Anyone who knows me, or who has looked through my Published Works, will know that I have a penchant for writing flash fiction. There are several reasons for this. One, it’s a challenge. I think forcing yourself to get a story out that quickly is good practice. Second, the best way to cut down on words is to embrace simplicity. And if you can’t tell from the layout of my webpage, simplicity is something I really enjoy. But the third reason, and the point I want to make now, is that it’s fun. Fun is what I want to share here.
One time in one of my writing groups, the leader had each member say a word. There was bad weather or something and the group was small, but the list we came up with was; mirror, fame, poor, eclectic, and purple. The exercise was to write something using all the words. (In case this sounds familiar, it was the bases for one of my published stories, “How to Gut a German.”) Given those five words, I came up with the following:
The poor, purple, eclectic poet looked in his mirror and asked, “When will I have fame?”
The mirror did not reply, for this isn’t a fairy tale, and it was only a regular mirror. Poor, purple, eclectic poets aren’t the sanest bunch.
I know, it’s not much, but it was fun to write. That was the point of my 5 Word Challenge. I would give my readers five words, and they write a short (<150 word) story. I would read through the submissions and pick the one I thought was the best and post it here.
I didn’t get that many submissions and until I get thousands of people visiting my page each month, there isn’t much point in keeping this going. But someday, hopefully I’ll get back to this.
Click on the month to read the winner’s story.
2006 October, November, December.
2007 January, February, March, April, May, June, (Put on hold)
2008 First Quarter, Second Quarter, Third Quarter, Fourth Quarter
2009 First Quarter
Congratulations to Richard Lorenz of Ridgecrest, CA, winner of my First Quarter 2009, 5 Word Challenge. Clap-clap. Given the words tail, vulture, agony, office, and health; this is what he wrote:
“I’m going to die here,” said Charles from the limousine.
“You need 24 hour health care,” Deborah replied.
He tapped the window, ignoring her. “Buzzards,” he croaked, looking at birds circling outside.
“Pigeons,” she sighed. “People feed pigeons ...”
“Because that’s all that’s left at the tail end of life?” he snorted.
“We all agonized over this. None of us ...”
“Your only agony is not inheriting yet,” he glared.
“Daddy,” she pleaded, “Just sign these before the office closes,” forcing documents on him.
“Vultures,” he muttered, looking out the window, signing quickly.
“Pigeons,” she repeated, looking over his signature. “Great,” she smiled like a shark. “We’ll take care of you from now on.”
“How?” he asked innocently.
“Using the money you should’ve died and given us already.”
“My money? I donated it to a bird sanctuary this morning.” Looking at her horror-struck face, he smiled. “Pigeon.”
Unfortunately, there was no winner for the Fourth Quarter 2008 5 Word Challenge. The reason: I received no entries. But I will trudge on.
Unfortunately, there was no winner for the Third Quarter 2008 5 Word Challenge. The reason: I received no entries. But I will trudge on.
Congratulations to Viengpasone Bounma of Somerset, NJ, winner of my Second Quarter 2008, 5 Word Challenge. Clap-clap. Given the words tape, flowers, enunciate, river, and garlic; this is what he wrote:
He sat upright in the chair, attempting to ignore the features of the waiting room. His eyes though could not resist a few seconds on the arrangement of flowers in the corner.
On his lap was a portfolio with resumes. Affixed with a single piece of tape was the interview schedule. He sniffed his breath to ensure there was no trace of garlic. He silently practiced speaking, to ensure his facial muscles would properly enunciate his name. But even this ritual attempt to remain focused could not prevent his thoughts from wandering.
In fact, with that first glance at the bouquet, his mind became a river of extraneous ideas. He reminded himself that this kind of deviation had undone him previously. In essence, he had already committed to failure. So he allowed himself to ponder.
When the receptionist requested his name, he pronounced it clearly.
Unfortunately, there was no winner for the First Quarter 2008 5 Word Challenge. The reason: I received no entries. But I will trudge on.
