Be a Flasher

Not that kind of flasher, naughty bird. A flash fiction writer.

Why should I be a flash fiction writer? You ask. I’m glad you did. Flash fiction forces several wondrous talents upon you:

  1. Economy of language.
  2. Full-bodied plot in a tiny, weeny package.
  3. A stretch into new genres, styles, content.*
  4. Opportunity for you to turn away from a grueling, lonely novel-nobody-sees and hit publish.
  5. The thrill of weekly or monthly contests, like zeroflash, cracked flash fiction, and microcosms.
  6. Receive needful pets from fellow writers and learn to give same. Be in community.

I had this thought as I sat down today with my novel-in-progress: flash fiction should/could be part of Stephen King’s famed tool box for writers. Use it if it suits you. At first I couldn’t imagine liking anything less than a full-length novel, but the more I read and write flash, the more I appreciate its form. It’s like poetry and fiction made love and bam! Flash fiction.

*One such stretching happened to me just this month. The prompt for July’s Zeroflash is to write a metafiction piece. Metafiction? What on earth is that? The latin prefix meta means beyond, which I think of as above and beyond. Still, above and beyond fiction? I had to look it up. Luckily some of the examples were books I’d already read, so I understood that metafiction called attention to itself as a form or structure. Call me thick, it didn’t get much easier once I knew what the stuff was. But chew on a thing long enough and eventually it assimilates into you. Check out my metafiction flash piece here.

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Funny! Fiction for Cracked Flash

Waiver

Most epic adventures don’t start out with an application and an insurance waiver, but Tom Kinzel, CEO of Chilly Thrills saw the writing on the wall: the positive correlation between epicness and peril. The 200 bodies strewn upon Mt. Everest gave their silent testimony: counterphobia (charging your worst nightmare) while epic, is risky. But to Tom’s way of thinking, the real tragedies were the corpses of entrepreneurial start-ups that met death in small claims court (a misnomer) all because they didn’t have that one little (but “HUGE, believe me”) piece of the business puzzle: the waiver.

I____________________ am a willing participant in the Chilly Thrills 5000K Mt. Mortem hike, an epic adventure of extreme proportions which requires excellent mental judgment and a high degree of physical fitness, agility, and dexterity.

I FURTHER UNDERSTAND AND HEREBY ACKNOWLEDGE THAT MY PARTICIPATION IN CHILLY THRILLS 5000K MT. MORTEM HIKE INVOLVES CERTAIN HAZARDS AND DANGERS SUCH AS INJURY OR POSSIBLY DEATH AND/OR RISK OF DAMAGE TO OR LOSS OF PROPERTY.

I release, waive, forever discharge, covenant not to sue, indemnify, and hold harmless Chilly Thrills from any and all liability, claims, suits, demands, judgments, costs, interest and expense, (including attorneys’ fees and costs) arising from Chilly Thrills’ 5000K Mt. Mortem Hike.

I have read all applications, preparatory materials, and instructions in their entirety (including this waiver) and signed it knowingly and voluntarily. And I’m mentally competent, fully aware that a 5000K peak is 16+ million feet (3280 feet/kilometer x 5000) that brushes against the floorboards of heaven, a destination I couldn’t reach if I strapped twin F-16 thrusters to my boots and chugged a keg of Monster Energy drink. But– I certify I’ve read this waiver in its entirety. Yes. No lie. Every word. Bring on the epic adventure.

Signed, Epic Participant

 

The Solution: Cracked Flash Fiction Entry

Dragons stalked the streets, puffing out smoke and clattering their mechanical wings. Gulligan sighed. Rush hour. A dragon who had the bad sense to scuttle in front of Gulligan found himself violently kicked. The iridescent creature rolled end over end and hit the curb, sending up a cloud. Brittle things, Gulligan thought, for all their noise and pollution. Pieces of silvery scales lay like dust, drawing the trajectory of Gulligan’s kick.

Gulligan mumbled an apology and kept walking. The three-inch pest began to swear in its own language. Gulligan understood, but pretended not to. From behind he could hear metal scraping against the charred asphalt and knew the dragon was coming after him. Gulligan stopped short. Sure enough, he felt the sting of warmth and impact as the dragon rammed into his calf. The smell of his own seared flesh was immediate, but Gulligan did not flinch. Again the dragon came at his feet. This time, Gulligan lifted his leg at the last moment, sending the animal reeling.

