Category Archives: Short Stories

Flash Fiction 1

Hello Dear Reader

Flash Fiction 1

Over the few weeks, I have challenged myself to write something called flash fiction. This is sort of shorter version of a short story. Although, some would argue that many pieces are short stories. The current definition of flash fiction is from 50 words to 300 and possibly up to 1000 words.

I took up the challenge and produced three pieces. It took me a time to sort them out and one may not be as good as I wished. One has been entered into a competition, it has the same chance as anyone else’s. I can’t show that one for obvious reasons.

So how do you write flash fiction? Here are some points;

How to write flash fiction:

Start in the middle.

Don’t use too many characters.

Make sure the ending isn’t at the end.

Sweat your title.

Make your last line ring like a bell.

Write long, then go short.

David Gaffney, Stories in your pocket: how to write flash fiction, The Guardian

So you see, it’s unlike other forms of writing. Then again, there so many forms of writing, just like music, photography or art. So I offer my first two flash fiction pieces. Follow the link and enjoy.

Alien Landscape/Forgiveness.

Tagline; “When one word can mean 1000’s”

 

Photograph Prompt – Week 3 – Empty

Hello Dear Reader

Photograph Prompt – Week 3 – Empty

Empty. An odd word for this weeks photo challenge. The picture is from one of the Severn Valley steam railway stations. It shows a train after everyone has left, empty of passengers but not empty of life. The story challenge is why is it empty? There are many paths a story can take. In this picture, the station is empty, the carriages some doors open, could this have been in war? Imagine H.G Wells and War of the Worlds, could the Martians be just out of shot? What about an alternative reality, steampunk or secret agents back in the 1920’s. There are so pick a theme, explore where that may go.

 

IMG_0065

As with each week I will give a start, here is my path;

“Empty. The station was deserted, the siren had stopped a few seconds ago. People had run in panic, heading towards the bunkers. He looked around, something was wrong. Intelligence said they would strike during the next raid. The scientist was carrying the latest reports. This time they were sure the new formula would work and win the war.”

So were does this story go?

Enjoy.

Tagline: ‘Secret Agent man,Secret agent man’

Photograph Prompt – Week 1 – Beyond

Hello Dear Reader

Photograph Prompt – Week 1 – Beyond

Like many people I enjoy photography. I take hundreds upon hundreds and the odd one or two could be good. I have decided to write a different sort of blog, more a photographic prompt. I will post a picture at random times and hope it gives people something to use to either write about, think about, paint about or talk about.

The first picture is one I would consider a classic thoughtful prompt; what’s beyond the gate? If you step beyond the threshold what adventure might be found? Think of a short story, 500 or 1000 words, a flash story 140 characters (like twitter) or just use it to meditate.

These blogs will be short for the simple reason it’s a picture and a prompt. Enjoy.

So to start here is my flash story.

‘Becoming lost, heart quickens. Voices close, safety beyond the gate? Right one or a trap. Voices desperate. Through the gate. Hide and seek.’

Prompt 1

 

Tagline “Did the white rabbit go this way?”

Why do Writers – Go Blank

Hello Dear Reader

Go Blank

In this third article of my short series (I have no clue how long it may run), I have decided to tackle a problem. Blankness. Some people do not think that writers have blocks, others know them only to well. Therefore, the first part of this is, do writers go blank.

parchment-memories-blank-paper

I have to say, from my own experiences the answer has to be yes. The mind is an amazingly complicated, it has to be given all it does. The phrase ‘My mind has gone blank’ can be misleading I would say. Parts of your mind can go blank, you can forget a person’s name or that cup of tea you were making. Sadly, there is the very destructive and heartbreaking conditions of dementia and alzheimer which strikes without a care. What I am looking at here is different.

Many times I have sat writing a blog or parts of my books and suddenly found I could not think of the next line, let alone a word. I had in effect, lost the path my story was taking. I could not see which way go and neither could my characters. Here is where it might sound strange. Many writers look to their characters to ‘tell them’ what they would do next. They believe that the characters are alive and in print they certainly can appear so. Some people consider the writer or author as the person who uncovers the story rather than telling it.

So who has the blank? The writer who can’t see or the character that can’t remember? Take the man in the café. He is, as always, sitting alone trying to write a simple paragraph to his novel. If we listen in, we can hear his dilemma.

“As my hero turns the corner he is faced with … I have no clue what he is faced with? I don’t know what sort of steam punk creature this will be? Is it a mechanical steam-driven robot or a man using a clockwork thing. And what sort of thing would it be?”

Clearly there are a few issues here. Some might say there should have been a plan about what the hero ran into next. Some would say, has he run into enough for the day? Either way, it’s a blank moment. Now the problem is how long do you stay put trying to work out what the thing is? Stay too long and you could become worried or panic and create a rust-bucket of a monster which falls apart at the first stare. If you skip over the problem and pretend he has beaten it, are you prepared to go back and rewrite what did not happen?

There are also the start-up blanks. These happen when you plan your day, ready to write pen held firmly, crisp white paper waiting for words. Then … nothing. No ideas or worse part ideas. You want to or need to write a new poem to complete a collection. There is nothing forth coming. Do you write random words in hope it generates the wisp of an idea or even a line of poetry? Tricky. There are exercises that helps free the brain and the mind or both. Writing random words may well allow you to clear that block. Using things like magnetic poetry words can work as well. You can even create your own version by simply writing lots of words on a piece of paper, cutting them up and randomly picking them from a tin or hat (purple in colour).

That might be enough to help you forget what it was that caused the block. What if you can’t even figure out what would make a good short story? Random words may help but you need something more concrete. Take our man again, he has decided to start a new short sci-fi story. The problem is what?

