Short Story Sunday 252: Admit [Flash Fiction]

Short Story: "Admit" | Creative Writing | Flash Fiction | RachelPoli.com

Gina opened the front door to her house and poked her head in. Neither one of her parents were in the living room. She didn’t hear anything coming from the kitchen either. Hopefully, her father was in the basement and her mother was in their bedroom. She entered the house and closed the door softly behind her. She wasn’t in the mood to talk to them. It wasn’t that she didn’t want to, but she didn’t want to lie to them.

She adjusted her backpack onto her shoulders and quietly made her way over to the stairs. As long as she’d be able to make it up there without making too much noise, she should be in the clear.

Except pretty much every step squeaked. Why was it that the stairs never made a sound when she walked normally on them, yet they spoke loudly whenever she was trying to be stealth?

“Honey, is that you?” she heard her mother call.

Gina froze in the middle of the stairs. Honey could mean one of two things – either her mother knew Gina was due home from school or she thought she was talking to her husband.

“Honey?” she called again.

Gina bit her lower lip. Come on, say a name! Honey wasn’t getting anyone anywhere.

There were a few moments of silent. Gina hoped her mother had given up. Maybe she thought she had heard things. Yeah, that would be good. Now all Gina had to do was try her best to keep as quiet as she could. She was halfway up the stairs already. She could do this.

Gina lifted her left foot to take the next step when she heard other footsteps. She froze again. The basement stairs were directly below the stairs going up. That meant her father was coming up from the basement.

That was okay, though. Maybe he was just going into the kitchen to get a snack.

She heard the basement door open. This was still okay. As long as she didn’t move, no one would notice her and she’d be fine.

“Gina?”

She remained still. How had she not heard her father round the corner? Clearly, he had much more practice at being stealth than she was.

“Uh, Gina? What are you doing?”

Oh, right. She was still frozen. She relaxed and turned around to smile at her dad. “Hey, how are ya?”

Her father narrowed his eyes in confusion. “I’m good, how are you doing?”

“Great,” Gina replied all too quickly.

“Honey, what’s going – oh. Hi, Gina.”

Gina snapped her head around. Her mother was now standing at the top of the stairs. “Oh, no… I’m cornered.” She muttered.

“Cornered?” her father repeated folding his arms sternly.

Gina grinned. What else was she supposed to do?

“Did anything interesting happen in school today?” her mother asked.

“Well, you don’t have to pressure me! Fine, I’ll tell you.” Gina said exasperated. She threw her arms up in the air before turning back to her mother. Did she detect a small smirk on her mother’s face?

“I got…” Gina began but then sighed.

“Suspended, we know.” Her father finished her sentence.

Gina paused. “Wait, how?”

“Your principal called.” Her mother answered.

“Oh,” Gina relaxed. In a way she was relieved. She didn’t want to lie to them but she also didn’t want them know she had gotten too many detentions to warrant a suspension. Which reminded her… “Do you know why?”

“Too many detentions.” Her father said.

“Which explains why you’re home late sometimes.” Her mother added.

Gina nodded. There was no getting out of this one.

“So, were you sneaking up the stairs?” her mother chuckled. “What were you going to do during the school day for the next week without us knowing?”

Gina opened her mouth. Honestly, she hadn’t thought that far ahead yet. It was true, she would have had to pretend to go to school every morning. What would she do? Where would she go? Her mother stayed home, there was no way she’d be able to just hang home all day.

“Well, it doesn’t matter, Dear.” Her father said. He started walking up the stairs and slid past his daughter. “She’s grounded anyway.”

Her mother nodded. “Yes, I suppose you’re right.” Once her husband was at the top of the stairs, she took it upon herself to go downstairs. She patted Gina on the shoulder as she passed.

Gina watched her mother as she disappeared into the living room. She looked above her and her father was already gone. She leaned her back against the wall and sighed. Well, that didn’t go as planned. Deep down she knew that was for the best.

Words: 783

Check out the other Short Story Sundays I’ve done!

I hope you enjoyed this story! Let me know in the comments below. If you liked this post, please share it around.

