2 Minutes Go Road Trip Redux

Cardinal_2During the night, the Mader signal shone through the fog into the night sky, and our hero put on his cape and sped away to fight for truth, justice, and the right to wear vintage clothing…and hats. Lots of hats. So he gave me the keys and his secret burrito recipe, and 2 Minutes Go is happening here today. Or, in Mr. Mader’s very words, which I stole from his blog:

Hey, writer-type folks. AND PEOPLE WHO JUST WANT TO PLAY BUT DON’T IDENTIFY AS ‘WRITERS’ – all are welcome here! Every Friday, we do a fun free-write. For fun. And Freedom!

Write whatever you want in the ‘comments’ section on this blog post. Play as many times as you like. #breaktheblog! You have two minutes (give or take a few seconds … no pressure!). Have fun. The more people who play, the more fun it is. So, tell a friend. Then send ’em here to read your ‘two’ and encourage them to play.

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What? You miss the uber-cool orange background and the motorcycles at JD’s place? No worries. You can hang with Napoleon. Or just close your eyes and pretend. Vroom. Here’s a bit from me to start us out:

The ocean swallowed her whole. That’s the myth, anyway, the news story of the day, the collective shrug of a young nation with jazz on its mind and better things to do than investigate the disappearance of a pirate ship that had kidnapped a flighty American heiress in Dubai and taken her to a fate one could only imagine. You’ve been studying this lost cause for your dissertation—another lost cause. You’ve been studying her. Newsreels, microfiche, cracked and yellowed pages of magazines, the presses of which had long been dismantled or melted down and made into other things. Yes, the clothing – more like costume – looked frivolous and altogether impractical, unlike your up-and-run ensemble of jeans and T-shirts. And to the casual gazer, the smile would appear as if she didn’t have a care deeper than which bit of fluff to wear for dinner. But the eyes. They were smart. They held secrets. They told stories. You’d dug for them. You were relentless. Then your advisor called you into his office. Suggested a different angle. Suggested you’d been working too hard. Hinted at obsession. Problems at home, perhaps? Biting at the inside of your cheek, you thanked him for his concern, said you’d think about it. And then you had the dream. She was calling to you. Three nights straight, she called for you. Told you where to find her. So real, like you could reach out and touch her rouged cheek, her flapper jewelry that would now be called vintage and go for a mint. You took the plane ticket and left the note, because you could not bear to deliver the news in person and watch another face soften with concern, another pair of eyes attempt to hide their disapproval. Now you mash your toes into the hot sands of the desert by the ocean, waves of heat warping the margins between sand, sea, and sky. A bit of something down the beach sparkles in the sun. You dig. It’s battered, tarnished…but it’s real. A necklace, pearls embedded in a delicate, broken web of silver. Vintage. Hers.

What IS Flash Fiction, Anyway?

IdeaI’ve been writing flash fiction for a while now, and I love it. I began with Indies Unlimited’s weekly flash fiction contest and really enjoyed the writing challenge of winnowing a story down to the required 250 words. Then JD Mader was cool enough to open up his blog on Fridays to anyone who wanted to set a timer and try a little spontaneous flash. (Okay, sometimes we forget the timer.) I was hooked. I was so hooked that as the stories piled up, I thought about putting out a collection.

But based on some of the reader response, and a question from my father, I realize I left out one very important component: What the heck IS flash fiction, anyway?

Because she’s so good at explaining things (and because she wrote a really succinct post about the five elements of flash fiction), I’m going to leave it to one of my fabulous Indies Unlimited fellow minions, Lynne Cantwell.

As a general rule, flash fiction is considered to be less than 1,000 words long….Flash is a recognized format for fiction, with elements that each story ought to include.

1. A plot. To be clear, a flash fiction piece is a complete story. Just like a longer piece of fiction, your flash piece needs a beginning, a middle, and an ending. I saw one website that recommended writing an outline for each flash story. I think that’s going a little overboard; your outline could end up longer than the story. But if your story doesn’t have an ending – if, say, you find you’ve written a scene that could be part of a longer story, or even part of a novel – then it’s not technically flash fiction.

2.  Characters. You don’t have a lot of space to describe your characters, obviously, but readers should still be able to tell them apart. Use telling details that you can describe in a few words. Keep your character count low, and stick with one point-of-view.

You can read the rest of Lynne’s post on Indies Unlimited.

Here’s an example of one of my flash fiction pieces. I’d never written anything science-fictiony before, so this was a fun challenge.

Fitting Rooms

She strolled past a sign that read “Fitting Rooms” and caught a glimpse of the engineer’s handiwork in a reflective surface.

They’d done a good job.

She looked like most of the other human females she’d passed in the shopping mall. Hair like the others, a suitable length, the same vacant stare she’d emulated with the help of the simulation program. Now all she had to do was keep fitting in, and wait for the signal to start the next phase of her mission. They hadn’t told her what that was, and despite her queries, they still would not explain.

