Tag: fiction

Flash Your Fiction Workshop Writeup

Day One

worddiceLast night’s Flash Your Fiction class at Howard Community College went great!
We talked creativity, freedom to create, and sparking the flame. We put a little science in our fiction and did the Cloud in a Bottle activity and it applied perfectly. (I am just starting to incorporate different aspects of the activity into every presentation I do. It applies to them all.)
Then, we wrote flash fiction from a prompt word (they had one minute to write a story). And then prompt pictures (ditto). And they did great. It was hard for them to start but once they did they hated having time called on them. But the urgency of having such limited time bumps you into fight or flight and if you decide to stay and fight, the words become your playthings and then the writing explodes!
Interestingly, all but one of the students were willing to read their work out loud. The last one had trepidation and downright fear about it. But then, I found a solution. I used a modification of the excellent Mobius Corpse activity (created by my friends John Cooper or Jacob Davenport or some combination of the two) and had the whole class write a single story collaboratively. Then, they read the entire circular story out loud. Once the student realized she was part of a team, she was able to read the rest of her stuff aloud perfectly well. You never know what will push past the boundaries and break through the fear but when you hit on it, it’s magic!
After that, we gambled and threw my Word Dice (object, location, profession) and Word Cards and the students got homework to do writing sprints with their word cards and also to eavesdrop shamelessly everywhere they go. Like my “Overheard” project, they will hear tantalizing snippets that will yield story ideas if not outright novels.
Next week, we continue with more exercises using the Word Dice, and we will discuss plotting, compelling dialog, pacing, and characterization and how to access those before you edit.
We will finish up with some editing exercises and resources before I send them off to their new writing lives. Exciting!
Really, I could have taught an entire eight-week class on this and had material left over, but I’m glad I’m going to leave them wanting more. 🙂

Flash Your Fiction at HoCo College

I’ve been putting the finishing touches on the Flash Your Fiction workshop that I’m teaching at Howard Community College on Monday (February 26 and March 6), and it is going to be great!

We’re going to have great writing exercises, creativity-sparking activities, and we’re putting some science in our fiction and doing the cool Cloud in a bottle activity to start things off.

I’m not sure four hours will be enough! 🙂

I’ll let y’all know how it goes, for sure.


10-24 Flash Fiction Challenge (prompt word: institute)

“Look at this place,” Miano breathed. She turned a full circle in the main hallway and marveled at the prisms reflected from the millions of crystals embedded in the walls.

“How are they doing that?” Banner twisted this way and that.

Each reflected a different set of colors. Some blazed deep reds and golds. Others projected inky black. One sent blues and purples along with the ultraviolets that pierced Miano’s vision. Gasping, she stumbled towards it.

“Welcome to the Institute of Inner Learning,” the robed figure materialized in front of them.

“I am Nanor,” it continued. “Have you made your Prismic Selection?”

“Prismic Selection?” Miano whispered. She extended a shaking hand and froze with her palm on its smooth surface.

“Ah, I see you have chosen the path of the Universal Traveler,” Nanor turned a page on its clipboard, made a mark, and nodded. “Yours will be an interesting journey.”

“Traveler?” Banner squeaked. “Wait where is she going? Miano. Miano!” He screamed.

“Do not bother,” Nanor said. “She is already gone. And now,” Nanor advanced on him. “I wonder where your journey shall take you.”

(This one gives me shivers. Here’s the thing. The tone of the entire story hinges on changing two words. In the last paragraph, I have Nanor advancing on Banner. It sounds ominous, doesn’t it? When someone advances on you, it is almost always for some nefarious purpose. But what if I had the words, “Nanor turned to him?” Would that make for a more lighthearted ending and therefore story? This entire exercise of writing a micro story every day thrills me for just this sort of reason. I love seeing how judicious use of words and phrases can pivot an entire tale or even book.

Putting the editor’s hat on for a second, I’d love to ask you a question. Does the ending work? Or should I perhaps have ended it with the sentence, “She is already gone.” Does that work better? Is it more ominous? Less? What do you think?)

10-23 Flash Fiction Challenge (prompt word: excluded)

“When I was in college, we ended up doing a guerrilla production of a show” Amanda took a sip of her latte.

“How do you do that? A clandestine production under the cover of night that no one knew to go see?” Charlie laughed.