Blog Signature | RachelPoli.comPatreon | Twitter | Instagram | Pinterest | GoodReads | Double JumpSign up for Rachel Poli's Newsletter and get a FREE 14-page Writing Tracker! | Writing | Blogging | RachelPoli.com

Advertisements

Time To Write: Love & Hate [Creative Writing Prompt]

Last week’s writing prompt was a set the scene prompt.

This week’s writing prompt is:

Time to Write: Love and Hate | Creative writing prompt | flash fiction | short story | RachelPoli.com

Write a story based on the prompt above.

If you use this prompt, please leave a link to your post in the comments below and I’ll share it next week. Please be sure to link back to my blog so your readers know where you got the prompt!

Happy Writing! If you want more, check out all my other Writing Prompts here!

Blog Signature | RachelPoli.com

Patreon | Twitter | Instagram | Pinterest | GoodReads | Double Jump

Sign up for Rachel Poli's Newsletter and get a FREE 14-page Writing Tracker! | Writing | Blogging | RachelPoli.com

The Difference Between Flash Fiction & Short Stories

For a long time, I had always used the terms short story and flash fiction as though they were one in the same. All I knew was that they were stories that were not long… simple as that. Right?

Of course, this was when I was younger. As I got older and dabbled more in the writing world, I realized how wrong I was. Then again, I wrote a lot on the Fan Fiction website and 100-word stories were called “drabbles.” I thought that was the only difference between flash fiction and short stories. 100 words were drabbles and anything higher was a short story and/or flash fiction because they totally meant the same thing.

The Difference Between Flash Fiction and Short Stories | Flash Fiction Writing | Short Story Writing | Creative Writing | RachelPoli.com

What is a short story?

A short story is exactly as it sounds – it’s a story that’s significantly shorter than a novel or novella. Aside from length, a short story has pretty much everything in common with a novel. It has a fleshed-out plot, well-rounded characters, and a developed setting and theme.

What is a flash fiction?

A flash fiction is essentially the same thing, only the story is told in a couple hundred words or so. It has a well thought out plot and great characters, but they don’t necessarily need to be fully developed. It helps, yes, but I’ve read my fair share of flash fiction where some things were left up to my own imagination and I personally like it that way.

How many words is a short story?

According to Writer’s Digest, a short story is typically 1,500 words to about 30,000 words which is when it crosses over to novella territory. However, I personally have seen some short stories go up to 10- or 15,000 words. If you know of one that’s actually near 30,000 words, let me know. I’m curious. Whenever I write short stories, they typically don’t get longer than 5,000 words or so… unless I’m writing a short story about George and Lilah. Then I can get up to 10,000 or even 15,000 words. Maybe even 20,000 words. I have a lot of fun with those characters.

How many words is a flash fiction?

Since flash fiction is shorter than short stories, flash fiction is considered to be anywhere under 1,500 words. Flash fiction can vary from being 500 words or as low as 100 words. I’m sure you’ve all heard of 6-word stories before. There are a few fairly famous ones. Then again, 6-word stories may be considered micro fiction… if that’s even a real term. I may be making that one up.

Which one should you write?

Both. Flash fiction and short stories are great practice for writing in general – characters, pacing, plot, everything. It helps to challenge yourself into writing a complete story within a certain amount of words. I’ll admit, I sometimes decide to write flash fiction and then it turns into a short story because I get carried away with the current plot I’m building.

If I think about it, my Short Story Sundays should be Flash Fiction Fridays.

Which do you prefer? Do you read and write shorts, flashes, or both? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below. If you liked this post, please share it around.

Blog Signature | RachelPoli.comPatreon | Twitter | Instagram | Pinterest | GoodReads | Double JumpSign up for Rachel Poli's Newsletter and get a FREE 14-page Writing Tracker! | Writing | Blogging | RachelPoli.com

Short Story Sunday 251: Provide [Flash Fiction]

Short Story: "Provide" | Creative Writing | Flash Fiction | RachelPoli.com

Brady entered the store. He looked at the list his girlfriend had given him. After reading the items over in his head a few times, he folded the paper up and slid it into his back pocket. He turned around and walked back out of the store to grab a basket.

