Flash Fiction Challenge and a New Start

Greetings, everybody!

I realize I’ve kind of been taking a break from the blog since my post-NaNoWriMo wrap-up. The new year is just getting started. In the near future I’ll post the obligatory road map for where this year is going to go–I’m seeing a fitter me, a lot more writing, making things hands on, and reconnecting with people I care about. To these ends, I’m already making progress. More that later.

To start with, I’ve decided to participate in Than in Vain’s flash fiction challenge to keep myself writing something original and have a small goal each week. I haven’t worked on my NaNoWriMo novel since I hit the 50,000 word mark on November 29th. I do plan to go back to it; I know where that story is going, I just haven’t decided how it’s getting there. I think the editing process on what I have for it so far is going to feel a lot like pulling off a scab and finding pus. It won’t be pretty, and it might hurt, but cleaning it up will help it heal. Since that’s a gross image, here’s my flash fiction badge instead (it’s much prettier).

Flash fiction badge on my blog, because it's somehow less awkward than pinning a badge to my sweater. Right?

Flash fiction badge on my blog, because it’s somehow less awkward than pinning a badge to my sweater. Right?

I only heard about the flash fiction challenge a few days ago, so I missed out on the first week’s prompt, but I was in time for the second. Flash fiction is essentially a very short story. I’ve seen some brilliant 25-50 word flash fictions in the past. For the purpose of this challenge, a flash fiction was described as a story of 500 words or less.  Thain is posting writing prompts every week. My story for this week is exactly 500 words. I  have mixed feelings about it–I haven’t done really short fiction in a long time. But here it is, take a look.

Week 2 Prompt: A writer famous for horror stories is writing a story that grows so terrifying that he/she becomes to afraid to complete it.

Reggie Sprowls was tentatively happy. It was a relatively new experience for him. He’d built his whole career on scaring others senseless. The picture tucked into the corner of his storyboard was as out of place as the woman asleep on his bed.

Soft fingers stroked his cheek, and woke him up. There was a dent on his face from where his cheek had been pressed against a pencil, and his latest draft had fallen to the floor. “Reggie, it’s late, come to bed.”

He looked up blearily, yawning. “I’m meeting with my publisher in the morning. He said what I brought him last week was rubbish.”

“I’m sure he didn’t say that,” she said, pressing her fingers to his cheek and trying to rub a little life back into it.

His head leaned back of its own accord and he closed his eyes as he let her fingers do their task. “His exact words aren’t important.”

“Come to bed. You can work on it in the morning. I want to curl up next to you.”

He conceded, and slept. Morning came and he went back to his manuscript, leaving Callie asleep in the bed. He frowned at the page. He’d never written a romance before. All of his stories ended with knives in backs and people buried alive. He was good at that sort of thing. He looked at his story about Ronald and Cathy meeting in a bookstore, exchanging awkward flirtations, an atypical courtship…and what then?
Maybe he should go back to writing about bleeding walls.

He could hear the sound of Callie puttering around the kitchenette, making breakfast. How long had he been staring at this page?
What did you do after the man and woman got together? How does it work? Relationships fail. He moved everything off his storyboard from the tree-who-got-revenge-on-the-lumberjacks story and started tacking up post-it notes and trying to find a way to make it work. There was no was no way this could end well. Ronald and Callie would fight. Or she could trip on her  wedding dress walking down the aisle and break her neck. They could die in a plane crash on their honeymoon. Ronald might fall asleep while writing and impale himself on a pencil—or a pen, a pen was definitely sharp enough to go through the throat.

There was no happy ending. He would never be happy. It was impossible. All stories ended in death. Death was the only story. He looked at the happy (if not terribly imaginative) pages he’d written about Ronald and Cathy. There would be no happy ending for them. He’d been content to know life’s miseries, and write them. This glimpse of happiness, only to take it away…it was cruel.

Callie was shaking his shoulder. She tried to talk to him, but he simply stared ahead with blank, terrified eyes, his grip tight around the pen. His breakfast had long since cooled.

Well, I’m ready to hear what you think of it.  But first? Delaying tactics! Or rather, getting back to all those things I mentioned earlier. Sound good? Great.

I’m trying to keep my goals from getting too specific, because some of the best things that happen in our life are totally unplanned. When I was in high school, I never would have imagined that I’d live in another country for two years–I didn’t even want to be too far from home for college. I ended up in college 3000 miles from home (and survived) and the spur of a moment decision to take a Mandarin class for fun eventually led to studying abroad in Shanghai, teaching English at a Taiwanese summer camp, and two years of living in Taiwan after college. It’s a strange world.

