Saturday, January 21, 2017

How to Write a Short Story

Getting started in Flash Fiction and writing prompts, I often get bogged down in ... getting started. I start writing, like a pantser, and find myself unfocused and concerned that the narrative is not developing. So I've brought together some good suggestions for how to get started on a short story.

How To Outline A Short Story - For Beginners

Outline a Short Story in Seven Steps

7 Steps to Write a Short Story

How to Properly Outline a Short Story

How to Write a Short Story

Friday, October 7, 2016

Flash Fiction Challenge: A Scary Story, Part One

Daniel wandered off from his family. They stayed at the beach and Daniel climbed the rocks away from waves, looking for shells. Daniel was already 12 and felt like he could explore on his own and didn't need to drag along his sister with him.

The waves were loud. He couldn't hear his father calling for him.  Daniel found a pretty, shiny shell and picked it up and put it in his pocket. He heard a slight chirping not far off, and climbed up on the rocks.

Above the rocks, a black car was parked in the field. The door opened and a man stepped out. Daniel stood up on the rocks and turned, looking back and seeing his family far away up the beach. The man walked away from his car and looked at Daniel, gesturing to him to come toward him. A woman opened the door on the driver's side and looked at her watch.

Daniel reached into his pocket and felt the shell. It was smooth, with a sharp jagged edge. He looked around but saw nobody else. The old man by the car shrugged and pointed at Daniel. "Boy!" he yelled. 

Daniel stepped forward and approached the old man who was a dark suit and black tie. The man smelled dingy, like mold. He reached out and touched Daniel on the shoulder. Daniel flinched but didn't pull away. "Your next."

Daniel stared up at him. Up close, he looked very old. His skin overlapped in thin flaps. His eyes were glossed over. His frizzy white hair was sparse. His hand shook and dug into Daniel's shoulder. Daniel reached up to push away the man's hand. The old man had a tight grip.

"Don't touch him," yelled the woman from the driver's side. Both Daniel and the old man turned to look at her. Daniel stepped back away from the distracted old man.

"Boy!" called out the old man.
"Come back!" said the woman.

Daniel ran back towards the rocks. He stopped for a moment and looked back. The car door closed and the engine revved up. Daniel breathed hard. He felt his shoulder where the man had gripped him. It was wet. He looked at his hand and it was covered in green goo.

The car tore across the field. Daniel reached the rocks and jumped onto the highest rock. He looked down and saw the rocky embankment below, uneven and jagged. To the other side was a steep drop off to the beach below. "Come here," said the woman again, "you touched him!"

Daniel looked over his shoulder at the woman, the car was just a few feet behind him. She closed her door and came closer to Daniel. He closed his eyes and jumped off the rock to the beach. The fine sand cushioned his landing. The woman looked down from above as Daniel squirmed on his back like a trapped turtle. The waves crashed up on the shore.

Daniel screeched. A sharp pain shot up his leg and he curled up his knee to his chin. He saw the gash from the rock up the length of his shin. Blood surged. He spread the green goo all over his knee. Tears welled up in his eyes and he screamed. "Wait! Wait there!" the woman said. Daniel pushed himself back up against the rock and propped himself up. He reached into his pocket and threw the shell up at the woman. He took a breath, and looked down. His leg was clean. No blood.

He ran. Daniel didn't look back. He thought he heard the woman calling his name. He stumbled over the sand and lurched over a rock. Then he heard his father calling out. His father noticed him and pointed to Daniel. Almost out of breath, Daniel came to a stop by his father and mother and sister.

"Where were you?" his father yelled, "crap we were worried sick about you. Don't ever just wander off like that. This is our special vacation." His mother hugged him. His sister tugged at his hand.
"Yuck what is this?" she said, rubbing the green goo off her hands. Daniel pushed her back.

"Nothing," Daniel said, "let's go." The family got into their minivan and drove off.

Later in the evening, they came to the boardwalk. The lights were ablaze. A ferris wheel stood tall over the crowd and entertainment. Daniel walked with his sister and parents. "The roller coaster," his sister said, and ran over. His parents bought tickets. The roller coaster raced past. Daniel watched the light zip back and forth. Daniel and his sister got into line. She pushed Daniel. "I wanna sit in the front!"

"We'll sit where ever we get."

"I wanna sit in the front." She hit Daniel.
The line moved slowly forward. His sister folded her arms and stood in place. Daniel jabbed her, urging her forward.  She remained rooted in place, and other kids in line slowly pushed ahead.  Daniel grabbed her and yanked her.
"Hey!" she said, "stop."
"Come on, just move."
They shuffled forward in the line. Finally they reached the front gate. Daniel and his sister took a step forward. A woman's arm came down, cutting off their progress. The gate to the ride closed. Daniel looked up. The woman smiled at him, nodding her head. Daniel looked at her, and clenched his teeth. He looked around. At the gate stood the old man in his dark suite. The roller coaster made its full round on the track, and flew back into the loading station.