He hated it when the stores had an entry way and put their baskets and shopping carts there. Sure, it saved room in the store, but most often than not, he would grab his items then realize he needs more but has no arm space. Then he’d have to put it all down to leave the store, grab, a cart, only to come back in and pick everything back up. It was a pain.

He had grabbed a basket this time knowing he’d need it before he tried to fill his arms up with everything his girlfriend needed. Normally she did the shopping when it came to the kids, but she wasn’t feeling that well. And, well, they really did need food.

Brady wandered through the store weaving in and out of the many isles. While she had written down the brands and foods they liked to eat, Brady didn’t know his way around the store. It was times like this that he wished he had gone with her a couple of times. Then he’d be in and out.

He quickly filled up the basket though. He didn’t think he would, but he grabbed enough so that he wouldn’t have to come back anytime soon. Or, at least until his girlfriend was feeling better.

There were a few other things on the list that he picked up. Some were too heavy for the basket, but he managed. He hadn’t been working out lately like he said he would, so this was perfect. It was a nice start even if it wasn’t consistent.

Brady paid for all his stuff – over $100 worth. He grumpily shook his head at the cashier but didn’t say anything. He knew it wasn’t her fault. It was his girlfriend’s. She didn’t even give him money to pay for all of it. For some reason, she acted like they were married.

“What’s mine is yours and what’s yours is mine.” She’d tell him.

Brady grunted as he picked up all the bags. He bid the cashier a good day. She had asked him if he’d need help bringing it all out to the car, but he declined. He liked a good challenge.

It wasn’t until he made it out of the store that he realized he parked in the furthest spot.

As always, he managed. When he made it back home, he was greeted by the kids – his girlfriend’s two dogs and three cats.

Brady tried balancing the bags in his hands as the cats rubbed up against his legs weaving in and out as the dogs tried to jump up and lick his face.

“I know, I know… I got food. Hold on,” Brady said raising the bags over his head and side-stepping through the living room to get to the kitchen.

“Did you have any trouble?” he heard his girlfriend call from the bedroom.

“No, not at all.” Brady said as he dropped the bags onto the kitchen counter. The cats jumped up onto the counter. One by one, Brady picked them up and put them back on the floor.

“Come on, you know better.” He muttered.

“Do you mind feeding them now?” she called.

Brady took out a few cans of dog food from the bags and the two dogs went berserk. He sighed. “I think it’d be really mean of me not to.”

Words: 611

Check out the other Short Story Sundays I’ve done!

I hope you enjoyed this story! Let me know in the comments below. If you liked this post, please share it around.

Blog Signature | RachelPoli.comPatreon | Twitter | Instagram | Pinterest | GoodReads | Double JumpSign up for Rachel Poli's Newsletter and get a FREE 14-page Writing Tracker! | Writing | Blogging | RachelPoli.com

Time To Write: Set The Scene 13 [Creative Writing Prompt]

Last week’s writing prompt was a sentence starter. Check out some stories and photos from other great writers:

This week’s writing prompt is:

Time To Write: Set the Scene | Creative Writing Prompt | Setting Prompt | Flash Fiction | Short Story | RachelPoli.com

Write a story based in the setting above.

If you use this prompt, please leave a link to your post in the comments below and I’ll share it next week. Please be sure to link back to my blog so your readers know where you got the prompt!

Happy Writing! If you want more, check out all my other Writing Prompts here!

Blog Signature | RachelPoli.com

Patreon | Twitter | Instagram | Pinterest | GoodReads | Double Jump

Sign up for Rachel Poli's Newsletter and get a FREE 14-page Writing Tracker! | Writing | Blogging | RachelPoli.com

Starting With A Prompt [Short Stories]

February is a short month so I decided to talk about short stories. No, that’s not the only reason why, but I think it’s a cool reason anyway.

I never imagined myself writing short stories or flash fiction of any kind. However, when I started this blog I wanted to get more of my writing out there in the world. I very well couldn’t post full-length novels onto the blog. Short stories were the way to go and they’re all starting with a prompt.