My goals this year don’t look tremendously different from last year’s goals. They can pretty much be summed up as: I want to make things (connections with people I care about, smiles, delicious meals, novels, short stories, videos, blog posts, 3D prints, crocheted hats, I want to make it all!). As you saw in my last post, I’ve had some mixed success. I wanted to become a healthier person last year (take that as you will). I strength-trained, and I got stronger. I ran (a little), and I got faster. I counted calories and cut down on sugar and carbs and lost about 20 pounds. And then I stopped lifting, running, and counting. I gained back every one of those 20 pounds (not for the first time). I’m so annoyed at myself over it–it feels kind of bitter to know that if I had managed to maintain my weight after the losses, the next 20 pounds I lose would bring me down by 40…instead, I’m having to re-lose the same weight. It doesn’t feel good–I swore to myself after the last time that I wouldn’t that again. Well, this time, I have a plan.

I need to start lifting weights again–even if it’s dumbbells on my living room floor instead of making it to the gym and getting under the barbell. I need to go back to making better decisions with what I eat, and not deciding that a rough day at work means that it’s totally acceptable to splurge on cookies. Or eat fast food because the only way I’ll actually take a break during lunch is if I leave the office. I think moderation is going to be the key. One of the incentives I came up with is to set a very limited budget on how much I can spend on ordering food out at work, say $10 a week. Whatever I don’t spend of that allotment each week will go towards treating myself to something I really love having done but don’t feel like I can splurge on very often: a massage. It gives me multiple reasons to make better eating decisions during the week.

Another thing that I decided I needed to do this year is make sure the people who are important to me know that they are. Last weekend, I called several family members and long-time family friends who I hadn’t heard from in a long while. It felt good. I missed them and it was great catching up. Until I went away to Taiwan in 2010, I never sent Christmas cards. It just wasn’t something I did.  However, Christmas cards in Taiwan were adorable, quirky, covered with glitter, sequins, and ribbons, and really inexpensive. I put out an open call on Facebook and asked who wanted a card. Exchanging addresses with friends and family I hadn’t talked to in a long while led to conversations with people I missed. It was really great. I’ve done it every year since. Also, looking at all the Christmas cards hanging around my room that year made me feel warm and fuzzy and cared for while I was 12,000 miles from home and working on Christmas while most people I knew back home had time off. To be honest, I haven’t taken this year’s Christmas cards off the mantle yet because when I see them, I smile. One of my goals for this year is to send out a card or letter every month. I’ve got three birthday cards and a belated holiday card ready to go in the mail, and I plan to write a letter to a friend who I know is finishing bootcamp this month.

Those are a few of the things I plan to do this year–there’s more, there’s always more. I need to teach myself the updated version of iMovie so I can get back to posting YouTube videos. I have a friend who’s expecting a little one at the end of this summer, and I’ll be crocheting a hat for her. There are more dishes I’d like to teach myself to cook and new skills I’d like to learn. Of course, there’s also writing. I think I’m going to have to elaborate on my writing goals at a later date, or this post will never be finished. It’s been a long week, and I’m about ready to call it a night and sink down into a bubble bath.  Maybe I’ll pick up my dumbbells first–I do have to walk past them when I get off the couch. See? It’s a start!

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6 thoughts on “Flash Fiction Challenge and a New Start

  1. Hey, HIMS

    First, love your flash fiction! So compelling is your main character. Here’s a writer challenging himself to something outside his normal meat and potatoes writing and discovers something terrifying at the core of himself! Very cool!

    Second, appreciate your struggles, honesty, and humour! What are we if not souls on this planet just trying to do better. I’ve been there; am there! It’s so great we can write together!

    Third, so glad to have you on board!! I think we can have so fun with this!!

    Cheerio,
    Thain in Vain

    • Thanks, Thain! I need to go back through your older posts and get to know you a bit better, but I have to ask, if there a story behind your username? Thain makes me think of the Shire…and Pippin Took, although that might be totally just me.

      I’m really glad you like my flash fiction! It’s been a long time since I deliberately tried to write something so short. I was worried I ate up too much of my word count with dialogue–I actually went back and cut some of it or it would have been over.

      And thanks. I’ve tried to be as honest as I can on this blog and just be as much myself as possible. It’s really the only person we can be, right? I look forward to reading more of your work! And I can’t wait to see next week’s prompt!

  2. And in case you were wondering, I _did_ pick up my dumbbells when I got off the couch–overhead presses, triceps extensions, and bicep curls. I even made myself do another two sets before getting back on the couch to start writing again. #exercise #babysteps

  3. Pingback: Flash Fiction Challenge – Week Two Submissions | Thain in Vain

  4. Pingback: Flash Fiction Challenge – Week Three Submissions | Thain in Vain

  5. Pingback: Making Connections | Hi, I Make Stuff

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