As you know from my previous post I frequently visit Terribleminds.com for writing motivation. Last Friday (June 29th) Chuck posted up another flash fiction challenge. This time his challenge was another simple one that I had time to contribute on. He asked for a three sentence story kept under 100 words. Chuck would then pick his three favorites and send the winners a copy of his recent book 500 Ways To Tell A Better Story. I took a moment or two and came up with the following submission.
With only my uneventful life of selfishness, I found myself at hell’s door. Floating in the darkness I tried to push through the weight of my collapsing world in order to collect just one thought before there were none left.
Six days after reading the 143 submissions, I feel completely “schooled” in the art of writing. When I wrote my little story I thought it was a good piece and was hoping it was good enough to win, but now I think it is lacking creativity, plot, character connection, and more. I learned so much by reading the contributions, that I now know my three sentence story is not a winner. I decided to pick the top three from the submission and pick apart why I think they are so wonderful and where I was lacking.
First up: Barbara Engel
The man stood on the dock in the sun and the smoke of his lit cigarette curled gently over his hand as he watched the emergency rescue team lift his son from the water. The sucess of his career hung about his shoulders in the form of a flawlessly tailored suit with bejewled cufflinks and diamond tie pin, but his face was ragged with loss. “I am a poor man.” he said.
I enjoyed this, because it had a specific character. In mine you couldn’t even tell if it was a man or a woman, for all the reader knew it could be a talking animal that was at deaths door. The only characteristic I gave him/her was that they were selfish. Just one trait, when in reality we have an abundance of mannerisms, traits, quarks, habits, and more. I am skipping over the two typo’s for sucess and bejewled, as they aren’t important towards my growth, but I didn’t want my readers to come back and point them out. Barbara also captured emotion with a facial expression. My little story has only one emotion and it was only expressed in a spoken word. Confusion of why this would happen to the man/woman/animal.
What I learned from Barbara:
Build a better defined character.
Connect the main character and the reader with emotion.
Second: Caleb Herman
I woke up in hell; a dark and shapeless place, where memory and pain run together into a cocktail that tastes like blood and motor oil.
I heard her voice; she said she wanted me to come back; she pleaded, screamed and sobbed for me, the last thing I heard her say was “I’m sorry”.
I had to get up; I ripped and clawed at the edges of that hell, trying to find something real I could hang onto; anything to pull myself out, then I felt her hand in mine, my eyes opened and I saw her say… “Daddy”.
Caleb’s short story was filled with sensational details (I would hope that he is one of the top three). His story is similar to mine in that it is about death, but he has details and the FIGHT to draw a reader through. He has filled his entire story with sensation using taste, sight, sound, and touch. Missing only smell. My story has no connection to senses, nothing that made anything seam plausible or substantial. Mr. Herman also included drive and power into his story by having the daughter’s fight to encourage her father, which led to him fighting to come back to her.
What I learned from Caleb:
Add connections to senses, make it tangible.
Third: Tony Southcotte
The housebot analyzed the patch data, detailing her new emotional output and sensual capabilities. The first feeling of excitement fluttered through her system. The second, dread, as her salivating owner undid his belt buckle.
Tony shows creativity and simplicity. Simplicity is what I was striving for. Not something that was over the top or that could be misunderstood for a partial story. My story is simple, but missing so much detail to give it motion. Mine is simple, boring, and pointless. The second piece about Tony's story that caught my attention was the creativity he put into it. Now some of you may say that it's not very creative, that robots have been misused and abused since their conception. What Tony did was show me how disturbed the housebot's owner is to have patched the bot with emotions so that he could inspire dread and fear. A tweak there, changes the story completely. Consider the story again without the emotion patch and I think you'd draw a conclusion that the owner was just a lonely pervert. With the patch adding human emotion to the story--he becomes a very sick and messed up *bad word here*. I am definitely lacking creativity.
What I learned from Tony:
Simple is good as long as it's rounded.
Thank you to all those writers who contribute online and help mentor other want-to-be writers.
Taking what I've learned from the above submissions and others from the challenge I am rewriting my three sentence story.
I found myself floating down towards the ash covered iron gates of Hell with only the memory of my existence slowly fading behind me. Knowing that if I touched the opaque ground I would be trapped; due to pay the price for my selfishness, however my struggling did not delay the pulling assent. I searched my mind for a reason that would release me from my fate; if my father had stuck around, if Sheila stayed away from other men, if only I had more time, but time was almost gone and I had one thought left, why me.