one think of an entirely different (Catholic, Virgin-preserved, St Fawkes’d) England, wherein the original Gunpowder Plot wasn’t foiled and things developed in an entirely different way. Right? Is it just me?


This week’s Flash! Friday challenge is even more special than normal. This week sees the start of this year’s Flashversary, which means that massive prizes await the lucky winner (check the site for all the details, but this year the prize pot is pretty darn impressive), and if you’d like to take part, you are more than welcome. You don’t have to be a regular competitor; you don’t have to be a ‘member’ (if such a thing even existed). You certainly don’t need to pay any sort of entry fee. You’ve just got to look at the prompt image and find the story behind it, and be able to tell it in 150 words exactly. There’s no Dragon’s Bidding this week, and there’s no leeway with the wordcount, either. Write a piece of flash based around the burning city, above – as loosely or as closely as you like – and make it a Flashversary to remember. The more the merrier, and who knows but you could be one of the lucky people chosen to go through to the next round. Wouldn’t that be something to boast about over Christmas dinner? Sure it would.

I’m looking forward to seeing some familiar names among the entrants this week, but even if you don’t compete I hope you take the time to check out the entries. Even if you’re not a fan of writing flash fiction, every week Flash! Friday dishes up some of the best flash fiction reading on this here interwebs. Please do support the cause (penny for the Dragon, anyone?) and whatever you do, spread the word.

Happy Friday!