Today’s blogpost will be a little different. I’m still catching up after a week-long cold, which in some ways was a welcome break: it was hard to worry about things like work and publication when I pretty much just wanted to read and sleep all day. A lot of reading got done, especially several books by my hero Terry Pratchett, and I’d like to think it still counts as “writing work” when I was studying his craft with a close eye. 🙂 But a lot of other things got shelved for later, and this week is also pretty busy for us church musicians. So today I offer three very short stories which I wrote in response to photo prompts, in an exercise inspired by the wonderful journal 100 Word Story. (My short piece “Winter Birds” appears on that journal’s site as well.)
The exercise for each of the stories was to write a piece of exactly 100 words, inspired by and in some way relating to a photo prompt. I cheated slightly by not including my titles as part of the 100-word limit.
It was a fascinating exercise because flash fiction is an unfamiliar form for me. William Faulkner is credited with saying that novelists are failed short-story writers, and short-story writers are failed poets; I’d have to put flash fiction in about the same category as poetry, so as a novelist I definitely go into it with a handicap. It’s hard for me to decide what really makes a piece of flash a story as opposed to a vignette. Plus, I love verbosity, so it’s very hard for me to operate within any limit. Especially 100 words!
The photo for the first piece was a prompt provided by 100 Word Story, and as it was their photo, I haven’t included it here. It was an x-ray of ankle bones. I’ve included the other two pictures with their respective stories.
If you’d like, please use the two photos to prompt your own stories, of one hundred words or otherwise. And if you’d like to share them with me at firstname.lastname@example.org, I’d love to read what the photos inspire for you.
Next week the blog will go back to more “regular” content. As always, thank you for reading.
Story #1: Cost of Light
Six weeks, the doctor says, before I’ll start to walk again. The bulk of the cast drags on my hips; the crutches set my shoulders on fire. Hiking, I looked where you pointed, at a sunlit sapling, and missed the stump hole in the trail at my feet.
I told you, once, that “always” wasn’t me. Sometime I would have walked away, someplace where you couldn’t follow. Now you call my cast your fault, but I think of light glowing through new leaves and the line of your hand, pointing.
Six weeks in exchange for light. It’s a fair price.
Story #2: Beautiful Aliens
In the coffeehouse, a great gray beast, shackled. Proboscis lashing, bullwhip-dangerous. Ears flapping like sails in high wind. Gawkers hand their shillings to Tom Garway at the door. The beast screams rage; they cover their ears and cower.
Overton the printer, my white master, told me Go and draw the creature. My best work. His name on the prints.
In the dim room, lost in the stink of men, the beast dreams of open sky and clean air. I dream of owning my work, my time, my name.
Great beast. We are lost together, you and I: beautiful aliens both.
Story #3: Flight
A breath out of time: your husband and your daughter, who is not his daughter but has always called him Daddy, climbing into the roadster to fly.
You are mired to the ground. The Crash, they called it. Banks failing, money gone: you are poor and lost on a bright day of windswept leaves.
Your husband fights with you. You two could be poor together, he says, if you hadn’t forgotten the feeling of flight.
They get into the roadster, he and your girl, who calls him Daddy. You will see him one last time, when he brings her home.