Each sized up the other.

“Your kind never watch where you’re going,” the dragon said in the common tongue.

Gulligan snorted. “You landed right in front of my foot.”

“You shouldn’t even be on the street. The streets are ours.” The dragon pruned its ruffled scales, pulling out the chipped ones. New ones would grow back. Old ones littered the ground. The lightest metal flakes began to quiver. The dragon narrowed its eyes and backed away. He wondered that the boy hadn’t cried when he burned him. Realization began to dawn.

Too late. The dragon recognized the hum of electricity, saw the boy’s eyes vacate the avatar. Dead eyes were the last thing he saw. He and countless others were crushed to the Bombshell Boy Electromagnet, society’s solution to the dragon problem.

The end.

Random thoughts: Judging for CFF taught me more about writing than countless hours spent butt-on-chair, a little phrase I picked up from this article. It’s helpful to boil writing down to this simple, if crude phrase (I cleaned it up). Kind of reminds me of Nike’s Just Do It. Both find power in pith. Succinct advice. Not confusable. How to write? Sit down and write. Nothing’s easier than freewriting. Oh yes… what I learned from judging– understandability is more important than finesse. If I can’t understand a story, I can’t appreciate it.

The Prettiest. Flash Fiction.

aura-of-light-800x480“Sometimes it’s better to hide the unsightly with shiny things than to try to fix it,” said the mother. “Grab that box of Christmas tinsel from the attic. And a fork.”

The child’s noisy rifling through the silver drawer induced a clamorous tune, followed by staccato thudding on the attic stairs. She returned breathless, holding a fork in one hand, a dusty red box in the other.

“This?” She asked, fingering the wayward silver strands.

The mother took the bright silver lengths and held them to the light. The tinsels flashed and shimmered, squirming in her arms like a lightning strike. She gravely handed the tinsel to the child. “You do the honors. It’s your first time.”

The child wrapped the silver noodles around her fork and jammed it in an eye socket.

“Yes, that’s it,” counseled the mother, “Now hold the tinsel down with your fingers and gently slide the fork out. Now the next one. We can stuff her mouth with dryer sheets soaked in cinnamon oil, so she doesn’t stink. Grab the red sequins and we’ll sew her mouth closed, but we’ll leave slits like a sachet. See?” The mother beamed with pride as her daughter bent to the work, eyebrows furrowed in concentration.

“Yes, like that. Sew her mouth into a smile. You just have to pull hard on the thread. She can’t feel anything.”

“I think I hear her crying,” the child protested. See, where she’s coming apart?”

“Just use more tinsel. Wrap it like a necklace and no one will know her throat is cut.”

The child obeyed, her eyes widening at the transformation. A slight smile played at the corners of her tiny mouth.

“This is the prettiest Christmas doll ever, Mommy.”

“Almost as pretty as you,” murmured the zombie.

 

Tickled Slink, A G-Rated Story

“So where is it?” Jude asked as he spun me and gathered my hair in his fist, exposing my neck. “No ‘on’ button here,” he whispered huskily, “How do I turn you on, Kate? I’m so very hungry…”

I stared flatly into his eyes, barely holding my stoic mask.  Suddenly he jerked my arm straight up. “…Here?” He asked, tickling me with artful precision until I squirmed and shrieked, breathless at the silken touch.

“Let me go!” I screamed with zero conviction. Jude cinched me to him, and with one thickly cabled arm pinned my writhing form to his.

“Found the ‘on’ button, Kate. Any chance I can program you to do my bidding?” Jude swept his arm around the disheveled area like he was Vanna White displaying my prizes, as opposed to the gross accoutrements strewn around the tiled room, evidence of just how much he needed me to “do his bidding.” My jaw dropped open as I understood what it was he wanted me to do. He couldn’t possibly think I’d lower myself to this paltry undertaking, overcome my ascetic nature and touch those things, did he– just because he was charming me inside out? Jude, the enemy of my better sense, the man who crushed all sound thinking with a flash of his disarming smile. Jude had only to ask, and I’d fold into his will.

But this was too much.

My disgust must have shown on my face, for he began his assault afresh, sending me into spasms and giggles. “A friend would do it…” he pressed.

Where we were joined his body seared me, melting my willpower, overpowering my nerve.