Daniel grabbed his sister's hand, pulling her back.
"Daniel let's go, we're in front!"

Daniel shook his head. The woman pushed them forward.

The old man looked down at Daniel. "Your next."

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Subtext - A new Insight

Heard some good insights that helped me to grasp subtext better.

Subtext is the act of setting up to strong points and then leaving the reader to fill in the information from their imagination.

This could be like showing a guy punching another guy, then we go to the next chapter. The next chapter starts a few months later, showing the two guys sitting in suits in a corporate boardroom together.

Those are the two strong points
 - punching a guy for unknown reasons
 - sitting together in a corporate boardroom

The writer hasn't described or explained any of the events that happened between these two points or what lead up to the points. This creates the subtext for the reader to conjecture. This creates the suspense for the writer to reveal elements down the road.

Friday, September 2, 2016

Fiction Challenge - The Idiomatic

The Idiomatic basically mashes up a few idioms into something new and very possibly inane, and very possibly wise. This was the backbone for this fiction challenge.
Length: ~1000 words

I clicked the Idiomatic and I got the following phrase for my story:
“Give a man enough rope and he is a friend who cares.”

Enough Rope
by Martin Perlin

My grandfather always said to me "Give a man enough rope and he is a friend who cares." I hoped to be that friend.

Sam was either going to be the next mega success or destroy himself. We finally saw eachother at Walter wedding. It was the first time since high school. Sam was always the class clown, making pranks and drawing attention to himself. Once he glued a lesson plan to the teacher's desk and she spent five minutes trying to pull it up. The class was on the floor and Sam was smiling like a Hollywood director watching his big scene projected in front of an audience.

At Walter's wedding, I had arrived alone, fresh out of college and just starting my first job at Deloitte. It was a foot in a door. Not glamorous, and really just a starting position but I had student loans to pay. Sam stood against a wall. I was about to call out to him, but he put his finger to his lips and shook his head to be quiet. I turned around and looked in the direction that Sam was looking. I guy stood next to the hors d'oeuvre table talking to a blond woman. The guy shook his head as she spoke, while leaning on the table. Sam smiled and covered his mouth.

Suddenly there was a loud blast of flatulence from behind the guy. He froze and the blond woman turned, calling out to a friend across the room.

"Wasn't that great," Sam said, holding up the small remote he held in his hand. "I hid the speaker behind that cucumber salad. Nobody ever eats that."

"Good to see ya Sam," I said, "what's up?"

His face went to stiff and serious. He asked me what I'd been up to since high school and where I was working. He told me how he'd been working for his uncle selling industrial washing machines to hotels. "But I'm about to go out on my own and I could use someone like you."

He told me about he was tired of selling the washing machines and had an idea for a new venture. "Bicycles," he said. The way he presented it, I couldn't argue with him. Gas prices were shooting through the roof and everyone was looking for alternatives for getting to work. The bike trade had come a long way since I was riding a BMX in high school. Now people had 18 speed mountain bikes and cruisers, with heavy-duty lightweight frames. Not only were these cool looking but they were damn expensive. If remembered paying $300 for a bike in high school, now commuters would pay as much as $2500 for a medium of the line bike and could even go as high as $9500.

Sam said that he had a supplier that could get the trendiest bikes at a deal. The business couldn't be better, a bonafide sure thing. So by dessert at Walter's wedding, I was hooked and we were talking about merchandising and promotions. The next day, I gave notice at work. Within a month, I was sitting in a 300 square foot office with Sam.

He had set up an office for a king, with a big oak desk in front of a big leather office chair. I was put up in a more modest office next door, with standard furniture from Office Depot. The rest of the operation consisted of storage units where Sam kept our merchandise.

In our first month we were pulling in a 300% profit, selling bikes for top dollar to shops all over town.  We were the best bike source around, edging out larger established players. Within a few months I forgot about my student debts (even though they were still hanging around) and took at financing on a BMW convertible. Sam had a big Lexus SUV, always bigger than my wheels. We hit the clubs and picked up women every week.

One morning I came into the office early, and I found Sam hunched over his desk. There were lines of white powder across his desk. He rolled his eyes up at me. "Get out!" he said. I stood there in surprise. "You heard me? Get out!"

Later he came into my office and asked about the upcoming orders. He was totally casual, playing with the pens on my desk. He didn't mention or even hint at what went on earlier. "We got to put aside all the orders," said Sam.