Short Stories: Starting With A Prompt | Creative Writing | Writing Prompt | Short Story Writing | Flash Fiction Writing | RachelPoli.com

Short Story Sunday

I started this blog in 2012 and had the idea for Short Story Sunday in late 2014, early 2015… I believe. If I’m remembering correctly. I had never really written any short pieces before. I tried but the ideas always expanded into bigger, better plots. Thus, I had a five-page list of “novels to write.”

I think it was Kris who told me to start writing short stories and/or flash fiction and post it on the blog.

“What am I supposed to write about?”

All my great ideas were turned into novels – or were being saved for novels. So, how could I give up those “brilliant” ideas and publish them on the Internet in just a few hundred words?

Creative Writing Prompts

You can use writing prompts for whatever you want – whether you’re writing a short story, novel, poem, whatever. However, I’ve never really used writing prompts before. I always felt as though I was stealing someone else’s ideas and, if I turned it into a novel and published it, I’d feel like it wasn’t my own, original idea.

That’s not true, of course. The words are still your own and you turn the prompt into your own ideas. Still, it was a weird concept for me at the time.

So, I found prompts online. I bought a couple of prompt books. Kris would give me a random prompt or I’d make one up myself at the top of my head. Thus, short stories were born for me.

There have been plenty of shorts I’ve written where I’ve taken the idea and set it aside in case I want to expand on it into a longer piece – a novel or even just a novella. However, most of them have just remained as shorts. Some are good, some are bad, and some are just plain ugly. But they’re all ideas nonetheless.

How To Begin A Short Story

Like I said, I never imagined myself being a “short story writer.” I thought I would keep it strict to the blog. I didn’t think I would ever submit short pieces to magazines or contests, let alone self-publish a collection. They’re not easy to write. For novels, you have 50,000-plus words to develop characters, establish the setting, elongate the plot, and even throw in some sub stuff. You need to do all that for a short story in about 5,000 words – obviously sometimes more, sometimes less. Sometimes way less.

So, how do you begin a short story? Well, it’s the same as starting a novel. You just do. I know there are people out there who always say that there’s a “right” way to begin a novel and a “wrong” way to begin it to hook your readers. But still, I always just start them. Sometimes my character is just waking up – which even I find annoying most of the time, but hey – I’m writing.

When it comes to writing shorter pieces, I begin with the prompt. The prompt maybe a character’s name or a single word or phrase. It could be a dialogue cue or a snippet of a potential plot.

Whenever I try to write something without beginning it with the prompt, I always find myself stuck. Then I wonder, “where do I fit in the prompt?” Of course, if you come up with a different idea, then you don’t need to worry about throwing the prompt in somewhere, but that’s beside the point.

Why I Love Prompts For Short Stories

I feel like writing prompts are perfect for short story writing. There’s room to explore your own creativity, but it doesn’t take over. It doesn’t take too long for the story to be told for the most part, either.

If you’re interesting in trying to write short stories, I think using a prompt is the way to go. Not to mention, it opens your mind more to things you wouldn’t normally write. If I didn’t use writing prompts, I wouldn’t have nearly 300 shorts written to this day.

Plus, I love looking back at my old stories and seeing how far I’ve come and how much I’ve improved in my writing since then.

Do you use writing prompts and write short stories or flash fiction? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below. If you liked this post, please share it around.

Blog Signature | RachelPoli.comPatreon | Twitter | Instagram | Pinterest | GoodReads | Double JumpSign up for Rachel Poli's Newsletter and get a FREE 14-page Writing Tracker! | Writing | Blogging | RachelPoli.com

Short Story Sunday 250: Secrets [Flash Fiction]

Short Story: "Secrets" | Flash Fiction | Creative Writing | RachelPoli.com

Allan opened the bedroom door a small crack. He peered in, slowly craning his neck to look into the room. When the coast seemed to be clear, he slid through as small a crack in the door his body would allow, and closed the door behind him with a soft click. He scanned the room, taking it all in, wondering where it could be.

His back was pressed against the door. Allan knew he needed to actually look around the room and move things around if he was ever going to find it. However, he also knew this was wrong. He shouldn’t have been in his brother’s bedroom. He shouldn’t have been thinking about snooping around and invading his privacy.

Allan sighed and pushed himself away from the door. He wouldn’t be a very good little brother if he didn’t snoop around, though… right?