In fact, her trainer had taken her aside and said it was dangerous to ask twice, so she’d stopped.

Her attention was drawn all of a sudden to the collar of her shirt. Her reflection’s hand rose to straighten it, and she noticed that it was a different style than the type worn by the two females who’d just exited the rooms. That didn’t seem right. Maybe the engineer had made a mistake and had given her the wrong simulation.

She glanced up again at the sign on the wall. Perhaps this is where you go to be more fitting. So, following the lead of another, she grabbed a garment and disappeared behind the curtain.

That was when she felt the vibration. The chip implanted in her brain had been activated. Finally, she would know her purpose and how she could help her planet—but why was the vibration so loud? And that whine? It hurt…hurt…so sharp she gasped and dropped to her knees. The human females began to circle her, eyes questioning, hands reaching out, and as her consciousness ebbed away, the edges of her vision going black, she heard the faintest of voices in her mind: Independent thought detected…independent thought detected…indepen…

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Have a great weekend!

Laurie Boris has been writing fiction for over twenty-five years and is the award-winning author of five novels with another on the way. When not playing with the universe of imaginary people in her head, she’s a freelance copyeditor and enjoys baseball, reading, and avoiding housework. Want to join the mailing list and learn about special deals and upcoming releases? You can do that here.

Viewfinder

640px-FirstChurchofChristScientist2One summer I took a photography class at the Art Institute of Boston and spent most of my free time roaming the city for interesting shots. During this week’s 2-Minutes-Go flash fiction fiesta at JD Mader’s blog, I remembered one of my favorite places, and this story popped up.

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Viewfinder

A tiny finger poked my shoulder. “What are you doing?”

I’d been as still as one of the stones in the Christian Science Center’s courtyard for so long that it took a moment to remember. An even longer moment to figure out how to explain it to the pixie-faced girl who’d asked the question, then peered at my camera. “Watching the world go by,” I said.

She wrinkled her small nose. Obviously, I’d chosen the wrong words. “I’m taking pictures.”

“Why?”

I pegged the girl at about five, the perfect age for her spongy brain to fill up on information about the big issues, even if she couldn’t catalog and analyze them yet. I didn’t think she’d be interested in knowing that it made me feel connected to humanity, or reduced my stress level by giving me an outlet for my frustrated creative impulses, or even because I liked the way the waning sunlight played on the reflecting pool and the smooth, polished metal surrounding it. Or because I couldn’t bear to be in the house when he came by for his things so he could move in with his new girlfriend. “Because it’s fun,” I said.

“But why is it fun?”

That one stopped me. What was “fun” about staring into a postage-stamp-sized pane of glass, lining up a shot, waiting for the right moment when the beautiful man turned his head just so as he walked beside the sentry of streetlights guarding the pool? Satisfying, maybe? But fun?

“Do you want to take a picture?” I made room for her to slip between me and the tripod.

Her eyes swept to the cobblestone, a finger pressed to her lower lip. Of course. She might think I’m some kind of freak. Stranger danger. “Or not,” I said.

She glanced up at me, and I could imagine the calculations going on in that spongy mind. If I was safe. If taking pictures of essentially nothing looked like fun.

“Can I take a picture of you?” she asked.

I looked like crap; I’d escaped the house to make way for him, so I was still wearing ripped jeans, grubby old flip-flops, and a stained T-shirt, my hair in the roughest excuse for a ponytail I could beat it into as I walked from the subway stop to the reflecting pool. But the light in the giant eyes made me melt a little, gave me a glimmer of hope that the world I’d been watching through my viewfinder still had some life in it.

Adorably self-important, as if she were a miniature Hollywood director, she told me where to stand and how to hold my arms. I did everything she asked. And as I was waiting for the shot, she tightened her hands on the camera and tripod and took off at a dead run.

Fuck.

I sprinted off after her, but in my ratty flip-flops, I couldn’t keep up, and she disappeared.

I stopped, staring off in the distance, my shoulders sagging forward. Oh, well, I thought after a while. At least it wasn’t my equipment. And knowing that was kind of fun.

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I hope you have a great week ahead. Just to let you know, most of my titles are on sale this month. Check here for the details.

2 Minutes. Go! Road Trip Edition

Come on-a my house, my house, I’m-a gonna give you candy… Well, not so much. But I have something better. I’ve got JD Mader chained to a radiator in my basement and he’s letting me host the luau today! So…

Hey, writer-type folks. AND PEOPLE WHO JUST WANT TO PLAY BUT DON’T IDENTIFY AS ‘WRITERS’ – all are welcome here! Every Friday, we do a fun free-write. For fun. And Freedom! And for JD! (Jeez, I hope nobody can hear him screaming down there.)

Write whatever you want in the ‘comments’ section on this blog post. Play as many times as you like. #breaktheblog! You have two minutes (give or take a few seconds … no pressure!). Have fun. The more people who play, the more fun it is. So, tell a friend. Then send ’em here to read your ‘two’ and encourage them to play. 