"Why?" I asked, "this will be a great month."

"I've got a big order to fill. This will cover the year."

"How will we fill it?"

"Don't worry, I've been branching us out. I've got more than enough channels."

I've always said that I should listen to my hunches, and I guess I shouldn't have ignored my own advice but that's what happens.

I spent the rest of the day talking to all of clients, backing out of all the orders and trying to save some face for possible future deals.

"You got a suitcase," Sam asked. Sure, I said, and then Sam told me to sit down in his office. "I've cornered a big shipment of bikes out of California, but we'll need to fly down and drive the shipment up. We need to go tonight."

"If it's more bikes, then why cancel all our orders?"

"Don't you get it? Don't you get it college boy. How do we have the cheapest bikes in the market?" Sam said.

"You said you had connections."

Sam stood up and slammed his hand on the wall. "Connections! Connections! It's gangs, petty thieves, and drug addicts. They're stealing bikes across town and I'm paying them off to get this stuff cheap."

I guess I just wanted to go along and pretend this wasn't possible, that my old friend Sam wouldn't pull me into an illegal operation. It was obvious all along that this was too good to be true. How else could we be the cheapest source of bikes in town. It was too good to be true.

"Come on, get packed we're going," he said, "we're hitten the big leagues. I got a connection to make us the biggest cocaine dealers in the Northwest."

"Got all that," I said. A radio crackled.

"What the ..." Sam looked at me. The front door of the offices crashed open. Officers and agents poured in, pinning Sam against the wall, and pulling his hands behind his back. I unbuttoned my shirt to pull off the recording equipment. I just needed to give Sam enough rope because I was a friend...who cares.

Monday, May 16, 2016

Inspiration - 10 Sources of Daily Writing Prompts

I found that I've gotten sidetracked in an effort to write every day, losing focus and inspiration. So I have put together a quick research of Daily Writing Prompts for inspiration.

1. Writer's Digest: Creative Writing Prompts
Need an idea to help you get started writing? You’ll find hundreds of fun writing prompts here – perfect for beginning a new novel or short story, or simply giving your writing muscle a workout.

2. Story A Day
Check out StoryADay’s writing prompts. Each prompt is intentionally ambiguous, adaptable to any genre and style, and comes with a list of tips to help you delve deeper into the ideas. 

3. 365 Creative Writing Prompts
If you want to become a better writer, the best thing you can do is practice writing every single day. But we know sometimes it can be hard to think of what to write about! So we put together this list of 365 creative writing prompts to give you something to write about daily.

4. 365 Days of Writing Prompts
A prompt to fire your imagination, each and every day for a year

5. Creative Writing Prompts
Use the creative writing prompts and creative writing ideas to create stories, poems and other creative pieces from your imagination. The writing prompts can even help you come up with creative content for blogs and blog stories.

Daily 5 minute writing exercise addressing aspects of craft as varied as point of view, dialogue, plot, synthesthesia, body language, imagery, and beginnings.  May they be both fun and useful for your writing.

7. I Dare You To Write
This blog is meant to challenge you, to make you think about things that you’ve never thought about and maybe write something you’ve never written before.

8. Figment Daily Themes
Sign up for Figment Daily Themes to receive an original writing prompt every morning. Figment Daily Themes will push you to work on the range of your craft, focusing on character, setting, dialogue, personal essay, verse, and more—plus occasional prompts from acclaimed authors.

9. Trifecta Writing Challenge
The Trifecta Writing Challenge consists of two different types of writing challenges, Trifecta and Trifextra.  All challenges begin Mondays at 9 am EST.  All challenges close Thursday at 7 pm EST.

10. Writing Prompts that Don't Suck
Tired of only finding sucky writing prompts on the Internet? I know I am. Check back every day for a new prompt that totally doesn't suck.

Your Turn
Do you have any sites you recommend for Daily Writing Prompts?

Monday, May 9, 2016

Take Small Steps

Take small steps. That is both the answer and the challenge. Getting up the courage and strength to sit down and write another entry sometimes feels exhausting but also fills your veins with a rush of adrenaline. This is the rush of creativity. Within a few moments, a thick fog dissipates and ideas start to flow.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Flash Fiction Challenge - The Revolt of Dorothy