He started to his right where his brother’s dresser was. He looked on top – nothing. He opened the first drawer and lifted the neatly folders shirts – nothing. Allan closed it and opened the second drawer. He picked up some dress pants and jeans – still nothing. He closed it and opened the third drawer, shuffling around his brother’s underwear and socks – absolutely nothing. He closed the drawer in frustration, the drawer slamming. Allan winced. Hopefully no one heard that.

He straightened out turning around. No, his brother wouldn’t leave it in such an easy spot like his dresser within his clothes. Allan smiled at his brother bed. He’s hide it in a much tougher spot.

Allan lunged at the bed. He lifted up the bed sheets. It wasn’t there. He lifted the mattress on one side – nothing – and then the other side – nothing.

Allan pouted. Surely, he had thought his brother would hide it under his mattress. He didn’t bother looking under the bed. That was too obvious of a spot. He sat on the bed, lying down. His head hit the pillow hard.

“Ow!” he exclaimed sitting up. He rubbed his head. Man, his brother had a stiff pillow.

Allan froze. Wait a minute.

He picked up the pillow and turned it upside down so the opening of the pillowcase was pointed to the ground. Gravity did its job and a book fell out of the case and onto the bed.

Allan grinned. His brother’s journal. This was sacred. But now he’d be able to see who his brother had a crush on.

Words: 407

Check out the other Short Story Sundays I’ve done!

I hope you enjoyed this story! Let me know in the comments below. If you liked this post, please share it around.

Blog Signature | RachelPoli.comPatreon | Twitter | Instagram | Pinterest | GoodReads | Double JumpSign up for Rachel Poli's Newsletter and get a FREE 14-page Writing Tracker! | Writing | Blogging | RachelPoli.com

Time To Write: Sentence Starter 43 [Creative Writing Prompt]

Last week’s writing prompt was a picture prompt. Check out some stories and photos from other great writers:

  • []

This week’s writing prompt is:

Time to Write: Sentence Starter | Creative Writing Prompt | Writing Prompt | First Line Prompt | Flash Fiction | Short Story | RachelPoli.com

Write a story beginning with the sentence above.

If you use this prompt, please leave a link to your post in the comments below and I’ll share it next week. Please be sure to link back to my blog so your readers know where you got the prompt!

Happy Writing! If you want more, check out all my other Writing Prompts here!

Blog Signature | RachelPoli.com

Patreon | Twitter | Instagram | Pinterest | GoodReads | Double Jump

Sign up for Rachel Poli's Newsletter and get a FREE 14-page Writing Tracker! | Writing | Blogging | RachelPoli.com

How To Build A Fantasy World In Flash Fiction [Guest Post]

I’m happy to welcome Carin Marais back to my blog for another guest post! Thanks, Carin!

Guest Post: How To Build a Fantasy World in Flash Fiction by Carin Marais | Creative Writing | Guest Blogging | Short Story | Fantasy Writing | RachelPoli.com

When writing fantasy or sci-fi stories in a flash fiction it can be difficult to get the world in which the story takes place across because of the word limit. However, there are some steps that you can take that will make your worldbuilding in flash fiction not only work but also stand out.

Choosing a world to write in (a new world/a world you already know)

First of all, you need to decide whether you’ll be writing in the primary world (i.e. our world), or a secondary world. There is a bit of overlap – or grey area, if you want – between primary and secondary worlds. For instance, in “Scorched Earth”, I wrote a “straightforward” historical flash fiction piece, but added some paranormal aspects:

Johannes’ voice sounded in my ears as I turned to climb onto the wagon.

“Want Hij zal Zijn engelen vam u bevelen, dat sij u bewaren in al uw wegen.”

I looked around and spotted him standing some way off. Still dressed in simple clothes, he no longer held a Mauser in his hands. His chest was covered in dark blood and sand crusted his face. I wanted to wipe it away, to tell him it’s alright. I wanted to beat his chest and ask him how he could have left me. How he could let me go to the camps. How he dared recite the Bible to me.

I jumped when a young soldier touched my arm and I stepped back.

Jy sien ook?” he asked, the words barely recognisable. “You see them as well?” he repeated in English, his eyes pleading.