I’ll start us off…

———

The doctor slips the SIMM card into your trembling palm. Amazing, how small they can make them these days. Not like the prototype the researchers had nicknamed “Das Reboot,” clunky with chips that needed re-seating every year, the video chattering and breaking down. You turn it around in the light.

“Nice, huh?” He crosses his arms over his chest, like he built the damned thing, like he ground the rock into silicon dust and poured the molds. It is impressive, though, but—

“And these are…” You suck in a breath. “Authentic memories?”

“Well. Given the state of the technology, as authentic as we can code. But I’m confident you’ll find that once it’s installed and the software is uploaded, the random selection of stepping stones from your life will equal or even surpass the significant memories the average person can access.”

You level your gaze at him, one question on your mind. His quick glance to his shoes tells the story. There is no guarantee that you will remember Eddie. Not the first time he smiled at you, the goofy look on his face when he asked you to dance. It’s all been fading away so fast. Already you can’t remember certain things. You know there were children; you can see that from the pictures. People tell stories about him, but it’s like they’re describing a television show; it doesn’t hook into anything that feels real, that feels like at some point, you were actually there.

“Tell me straight, Roger. All these years between us, you owe me that. What are the odds?”

He shook his head. “It’s not good, Lucy. But it’s something. I can get you on the schedule for next week, if the possible outcome is enough to hang your hat on.”

Your eyes ping wider. He wore a hat. Or at least you think he did. “Yes.” The smooth, cool device in your palm seems to sing to you, old lullabies, crooning in your ear during that first dance. “Sign me up.”

Flash Fiction, Freelance Edition

file0002054526820Poor, sad, neglected blog. Today I want to share something I wrote for “2 Minutes. Go!” on JD Mader’s Unemployed Imagination website. I love our Friday flash fiction fiestas. Maybe next week, you’ll come over and play with us. Here’s what we wrote this week—great, short entertainment for nada! Nothing. Zip. Just your eyeballs. Bwa ha ha.

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The Freelancer

After typing “I didn’t know how else to tell you,” no more words would come, no matter how hard Delilah pressed that mental pencil against the cells in her brain that were supposed to perform those functions.

Maybe there was something wrong with her. Maybe in her sleep, the karma skulking around her corners had unhooked her battery, cut her brake lines, slashed her tires. Because she cranked out assignments like this every damned day. Okay, it was a strange freelance gig, but she thrived on the strange, the out-of-kilter, the anything-but-normal. In this world of have what you want when you want it, why not throw down a few bucks on PayPal and hire someone to write that break-up letter, to give that bad news, to tell that idiot who won’t leave you alone to take a hike? They were even fun, mostly. How many people were paid, and paid decently, to exorcise the vitriol out of their heads? Her husband didn’t make much; it was nice to have a few bucks of her own; and because she’d never see her clients, or the results of her work—all was carefully monitored to shield the writers’ identities—it was relatively easy. But the screen where she was supposed to load her latest assignment remained blank.

Hoping for another blast of inspiration, she reread her instructions: “Want to ask my wife for a divorce, she’s always working, I fell in love with someone else, really crappy with words.” Yeah, that didn’t help. In fact, it just made Delilah angry. The light stuff, the snarky stuff, the hey-roomie-take-a-shower-once-in-awhile stuff, that was fun. It was an act of kindness, if you looked at it a certain way. But when it got heavy like this? Now it just felt wrong. Damn it. She’d already claimed the assignment, so she had to file or lose her five-star ranking. But this was the last one. She’d be happy to write about bad breath and chewing with your mouth open and PDA, but no more missives about shit getting this real.

So she sucked in a breath and began typing a version of Breakup Template #3. When it shaped itself into something she could almost live with, she pressed the submit button and went straight for the wine.

Two glasses later, her husband working late, she followed up to make sure the deposit had gone into her account. Then checked her email.

The first message began, “Dear Delilah, I didn’t know how else to tell you…”

Flash Light

iStock_000005733150XSmallWe all have our ways of blowing off steam and mine’s in the writing, particularly in the hula-hoop rockabilly break-the-blog revival going on at JD Mader’s Unemployed Imagination. Maybe you’ll join us next Friday for a little two-minute (give or take) flash fiction. Here are a few of my pieces from this week. I hope you’ll also roll on over and check out what the other writers threw down.

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Flash Spring Forward

431px-Bundesarchiv_Bild_183-C1015-0001-012,_Tokio,_XVIII._Olympiade,_Ingrid_KrämerIt’s been a while since I flashed you. So here are a few of my contributions from Friday’s Word-a-Palooza and barn-raising also known as 2MinutesGo at JD Mader’s blog. As usual, only lightly edited for your protection. ‘Cause that’s the way we roll. If you’re in a writing mood, maybe you’ll come by next week and play. Or at least read the awesome, awesome writing going on there.

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