Thursday, March 26, 2009

Flash fiction exercises: Part 1

Several years ago I joined a Yahoo group that would send daily flash fiction prompts to its members. It was supposed to be a motivator for me, something to get my writing juices flowing every day. The plan was for me to bang out something that fit the prompt then turn my attention to my own stuff that I was working on. Sadly, I didn't do that. Many times the prompts didn't inspire me. Other times I just couldn't finish what I started. The pieces from the prompts would peter out two or three paragraphs in.

Looking through my stored files last night I realized that I had kept several of these pieces. Some are finished. Some aren't. But since they are just going to gather more dust sitting on my computer I figured I'd post a couple of them here. I don't think any of them are longer than 1,000 words, but I could be wrong. I still have some of the unfinished pieces. Those are definitely shorter than 1,000 words. I'll post those too.

It looks like this one comes from June 2004. This one, I don't think, is complete. It's only a page long and doesn't really have an ending.

It's been so long that I have no idea where the inspiration for these came from. Something in the prompt just sparked something in me I guess. I have the prompts save for a few of them, but not all. If I do I'll post the prompt it at the beginning. I don't have it for this first one.

To be honest, I'm a little nervous putting this stuff out there. I haven't had my writing in a public setting like this. I have to start some time, right? No more stalling. Here is the first one of these. I'd love to know what people think.

Summers sat at the end of the bar swirling bourbon in a dirty glass. He traced a gouge in the wood with his finger and listened to the conversation behind him.

“It’s an impossible request, that’s what it is,” said the woman. She sounded blond. “There is no way that we can get the numbers up that much by Christmas. That’s what, three months?”

“You don’t have to tell me.” said her friend, a man with a clumsy voice that came from the back of his throat. “The way they put all this pressure on a three-person division is so unfair.”

Summers shook his head, downed his drink and slid the glass down the bar. They didn’t know from unfair.

It was just a form letter but that didn’t make it any easier to read. It came in a white envelope with the letters CB in block print in the upper right corner. The Corrections Bureau.

“Dear Mr. Tate Summers,” it started, “After careful calculations by our analysts we have determined that you have been living above your station for the past ten years. We are asking that you find time within the next week to report to one of our neighborhood offices to begin the process of redirection.”

That’s what they called it. Officially it was redirection, a government sponsored move to the life that they say you were meant to have.

Math. It was going to do it to him again. It almost got him held back in the second grade and it kept him from the dean’s list more than once in college. But now math was going too far. Now math was going to force him to move from his home, sell his cars, change his entire life.


  1. I have read a few of your pieces before and I like this. Starting with the action and really hooking the reader.

  2. Those books that I am reading and advice I've read elsewhere all suggest starting in the middle of the action. That's one of the reasons I do it. It's also the kind of writing I like to read, and that's all I'm ever doing. I am just writing something that I'd like to read.

  3. Glad you like it. This is one of the things that I have run with a bit. It's one of the three pieces I am excited about. I just recently figured out how to get him to the place I need to get him in the end.