The Revolt of Dorothy
Having moved away from the family farm, and finished college, Dorothy Gail knew that she wasn’t in Kansas anymore. She was living in a small apartment in Brooklyn trying to get started as an interior decorator.  She lived alone and still got letters from back home, but didn’t feel like she had very much to write home about. Her little dog was run over by a tractor.  The job search hadn’t gone as smoothly as Dorothy would have liked, and she took a position as a secretary at a law firm to help her pay the rent.
While typing up a letter for her boss, Dorothy sipped quickly on a small glass of water. “Wasn’t this plant over next to the door?” her boss said, as he walked in.
Dorothy looked up, “Yes but I thought that it created more space  by being next to the couch.”
Her boss tightened his tie and looked down. “Dorothy I don’t care what you aspire to be or even studied, in this office you are my secretary and you will stay focused on getting the tasks that I give you. Do I make myself clear?”
“Yes Mr. Winter.”
“Thank you, now get that plant back over by the door.”
Mr. Winter went into his office and closed the door.  Dorothy dragged the large plant pot back over next to the door, letting a little bit of dirt spill out onto the floor. She stood back and looked at the plant next to the door, leaving the dirt on the rug.
Dorothy went back to her typewriter, and gulped down the rest of her glass of water, banging at the keys of her typewriter.  The door opened and Mr. Winter stepped out.
“Dorothy, I want you to re-type this letter it’s…” Mr. Winter began. He looked down at the rug.
“Yes,” said Dorothy, “…Mr. Winter.”
“What is this?”
“A letter?”
“No,” he snapped,  “this! This on the rug in the middle of lobby of our firm.”
Dorothy stood up and leaned forward,  looking down at where he was pointing.  “Oh, well, that looks like, uh, dirt.”
“Yes, absolutely, dirt. Get it cleaned up, then re-type this letter. I’ve written my comments up here. Oh, and get me a cup of coffee, not the filtered kind.”
“Of course.”
“Of course, Mr. Winter.”
He dropped the letter on her desk. Dorothy took a small broom from the closet and swept up the dirt into a dustpan. She examined the broomstick carefully, noting the grooves in the wooden handle. She picked up the dustpan with the dirt and carried it over to her desk, dropping the dirt into her wastebasket, leaving the dustpan propped up next to the wastebasket. She picked up the broomstick and waved it in the air triumphantly.
The door opened. Mr. Winter stopped and stared. “What are you doing?” he snapped.
“Nothing, sorry Mr. Winter,” she said, and she walked over toward the broom closet. Gripping the broom handle she spun around and glared at Mr. Winter. “That’s it!”
“Dorothy put that broom away!”
“No, Mr. Winter I’m not afraid of you!” She stepped closer, holding the broom in front of her.
“Dorothy I don’t know what’s gotten into you.”
“Mr. Winter you are sucking all the soul from my body, and I am sick of it.” She raised up the broom in the air.
Dorothy looked around. She looked up to see her outstretched arm, raising the broom high above her.
“Dorothy, stop your little daydreams and get focused. This is a law office, not a pizzeria. Now put that broom away and get to work on this letter.”
He dropped the letter down on her desk.  Dorothy quietly placed the broom back in the closet.  She sat down at her desk, rolled a fresh sheet of paper into her typewriter and started to type up the letter.
The door opened. “And get me that cup of coffee.”
Dorothy looked up from her typewriter. She smiled.
She stepped into the small kitchen. She was alone. She picked up a white mug, and took a few spoonfuls of freeze-dried coffee into the mug. She poured in hot water from the kettle. She examined the cup like a potion with steam rising over the cup and filling the room. Then she took a small spoonful of sugar and let it sprinkle into the cup of coffee. She took another one and let it sprinkle in. Then she picked up the sugar jar and tipped it over, generously pouring out sugar into the cup without restraint. She stirred it up, and picked up the cup by its handle.
She walked over to her the door and opened it. Her boss sat behind his desk, examining a set of papers.
“Mr. Winter,” said Dorothy, “your coffee.”
She put it down on his desk. He didn’t look up.
“Did you put in sugar?”
“Of course, 2 spoons.”
Dorothy walked out and went back to her desk.  She continued to type up the letter.
Hearing the scream from the office, she jumped up from her desk. A smile appeared across her face.
She opened the door and peered inside. “Is everything Ok?”
Mr. Winter looked at her. “Yes fine, this coffee was just so hot, burned my tongue. Get me a glass of water.”
Dorothy went back to the kitchen and opened the tap to fill up a glass of water.  She popped in a couple of ice cubes.  She opened the door to Mr. Winter’s office, charging toward his table, and then tripped.
The water flew out of glass and fell across Mr. Winter’s arm and desktop.
Dorothy watched as Mr. Winter’s arm sizzled under the impact of the water.
“Dorothy wake up!” yelled Mr. Winter. “Get me some tissue and clean this mess up.”
She went to get tissue, and came back to wipe up Mr. Winter’s desk.
“Now finish typing up that letter, I need it ready by noon.” He slammed his door.
Dorothy stood in front of her desk, clicking the heals of her shoes together.