“A fresh start, new story, competition to enter. What shall I base it on? Robots, time-travel, the future? The competition is for a short 1000 word sci-fi story but they don’t say what sci-fi! My mind has gone blank.”

Actually, his mind is full of sci-fi he just can’t see the aliens from the robots. Which leads me to another form of blankness. It is not that you can’t write it’s just the subject is so vast. Help is at hand. One idea is to use a random subject generator. Here is what one might look like;

Number Period Number Style Number Style 2

1

Future

1

Robots

1

Aliens

2

Pre-historic

2

Space Travel

2

Derelict 

3

Modern

3

Time Travel

3

Planet

4

Post-nuclear

4

Aliens

4

Base

So what would you do. Well, very simple really, pick a number from 1 – 4 (or more if needed) from each of the three categories. Then check the table and see what it gives you as a start. This is not a new concept, it has been used in role-playing for many years. The old D-10 dice rolled in hope of something interesting for a character is very much still around. Even an electronic version can’t take away that fun element. You can also use this to help rid yourself of that annoying writers block. It might not be the best plan but then again it may just get you going again.

Our intrepid writer, sitting in the café, realises this could be his way out. It is not a block as such more a dilemma at this point. As I said, too many robots in his mind. As we join him once more, we can see how this exercise plays out…

“Ok, I have rolled the dice three times and drawn, 4,1,2. If I look that up what do I have. Post-nuclear, robots and a derelict. Derelict what? Is that all I need? Ah there is an idea. What about the last robot that comes to life years after a nuclear attack. It could become sentient and go in search of others. Brilliant!”

And so his writers block or confusion is gone. The outline of a new story has begun and our writer feels refreshed let alone relived. I am sure there will be other times writers go blank for no good reason. Most of the time, it’s how they get themselves out of that crazy maze trying to find the happy path of words. Some use exercises, some use music, some just sit staring into the empty reaches of space. Whatever it takes, the path is always there.

Tagline “I have no idea what to put here…”

The Christmas Gift

The Christmas Gift

Imagine the scene, Christmas Eve, 5.15pm, in a small book shop on a busy university campus. A man is looking at the books, surrounded by people feeling the same strain of choice. He wishes he had more time, so he can please his friends.

“I can’t do this; too many people, too little time, too many books. They have to be right. If only, I could have the shop to myself.What I would give for that. ”

A desperate plea in the sea of people, but only one other hears. He nervously shuffles on the spot, looking around.

“Who is that man in the red coat? Concentrate. Books, that’s what I am here for. I have a ten pound note and three books to find. Look at this offer, two books for ten pounds and I need three books in fifteen minutes. I hate Christmas.”

The first bead of perspiration runs down his brow as he searches for inspiration.

“Let me think, what about the classics, how about Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol. What’s wrong with that one? Too obvious? Too classic? It’s on TV every Christmas in one form or another. Not the best pick. Wait! The prefect one, The Hobbit. It’s classic, yet modern and there is a new film for Christmas. That’s one, two more to find.”

He clutches his first prize as if his life depends on it. He is irritated by the carefree attitude of the other shoppers.

“What about one of Ernest Hemingway’s great novels. No, that would just cause problems. Put that one back and that one. Why not buy three copies of the Hobbit who would know? Three copies under the ten pounds, it’s so tempting. No, keep looking; something will turn up.”

He needs more time, it’s a wish all of us make at some point, but at what cost? Sometimes the greatest wish is for the wrong gift. He has other worries now; the man in the red coat is looking at him.

“He is talking to the shop assistant now. Who’s he pointing at? Me? Why me? Is he a security guard?”

The pressure of time can make someone imagine details that are never there. Is the man following him?

“Forget him, concentrate on the books, the shop will close soon and that will be that. There is local garage. They might sell something tacky. Look at this, 50 Sheds of Grey. Wait is that a proper book. I thought it was something else? Another colour maybe? No. That’s no good either. Back to the classics. Oh joy five minutes left. I could just close my eyes, grab two and hope. I wish I had more time.”

For everyone, there is a fateful wish, that one last moment with a loved one, the need to find the greener grass and this man is about to experience his fateful wish. A flash of red catches his eye, is he being watched?

“Excuse me, I believe that you need this.”

Startled by the softly spoken words, the man in the red coat appears before him, in his right hand is the offer of a lifeline.

“Who are you? What do you want? ”

He is flustered by the image, the closeness of this stranger.

“I only wish to make your life a little less complicated. You appear to be struggling to find what you desire. Let me help. Take this voucher, it will ease your pain and last a lifetime.”

There is the offer. There is his wish all wrapped up in a beautifully coloured ticket. Would you accept such an offer?

“What do I need to do?”

“Why nothing, just accept the modest voucher, it has a few terms and conditions, nothing a man like you would fail to understand. Consider it my Christmas gift.”

The man in the red coat is smiling; he knows the gift will be accepted.

“Thank you, thank you. You have no idea how this will help me.”

The words glow a little as he takes the voucher, accepting the contract in good faith.

“It is my pleasure. Now you have all the time you need to find those last gifts. I am sure I will see you again and again.”

There is a puzzled look on the man’s face. He should have known better. It is too late now.

“What do you mean… Hello?”

In the turning of a page, the shop has emptied. Everyone has gone. The odd whisper of a ghostly figure drifts past the man or so it seems. He frantically tries to escape pulling at the door, but it won’t open, why? He examines the voucher again looking at the back.

“My God, what have I done!”

One line glows, deep blood red, ‘Thank you for your soul. You can browse all these books forever. L’

In a small bookshop, on a busy university campus, if you look closely sometimes you can see the ghostly outline of a man. He is trapped.

Mark O’Donnell