“No, to protest that the theater department decided to a show with ten male parts and only one female, we decided to do our own since that excluded most of the people in the theater department from even auditioning.”

“That wouldn’t fly nowadays,” Charlie emphasized his statement with a salute of his coffee. “Hell, today, everyone auditions for everything. Look at Laverne Cox playing Frank N Furter in the Rocky Horror remake.”

“Ugh, don’t remind me,” Amanda rolled her eyes. “That movie did not need a remake.”

“True, but that’s not my point. It’s still progress. To progress then,” Charlie raised his mug.

“To progress!” Amanda clinked her mug with his. “Even if it does leave a ‘bad remakes are bad’ taste in my mouth.”

(This one is sort of autobiographical. We did mount a guerrilla production of Antigone [with three different Antigones trading off the role] when Sam Shepherd’s “City of Angels” was the play. We had a lot of women in the theater department and that play only had one female role. And they weren’t going to gender swap any casting so all the women had to vie for one role.

I didn’t audition. Instead, I assistant directed, and I had a blast. But I do remember that feeling of disappointment in the theater department for choosing something that felt so exclusionary. And the characters are right, I think. I don’t think it would fly nowadays. At least I hope it wouldn’t.)

10-10-16 Flash Fiction Challenge (prompt word: bathed)

The last light of the setting sun bathed Amanda in fire and ice. Her satin dressing gown shimmered and the diamond on her hand sent twinkling lights racing around the room.
“I just don’t understand, Tyler,” she reclined on the bed and gazed at him with lustrous brown eyes. “How could anyone expect you to resist? After all, you told them we were to be married.” She stretched creamy arms overhead and lifted a corner of her crimson lips in a lazy smile.
“I don’t know, Amanda May,” Tyler devoured her with glazed eyes. “Obviously, they’ve never seen you lying in sunlight.”

(Does this sound like a steamy novel that takes place is Savannah to you, as well? I had fun with writing this one. The hard part was not getting cliché with the descriptions. It’s too easy to drop into mushy, eye-rolling territory. I hope it wasn’t too much. Let me know if it was. :). )

10-9-16 Flash Fiction Challenge (prompt words: trek, land, photocopy)

“If we head over land for six more miles, we ought to be within sight of the Eagle Head rock formation directly to the west,” Tyrell studied the map.
“Are you sure?” Devane squinted his eyes at the left edge. “Looks to me like six miles would put us directly off the land and into the bottom of Devil’s Canyon. And that’s a mighty long trek to get nowhere except maybe dead.”
Tyrell folded the map and stashed it away. He turned cold eyes on his partner.
“I said six miles, and I meant six miles. At which point, ‘When you have walked to southwest due, Then the Eagle Head shall point you true,'” he quoted the ancient words. “The beak will point us directly to the treasure,” he hauled Devane onto his tiptoes. “You got that?”
“Yeah, yeah,” Devane stammered. Tyrell dropped him to the ground and walked toward their packs. He hefted one and struck out southwest.
Devane watched him leave.
“But what if you’re wrong,” Devane whispered to no one “What if the instructions say to go Southest not Southwest. I mean it could happen. After all, the map is a photocopy.”

(I ended up with three prompt words today. And I like it. Figuring out how to structure and create a story that uses multiple prompt words can make for some exciting mental gymnastics.)

10-8-16 Flash Fiction Challenge (prompt words: race and electron)

“Woo HOO!” Gennara whooped as she careened around P57 and rounded the bend towards the next P.

“Captain Gennara,” the Comm’s voice sounded in her helmet. “This is neither a race nor a rodeo. Please refrain ‘Woo-Hooing’ during your research excursion. And besides, you’re hurting our ears.”

“Okay, Comm,” she lowered her voice. “But you really ought to see this. Everything looks much bigger up close and personal, you know?” Her small pod flew past the blues, indigos, and ultra violets of P58’s jagged peaks.

“Your on-board camera is providing adequate imagery,” the Comm replied. “After all, this mission is an exploratory one. What good would any of this be if we couldn’t capture the data?”

“True, but even you have to admit this is an unusual environment.”

“You are the first in it, but I would say the environment itself is rather ubiquitous, don’t you think?”

“Oops,” Gennara cried. “Here comes another E. Gotta jet.” She kicked the afterburners and avoided the oncoming electron.

(I like Gennara a bunch. She sounds like a hoot. The challenge in this one lay in figuring out how to combine the prompt words and also not to give away where Gennara was racing. 