“See what?” I shrugged and climbed onto the wagon, sitting down next to Maria.

The young soldier folded his arms around him, eyes darting from ghost to ghost.” (“Scorched Earth” by Carin Marais, 2018)

Then there are those who are set in a world that is either completely alien to our own (Daily SF has published many stories that uses this wonderfully), or which are a complete secondary world, hinting at a larger world beyond the story:

They had always said that my blood wasn’t pure enough to work here, that the gods would take vengeance for having their holy objects exhibited for all to see. I rolled my eyes at them – but only behind their backs.

The priests added their voices to the surging crowds once money changed hands and their earlier blessing of the travelling exhibition was recanted. All objects were to be returned to the half-forgotten temples.” (“Red” by Carin Marais, 2018)

This also brings me to the first part of worldbuilding when you’re writing flash fiction – build only the part of the world that is necessary for the story.

Building only what is necessary

When you only have a thousand words to work with (give or take), you hardly have time to go into the intricacies of the economic system of the city where your story takes place.

However, if you need to show a disparity in income, for instance, you can mention hijacked buildings turned to slums or the beggars in the streets. Perhaps your character passes a soup kitchen line, or perhaps they drive past informal settlements that line the main roads out of the city. You don’t (necessarily) have to give up too many words for this kind of description if you use your words economically.

You also shouldn’t underestimate the intelligence your readers – you don’t have to spell everything out to them, but just leave enough breadcrumbs for the reader from which to gather the whole picture. You can always make a few notes about the world if you want to return to that world later, but just watch out for ending up with worldbuilder’s disease before you’ve even written the flash piece! This includes writing languages and cultures.

Other languages and cultures

(Fantasy) culture is a lot easier to portray in flash fiction, in my opinion, than other languages. However, using words in another language – or even languages – can be a powerful way to ground the story in a specific milieu.

For instance, I used three languages in “Scorched Earth”; English (the language the story is written in), Dutch (the language of the Bible quotations), and Afrikaans. The story is set during the Anglo Boer War (1899-1902) and, at that time, the Dutch Bible was still used by Afrikaans Christians. Each time, however, I noted that it was verses from the Bible that was being quoted and, in the context of the story, it wouldn’t be a huge problem if the reader didn’t understand the exact verse that was being quoted.

Johannes’ voice sounded in my ears as I turned to climb onto the wagon.

“Want Hij zal Zijn engelen vam u bevelen, dat sij u bewaren in al uw wegen.”

How he dared recite the Bible to me.” (“Scorched Earth by Carin Marais, 2018)

When it comes to using fantasy culture(s) in your fiction, there are some simple steps you can take to make it work.

If you’re just working from a vague idea in your mind, try some free writing to get a better grasp of what the culture is about and where it may have parallels to cultures in the primary world. If it does, and you need to do some research, now is the time. Talk to people of that culture, read up (for example articles by people of that culture) if the culture is on the other side of the world as you, etc. NaNoWriMo forums are especially good for this type of research.

Of course, if it’s a fantasy culture that you’re not actually basing on any real culture (much easier to do in a short piece than an actual novel!), you can basically do what you want and show that element that you want to highlight. For instance, this can be a part of their mythology and ritual as I did in “They Burn Your Birth-Tree” (2017) that I wrote for Paragraph Planet:

They burn your birth-tree with you when you die. Your ash would mix before being scattered by the ever-swirling-whispering-wailing wind. I always thought winter – that dark season – was the perfect time to die. My son was born with the first blossoms. I held the newborn at the newly planted birth-tree next to his mother’s stump. A bitter wind blew ashes from the pyre into the sunlit sky. You shouldn’t die in spring, I thought. “They Burn Your Birth-tree” by Carin Marais (2017)

While the fantasy culture may be foreign or strange to the reader, ways to make it understandable and relatable includes smart naming of the objects or rituals in the culture. So, for instance, I chose the English name “birth-tree” to denote an otherwise strange and alien idea instead of making up a word in another language. The reader immediately has some inkling of what I am referring to even though they have probably never heard of the word before.