Unfortunately, there was no winner for my June 5 Word Challenge. The reason: I received no entries. But I will trudge on.
Unfortunately, there was no winner for my May 5 Word Challenge. The reason: I received no entries. But I trudge on.
Congratulations to Collette of King of Prussia, PA, winner of my April 2007 5 Word Challenge. Clap-clap. Given the words place, drink, remote, death, and crawl; this is what she wrote:
Ben took a sip of his drink and set it down on the coaster. A pink coaster. This was his place, he ought to start putting his foot down. Glancing at the tv, he grunted. Commercials. He hated commercials. At least he had control of the remote for once. Thinking of changing the channel, he reached out, but grabbed only air. Had it moved? He was dizzy. He stood up, and immediately sank to his knees. He began to crawl towards the kitchen. Looking up, he saw his wife - well, both of them - standing over him. They were smiling. Till death do us part suddenly took on a whole new meaning.
Unfortunately, there was no winner for my March 5 Word Challenge. The reason: I received no entries. But I trudge on.
Unfortunately, there was no winner for my February 5 Word Challenge. The reason: I received no entries. But I trudge on.
Congratulations to Farzana from Doha, Qatar, winner of my January 2007 5 Word Challenge. Clap-clap. Given the words yellow, dictionary, mouse, pen, and belligerent; this is what she wrote:
Painted walls in shades of yellow, line the closet in my home. Deciding what to wear in the morning is always such a chore. If only dressing was as simple a task as finding a word in the dictionary perched atop my desk. I finally settle on an outfit, a shapeless, sheepish grey collared top with pants loose enough for two. They perfectly portray my personality type as that of being a mouse. I await the day I will choose a dress, woven in the deepest of bold colours, for I am tired of being boring old me. I would love for my hidden belligerent self to be unleashed from within the confines of these closet walls. On that day, I will pen those thoughts that I have brushed away underneath this grey disguise.
Unfortunately, there was no winner for my December 5 Word Challenge. The reason: I received no entries. But I trudge on.
Congratulations to Melody Lauer from Downingtown, PA, winner of my November 2006 5 Word Challenge. Clap-clap. Given the words kind, return, fruit, nature and dad; this is what she wrote:
Lucy had been happy to rid her dad, Henry, to a nursing home. Still, she did return every Sunday to visit despite his senility.
As she walked to his table she steeled herself for the conversation to come.
“Dharma!” he shouted, “I told you! I don’t like fruit!”
“Dad, it’s me, Lucy.”
Henry looked at her. “Ah, Greg, so kind of you to stop by and see me today.”
Lucy rolled her eyes as he rushed on.
“Cows don’t eat meat. It’s against their nature. You should know better than to wake a man in the middle of a shower, she’s liable to get burnt.”
The conversation continued for another agonizing ten minutes when Lucy hurried out the door, thankful to get that over with for another week.
Henry watched Lucy leave and smiled. That got rid of her, he thought. Now, what can I give her next week?
Congratulations to R. S. R. D. from Audubon, PA, winner of my October 2006 5 Word Challenge. Clap-clap. Given the words bad, hard, file, dance, and tuna; this is what he wrote:
As Rupert opened the file, he thought to himself, What if I read this crap and it’s really bad?
He often found it hard to stomach other peoples work. It usually came across as rubbish to his editor’s eye.
“A Dance for Tuna!” he exclaimed aloud, as he read the title of the story. “You’ve got to be kidding me. What is this, the sequel to The Mermaid Chair?”
It wasn’t until he started to read the work that he realized he must have read the title wrong. This story had nothing to do with fish and everything to do with Roman mythology.
Scrolling back to the cover page, he carefully read the title once again.
“A Dance for Luna.”
Jeez, Rupert thought, maybe it’s time to take a break from these critiques. I could probably ruin a writer’s career if I keep working on an empty stomach like this.