10-7-16 Flash Fiction Challenge (prompt word: prediction)

The candlelight flickered along the anxious faces of the small group seated around the velvet-covered table.”Join hands, everyone,” Aloiysha, Grand Medium of the High Court intoned her instructions. Her head lolled in a circle and small moans escaped her lips. The rest of the room’s occupants glued their eyes to her face.

“Madam Aloiysha,” Dalia Butterman whispered. “Please, tell us. Where is my grandfather’s will? To whom did he leave his estate?”

“The will is not your concern,” Aloiysha rasped in a deeper voice. “Better it is that you should ask another question. Far better it is that you should ask how I died.”

“You had a heart attack,” Mr. Butterman cried. “The autopsy declared your death a natural one.” 

“Easy enough for you to make that happen,” Aloiysha fixed dark eyes on him. “You are a doctor, after all. 

“You should have listened to me,” Aloiysha turned to Dalia and spoke in her own voice once again. “I predicted his death at the hand of a family member, and you paid no mind.”

“I don’t have to listen to this!” Butterman shot out of his chair and sent it flying backward.

“To this? No.” Aloiysha nodded. “But perhaps my next prediction will prove more interesting. You will hang for this crime.”

“First they will have to find me,” Butterman backed towards the door and into the barrel of a gun.

“I would say they have,” Aloiysha smiled. “But then, if you had asked, I could have told you they would.”

(This took longer than a minute certainly, but the story was one I wanted to tell as soon as I saw the prompt word. I had the bare bones of the idea, but it took a bit to figure out exactly how to make it all work. The challenge in this tale was to bring the guilty party to light without giving away what would happen at the end.)

10-2-16 Flash Fiction Challenge (prompt word: incognito)

Laura stepped back from the mirror and appraised her right eye. An artful cat’s eye made her appear polished yet with a hint of mystery. With a curt nod, she applied the the same to her left eye.
James entered their shared hotel suite and stopped short.
“Do we have a mission tonight I didn’t know about?”
“No, why?” Laura gazed at his reflection through the mirror as she finished applying her makeup.
“Because you look hot, and you only do that when we’re on the job.”
“Thanks, a lot. So, what? The rest of the time I’m ugly?”
“Not ugly, exactly, but certainly not this.” He waved a hand in her direction.
“It’s not an alias,” she replied. “I’m not going incognito. I’ve got a date.”
“We don’t date. You can’t date.” James asserted.
“I can if I want to, and anyway, what do you care?”
“I don’t.”
“Good!” She grabbed her purse and left the suite.
He sank to the bed and gazed at the closed door.
“What do I care if she has a date? I don’t care,” he assured himself. “Do I?”

(This one took a bit longer than a minute to write. It feels like it’s a scene from a movie or something, doesn’t it? I feel like there’s an entire backstory to this relationship and the work the characters do that we don’t know about it. Are they spies? Are they running a con? Who are they that they would need aliases?

This one was dialogue-driven for sure. What do you think? Does the dialogue feel real? Could people speak like this and sound real? Or at least real for fiction? I’d love to know your thoughts.)

10-1-2016 Flash Fiction Challenge (prompt word coat)

“I still can’t believe I’ve never seen this show,” Susan sighed and spread her arms to take in the St. James’ Theater.
“Especially with what a ‘Wizard of Oz’ dork you are,’ Leslie laughed and continued flipping through her ‘Wicked: the Musical’ Playbill. “You know, when I was a kid, I thought the musical, ‘Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat,’ was actually, ‘Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamboat.'”
“Well, considering they always hire a hottie for the role, that’s not too far off.” Susan replied.
“That’s the thing about ingenuous,” she continued. “By definition, they’re gonna be beautiful.”
“And we give thanks,” Leslie laughed. “And we give thanks!”

(This is sort of true. I did think that it was dream boat and not dream coat, although I was more confused than pleased about my misconception. I had know idea why someone would write an entire musical about a gorgeous man. That just shows me the importance of clarity in writing and also reading carefully.

As a writer, I try to produce work that is logical and fun to follow. I’ve heard my most recent book described as a page-turner [which is a fantastic feeling, by the way]. But, one fallacy and the entire plot crumbles. So, we have to be careful never to contradict the universe we’ve established. World-building is never easy, but it’s oh so important.)