You also don’t have to give more information about the use of the tree-burning than that which is in the final story, as the story only hinges on the reader understanding the implications of the mother’s tree having been cut down. The whole history of the tree-burning is therefore unnecessary clutter in the story even though you may have made worldbuilding notes about this. (More about it in the ‘editing’ part of this post.)

The magic system/technology

When writing a magic system or technology in flash fiction, it’s best to keep the magic “magical” and the technology “something that works” as you are really pressed for space.

Remember that it’s always important to focus on the story and what the story and characters need rather than focusing on that which goes on behind the scenes. Your readers are much more likely to enjoy one where the magic just works than one where the magic is being discussed for no apparent reason. Of course, if your whole story is about that, then go right ahead, but don’t feel the need to do it in every story.

The same goes for technology. In a tome of over 100K words, you’ll have more than enough space for explaining how certain technologies work. In 1 000 words, however, it’s unnecessary. All you have to really know that it works (or doesn’t work) and what the actual story is about. For instance:

I pick up the old delivery box and open it. Inside is my stinging, half-beating heart, its cogs and wheels and pipes all scattered. No wonder my chest ached so. I take a small screwdriver and go to work…” (“A Cup of Tea” by Carin Marais, 2018)

Don’t info-dump

All of the above basically boils down to one thing: don’t info-dump in the story. If your story ends up being 2 000 words, it’s more than likely that things can be edited down by half by either re-writing and deleting unnecessary details.

Here is an example of my first draft of the beginning of “They Burn Your Birth-tree” and what ended up in the published story:

“They burn you when you die in the winter, or so the old people always said. When the ground is frozen and the birth-trees bare, they would cut down your birth-tree and burn it with you.” (Draft 1)

Versus

“They burn your birth-tree with you when you die.” (Published story)

This took about 4 edits and I ended being a lot happier with the concise sentence of the final piece than the info-dump of the first draft when I was still finding my feet in the story.

  • Editing your flash piece

When you start to edit your story, first look at the number of words you need to cut – 100? 1 000? Once you know that, you know the minimum you need to trim from the story to turn it into a flash piece.

Start by deleting all unnecessary words. You’d be surprised how many you can use in such a limited space!

Next, go through all your descriptions. How can you tighten them or even rewrite them to make them punchier?

Usually by this time I find that I’d cut quite a large number of words already and may have already hit my target number of words! If not, I look at the story itself. Are there details that I can delete? Or perhaps whole characters that I can leave out without breaking down the story? Remember to spellcheck before posting or sending!

About Carin Marais

Carin Marais is a South African fantasy author and copywriter whose fiction and articles have appeared in Every Day Fiction, Jozi Flash (2016, 2017), Speculative Grammarian, Inkspraak and, most recently, Vrouekeur (June 2018). Her flash fiction collection Dim Mirrors (2016) was followed by Shards of Mirrors in 2018, shortly after the short story Forgotten (2018) was published on Kindle and Kobo. She is also a regular contributor to The Mighty.

Website & Blog | Twitter | Instagram | Goodreads

Shards of Mirrors By Carin MaraisShards of Mirrors is a free collection of 16 flash fiction pieces by Carin Marais. The stories are thematically linked, with the writer exploring loss, grief, forgetting, and remembering throughout the collection. Though not light-hearted, many of the stories are bittersweet and even hopeful. The genres range from steampunk (“Calling the Rain”), and horror (“The Call from Below”, “Red”), to sci-fi (“Shared Memories in High Definition”, “Petrichor”) and fantasy (“A Cup of Tea”, “A Fair Trade”).

DOWNLOAD SHARDS OF MIRRORS HERE.

Be sure to let Carin know what you thought of her post in the comments! Check out her links and show her some love. If you liked the post, please share it around.

If you’d like to write a guest post for my blog, then read the Guest Post Guidelines.

Blog Signature | RachelPoli.com

Patreon | Twitter | Instagram | Pinterest | GoodReads | Double Jump

Sign up for Rachel Poli's Newsletter and get a FREE 14-page Writing Tracker! | Writing | Blogging | RachelPoli.com

Short Story Sunday 249: Shallow [Flash Fiction]

Short Story: "Shallow" | Creative Writing | Flash Fiction | RachelPoli.com

Sidney sat down in the far corner of the black leather. She crossed her arms and legs and turned her head to face the wall. She would have looked out the winder but then she’d had to look at him.