“Never!” I said.

“Come on, Kate. Make me an omelet.”

gabe-art

Credit: Gabe Griffiths

 

Cracked Flash Fiction entry, modified.

“Naughty” – Cracked Flash Fiction Entry

“Welcome, we’ve been expecting you,” my butler, bored and composed to near unconsciousness, greeted me with half-closed lids.

“Poppycock,” I snapped, and hefted my suitcase into his gnarled hands. With surprising deftness, they received it. He did, however, stumble a few steps backward into the arched portico of my family’s estate.

“The only time you’ve ever expected me was when I passed between Mummy’s thighs.” I brushed past him toward the grand staircase.

“On the contrary,” he said, “I expected they’d send Little Miss to boarding school, especially after the stunt she pulled with Chef. Not a morning passes, but your father doesn’t miss Chef’s sausage cheddar quiche.”

“Yes, well, she deserved it. Now if you don’t mind, I’ll ask you to unpack my things. I’m dying to play with the kittens. Mummy said they hang about the garage?”

“Yes. She has me feed them every day. They’re her favorite toys of late.”

I snorted.

“Little Miss?”

Swatting his question away, I bounced up the wooden stairs. Mummy enchanted them exactly how I demanded. The extra-springy landing popped me all the way to the top step.

“Octavian!” I called down, “fetch me Daddy’s dissection kit. I want to practice. Haruspication was my favorite class, you know.”

“I’m not surprised. Will Little Miss be needing a chicken then?”

“No, I’ll make do.” I doubt he missed the flint in my glance. The threat. Irritation flitted across his angular, bone-colored face. The deep creases bracketing his mouth twitched.

I didn’t care, what could he do to me? I was practically a credentialed witch. One semester to go.

From behind, I heard the distinct flick, felt the air rush. The smack, the sting against my backside.

Our shape-shifting butler retracted his tentacle. “Didn’t expect that, did you?”

litterofcats

 

 

His First

terrorist“I need to talk to a human,” he demanded. “You’re just a– figurehead.” Yasin crinkled his nose and reflexively shut his eyes against the whiff of decomposition that slithered into his senses. The stench pervaded the whole block, but it was savagely cloying, this close. Black flies skittered in a turbulent cloud and then settled back into their business, whirring their putrescent songs.

Behind him his neighbors furtively pulled out their phones and began to record him. None dared laugh.

“You couldn’t cooperate, could you, apostate.” Yasin grabbed the sweat-slicked hair of the young Kurd he’d killed days ago. He wound the greasy locks in his fingers for a good, tight grip, and ripped it from the stake where it had presided over the corner of Babis and Sandz streets for the past three days. Taunting him.

His botched decapitation had been viewed more than 24 thousand times on YouTube.

Yasin, struggling with the dull blade, had tugged and twisted the Kurd’s head while his eyes blanked into oblivion. The neck. Yasin hadn’t considered how tough the neck would be, like those stubborn cypresses his father bade him cut. He’d get partway through and then the green, fleshy insides would be too strong for his pathetic tool. He’d twist and pull but the sinews wouldn’t break.

The video showed his comrades in the background laughing at Yasin’s ineptness, at his arms trembling with exertion, slick with sweat. A drop of Yasin’s saliva fell onto the Kurd’s cheek, but they said Yasin cried for him.

It was his first time.

The neck defied him, disturbed him to the point of madness. The past three days Yasin invented and fortified a defense for his wounded pride: That man was not human. No human being had that much resistance in his body.

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

[Entry for Cracked Flash Fiction contest. They provide the first sentence, and you have three hundred words with which to play. I haven’t done this contest in a while because my Saturdays have been busy with swim meets and picnics– good stuff. My novel is at 35K words, thank you, CampNaNoWriMo! For the first time ever, I’ve written myself into a plot knot the size of the Grand Canyon, and I’m trying to figure out how to reasonably move my characters to a resolution. A good problem to have– enough plot that it can get snagged on itself! My past attempts had the plot length of my pinky finger, so we’re moving ahead. 🙂

This flash fiction piece was a welcome, if dark, break from my novel. The incidents in Nice, France, have got me thinking about these people who so blithely mow down living, breathing, innocent souls whose crime is that they aren’t on the same team. How does a mind reconcile doing that to people? Trying to figure it out in this 300 word flash fiction piece.]