Milestones are great.
It’s human nature to celebrate an achievement being passed, and crossing that great big 100 of anything is something to celebrate, right?
100 Birthdays? Letter from the Queen.
100 Episodes? Double length wedding special with special guest stars.
100 Comic Issues? Epic, bumper sized cross over event spectacular.
This Friday just gone I posted my 100th piece of Fiction for the Flash! Friday website (just to clarify; yes I keep track of things, and yes I have a spreadsheet that does it).
I will state, right from the off, that they are not all masterpieces. Not by a long shot. Unlike other contests I partake in, ones where I don’t force it if inspiration eludes me, I’ve made myself enter every single Flash! Friday since the first, back in May 2014. That’s every week without fail, even when I’m too busy.
Unfortunately this can sometimes mean that stories are rushed, or ideas are forced out against their will; incomplete and broken.
September 11th was a good example.
The wife and I took our little one out to Peppa Pig Land (if you’re outside the UK and not aware of this, it’s a theme park designed for very young children based on a cartoon pig and her family). It was long day, made longer by a child behaving himself for far longer than his parents expected. We’d predicted getting home around 2pm at best. Instead, we left not long before closing time; around 5:30.
Al of use were exhausted at this point. Our evening then consisted of putting little one to bed, getting our own dinner, and attempting to watch Anchorman 2 (long story around that). And a guest visit around 9pm. This meant I didn’t fire up the laptop until around 10:30pm.
If you read my entry, WHAT HOOD SAID TO THE WOLF, my exhausted state of mind is clear in the end result. I had no idea what I was writing, I started over several times, I bent the plot several more once I reached the half way point, and finally struggled to secure anything resembling an ending. By the time I posted it, the wife was already in the land of nod and midnight was fast approaching.
This is just one recent example, but there have been others. Getting ready to leave for holiday and scrambling to find 30mins before we left at 9am. Or what about the time I struggled all day to wring an idea from the photo of the Colosseum, pushing my imagination to breaking point.
Thankfully these ‘broken’ stories are a rarity, a by-product of writing with zero ideas, of tracking stats, of having my continuous unbroken run. On the other side of the track, I’ve produced some real gems too. I couldn’t be prouder of my winning story, BEHROUZ AND THE FORTUNE FISH. The fairy tale style, the fantastical oddness to the setting (a city within a giant fish) all spilled onto the page to form a story I’d have enjoyed reading as much as I did writing it.
Others include OXYGEN, the story of an astronaut stranded on the moon, too far from their capsule, their air supply dwindling. Asphyxiation leads to childhood memories resurfacing in those final moments. Broken into parts between the counting down of oxygen left, it’s a sad story that ends on a bitter sweet note.
And then there’s the tear jerker SEND OUT THE CLOWNS, a story of a small boy due to have an operation that will cease his contact with his best friends, four imaginary clowns and their dog.
100 stories has allowed me to try different thing too, to step away from superheroes, from the supernatural, from fantasy and sci-fi. I’ve attempted comedy, sometimes with respectable success, as seen in last year’s AMERICA CAN WAIT, a tale that put a lunch order before the declaration of independence, or this year’s IT’S WHAT’S ON THE INSIDE, the story of a not-so-cute kitten taking on the best gladiator the coliseum has to offer. I’ve tried romance, LOVE, NO MATTER WHAT offering a strange look at how the love between two people can remain strong, even when one half has been cursed and turned into a castle (?). And there’s BUTCHERS DOZEN, a step into horror as we watch a murderer converse with his handiwork.
I’ve always said Flash Fiction is great for two things: experimentation, and keeping the imagination exercised. Looking back over the last 100 pieces, my imagination has been to places well outside my comfort zone, dabbling in different genres, and trying different styles. I’ve even managed to write stories my own mother has enjoyed.
And I have to admit that even the bad ones are good for me. Writers should always be learning. Like cookery; you try something new that doesn’t work, you look at why, and improve it next time. Each story is a risk, and they don’t always work. But the failures that litter the ground only help the next adventure.
But what of the future? What will the next 100 pieces bring? Who knows, but I’m damn sure looking forward to finding out. Until then, I have my 200th piece of overall Flash Fiction coming up. Just five pieces to go, but to which contest it gets posted is anyone’s guess.
As well as going forward, I plan, at some point soon, on going back over what I’ve already produced, to see if anything can have its belt let out a bit and be given a little more room to breathe. While there are some stories that could and should only work in the tight word count that Flash Fiction offers, sometimes a struggling piece isn’t working because it wants to be something bigger.
In other words, I want to write a novel version of my April entry, THE RETRIBUTIONERS, a 1940’s take on the Avengers. Tell me you wouldn’t be slightly interested in Humphrey Bogart, James Stewart, and Robert Mitchum standing together as Earth’s Mightiest? Okay, maybe not right now, but this one won’t go away.
So on I go; each Friday opening ‘that’ part of my brain and sparking new characters, new worlds, and new adventures. I’ll admit that sometimes I tire, sometimes I think about taking just one week off. But I know I’ll regret it. Like changing your lottery numbers; you can bet that’s the week they’ll come up. In other words, I still look forward to discovering what appears on the page, because it might be my best one yet.
I’ll leave you know as I ready myself for the Flash Fiction weekly circuit to start again tomorrow. But before you go, have a read of my 100th entry for Flash! Friday. I think it’s one of my better ones.
See you in seven.
WHERE WE USED TO LIVE
The human race was something, once. Earth, the jewel in our Empire.
But greater riches have been discovered in the galaxy; new worlds, new civilisations. Earth is raw, and only the poor remain. Or the scared.
I haven’t been back in nineteen years. My family wouldn’t have survived in this world stripped bare. We fled into the stars and never looked back.
So why am I here, now?
Jason, my eldest, a boy who fell far from the tree. I fear for him. Earth is a vile, lawless world now, a place only the bottom of the human barrel would call home.
It should seem hopeless, but I have money and connections. Even an entire planet can’t hide someone if you know the right words. And can grease the right palms.
So I stand now, in something classed as a hotel room from the sign outside; a cupboard in any other place. He sleeps peacefully on the floor, and beside him lays the problem. A Scarvian girl, pregnant with his child. An abomination not fit for my legacy.
I pull out two syringes; one will help him sleep on the journey home.
The other will help her sleep forever.