Cameron was already sitting. He too was on the couch and could tell that Sidney had purposefully sat far away from him. He sighed and turned his attention to the guidance counselor.

“Do you see what I mean?” he said pointing to his friend.

Mr. Warner stared sympathetically at Cameron. “Let’s not point fingers now. We’re here to talk about what’s bothering us and work out our differences.”

Cameron pressed his lips together. He sat stiffly. He had never been in the guidance counselor’s office before unless it was for something school related. He was a good kid. He did his homework, he was friendly with everyone. He didn’t understand why one of his best friends was so angry at him that they needed peer mediation.

“Sidney?” Mr. Warner turned his attention to her. “Did you hear me?”

She grunted, still staring at the wall.

“Sidney, we all need to be in this together 100-percent.” The guidance counselor said calmly. He opened a notebook and rested it on his lap. “Now, would either of you like to volunteer to start?”

Sidney cast a side glance over her shoulder. Once she noticed Cameron looking at her, she immediately turned away again. Cameron sighed looking at Mr. Warner. He opened his mouth to begin, but noticed the notebook.

“What’s that for?” he asked.

“To take notes.” Mr. Warner replied.

“Why do you have to take notes on us?” Cameron replied hastily. “This isn’t like… therapy or anything, is it? We’re having an argument, what’s there to take notes for?”

“I want to make sure I can understand and remember everything you guys tell me. Taking notes allow me to take a look back at your statements and try to piece things together.” Mr. Warner explained.

Sidney snorted.

“Statements?” Cameron stood up from the couch. “You make it sound like we’re on trial for something.

“I assure you, Cameron, that’s not the case.” Mr. Warner said shaking his head. He pointed to the couch. “Please, take a seat. Would you like to get us started?”

“What was that sigh for?” Cameron asked. “You think I’m ridiculous, don’t you? Well, I’ve never been on trial before!”

“You’re not on trial.” Mr. Warner said a little louder.

“Do you see what I put up with?” Sidney piped up.

Mr. Warner and Cameron froze turning their attention to Sidney. Neither of them had noticed she was looking at them now and actually listening.

“I’m beginning to. Sidney, would you like to start?” Mr. Warner replied.

“Oh, so now you’re both against me?” Cameron replied. He threw his arms up in the air and began to pace.

“No one is against you. No one is ever against you.” Sidney replied. She too stood up. “You overthink everything though. I’m frustrated because I corrected you with one little thing and you flipped out. You yelled at me and I don’t care too much for that, so yeah. I’m mad.”

Cameron’s shoulders relaxed. He swallowed a lump in his throat. “Oh.”

“You never ask about what’s going on in my life. You don’t care about how my day is. All you care about is whether or not you’re doing a good job.” Sidney explained.

“A good job with what?” Cameron asked.

“Anything and everything. It’s annoying.”

“Okay, but we’re not a couple, so I don’t need to ask you about your day and stuff.”

Sidney rolled her eyes. “We don’t need to be a couple to be interested in each other. We’re friends, we still care about each other. Well, I care about you. I don’t know much about you caring about me.”

“Is that all?” Cameron wondered aloud.

Sidney nodded her head. “I just want to be normal friends without my day having to revolve around you.”

“Oh,” Cameron said with a nod. “Okay, I can work on that. I didn’t realize. I’m sorry.”

Sidney smiled. She walked over to him and gave him a big hug. After they pulled away, they both chuckled at how silly this whole thing was. The bell rang and they left the room side by side.

Mr. Warner remained in his chair. He let out a sigh. “Uh, glad I could help?”

Words: 740

Check out the other Short Story Sundays I’ve done!

I hope you enjoyed this story! Let me know in the comments below. If you liked this post, please share it around.

Blog Signature | RachelPoli.comPatreon | Twitter | Instagram | Pinterest | GoodReads | Double JumpSign up for Rachel Poli's Newsletter and get a FREE 14-page Writing Tracker! | Writing | Blogging | RachelPoli.com