Small Stories: Writing Microfiction on Mastodon

Microfiction Image

I am going to try do a few sequential days of writing microfiction, using daily one-word prompts by Wandering Shop Stories off Mastodon. It’s a challenge to write small but still capture the energy of a story or a character.

Here are two of my stories …

Word: Run

The rabbit ran, in zigzag circles, the unexpected pulse of escape. She sensed an entrance nearby — the map of the underground warren network etched into her mind — but it took everything to ease the panic in order to remember. Then she did. Then she was gone, a blip in the screen in the surface of the ground.

Word: Tongue

It was a word, just off the tip of her tongue. Something stuck in there that her mouth would not let free. He stood, watching her, waiting for her response, but all he saw was the silence. She shouted the word but only in her head. Clear as day to no one else. Her voice refused to respond. She swallowed the sound, then wrote it down. By then, he was gone, and so, too, was the meaning of the word, reduced to quiet ink on yellow paper, crumpled on the wood floor.

Word: Pomenade

From their seat on the sidewalk just outside the facility, Oscar and Tommy laughed. Their ruse to enter the prom had been hatched that morning, and foiled by evening. A one day disaster. Still, they had a story to tell, of deception and intent, born from a shared love of celebration, if not acceptance. “Move along, boys,” they heard Mr. Warton say, and they picked themselves up, a little jump in their step to the pulsing beat seeping through the walls of the venue.

Word: Paw

Paw on the door. Paw on the knee. Paw on the floor. The little dog was desperate to get someone’s attention and yet, all they saw were their screens on tiny machines. She was not a whiner, not a howler, not a distraction. She crossed her paws, resting at their feet, and hoped for some attention and maybe a little something to eat.

Word: Wave

There was such distance between them again. She didn’t like to think in metaphor, but there it was. Such distance, in fact, that Nan could not see if he were smiling or smirking or just staring, stone-faced, as was his wont. She did her little wave, the kind of finger dance with the palm as a stage that commits nearly nothing. She saw it then, the smile, and his hand lifted to his shoulder in a response of movement. She turned, happy, and walked back towards home.

Word: Scale

Five little figures, all out of scale. The mountain loomed, like a dragon asleep. It was too foggy for such an excursion, but here they were, following the trail. The mouth of the cave was inverse in size to the mountain itself, an opening nearly too small to squeeze through. But they did, and when Benji lit his lantern, the walls of the mountain’s interior glowed with eerie light. They felt small again, now in their own shadows, warped by stalactites. They kept onward.

Word: Arm

The ocean’s arm turned inward, and their small boat sluiced through the surf before settling on the sand. The cove was shaped like a finger. “Where are we now?” Tamson asked. Critter shrugged. “I don’t know. We followed the tide.” The beach was rocky. Erosion had created a ledge that led like steps up into a forest clinging precariously to its edge. “Onward?” Tamson suggested. Again, the shrug. “I suppose,” Critter said, grabbing the compass. “Further into the unknown.”

Word: Bat

He adjusted his gloves, then his hat, then his shirt. All of this was routine sequence. Hat – Glove – Shirt. He tried not to look at the crowd. “Get in there,” he heard a voice bark, and he stepped over the white line. The catcher whispered something to try to distract him. He lifted the wooden bat, noticing the dent, then watched the ball as if it were moving at him in slow motion. It hit the glove. “Strike.” He stepped back and restarted his routine. Hat – Glove – Shirt.

Word: Date

They rubbed a layer off the edge of the object. “Something’s there,” Tanker noted. They all leaned in close. “Keep going.” Santi brought out her brush and methodically removed the years, a pool of time’s dust now in the palm of her hand. Tanker looked around, nervous to be discovered. “It’s a date, etched in by a tool,” Santi observed. Tanker nudged her. “Not coordinates, then?” “No,” Santi replied. Later, they would remember the date, and know its significance.

Peace (small but wonderful),

Writing Flashku for The Daily Create

Flashku: Walking Autumn Leaves

A few months back, I saw a reference to a short writing prompt called a Flashku, which had me interested. I found out more — it’s short flash prose, inspired by an image and borrowing words from another text — and this morning, the DS106 Daily Create shared out the Flashku prompt.

See mine above (or use this link), about walking through the new fallen leaves of Autumn (and connecting nicely to place-based writing for the coming Write Out!)

Maybe you will try one?

I found that the combination of photograph (of the Autumn woods by Eduardo Fonseca Arraes via Flickr) and borrowed words from another text (a poem — The Locust Tree In Flower — by William Carlos Williams) gave me a path forward for the writing but also, being forced to use words from another text, made it a bit more difficult. Finding a good text to use is key.

Peace (in a flash),

Noticing A Moment

Box fan
Box fan flickr photo by elfsternberg shared under a Creative Commons (BY-NC-ND) license

Over at NWPStudio, Tanya posted a writing prompt about noticing a single moment. Sort of like what we used to call “small stories” or even “Slice of Life” and I looked up from the prompt to notice this scene:

The box fan has a rhythm of its own. White noise, with patterned waves. It’s the panting of the dog sprawled out on the wood floor in front of the machine that gives the beat a hiccup. An irregular breath. A movement of body. A sigh. An ear shake. The fan continues on — it only knows to spin its forward motion — but the room’s soundtrack is unpredictable, as the dog takes another short solo, then fades into a sleepy background.

Peace (and sound),

Flash Fiction (NCTE)

Flash flickr photo by uphillblok shared under a Creative Commons (BY-SA) license

I saw a call for a piece of Flash Fiction from NCTE (stories had to be exactly 150 words) and so, earlier in the Spring, I worked on a short piece, and I asked some National Writing Project friends to read and workshop it with me, and I ended up with this:

She scanned the room of students with the trained eye of a veteran thirsty for truth. The suspect hid behind a mask. There might have been some clandestine whispering. It was hard to tell anymore with mouths hidden under a veil of protection. Only their eyes showed, and most were brimming with comments they would keep to themselves, for now. Still, she had encountered obstacles in other inquiries before and she was nothing if not tenacious. One didn’t remain in this position for many years without a sense of patience and purpose. A sneeze erupted from the back of the room. Her gaze snapped to attention. A boy removed his mask to wipe his nose – now she definitely heard whispers: “Ewww! That’s so gross!” – and there, on his lips, were the tell-tale aquamarine trails of the stolen Cool Blue Gatorade. “You!” she shouted. “In the hall. Now. And bring Kleenex!”

Here is the call by NCTE, and then the teacher/writer Padlet (not too many contributors) but the student Padlet has a good collection of flash fiction stories.

Peace (shortened for length),

A Game of The Knight (not a winner)

Miscellaneous Playing Cards“Miscellaneous Playing Cards” by incurable_hippie is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0


I took part in a 100-word microfiction contest as a whim through NYC Midnight. I learned this morning that I didn’t make it out of the first round. That’s OK. I enjoyed the challenge of being given a genre (horror) and some key words and phrases that had to be used, and constrained by 100 words.

This was my submission:

A Game Of The Knight

Marina wiped blood off the face of the King. The card smeared with a streak across the eyes. She shuffled the cards and dealt out hands, ignoring the Knight’s chatter. It was getting more difficult for her to hold her cards as the darkness wore on. The Knight had won one hand and remained unscathed. She glanced at her cards, holding them close as wind rippled over the edge of the mountain. Marina played the King, feigning confidence, calculating how the game might proceed even as she slowly lost more of herself to the Knight.

Peace (tightened up),

Making MicroFiction (round one)

A friend on Twitter told me about a contest for 100-word-story MicroFiction, and that intrigued me, so I figured I’d give it a try. I’ve written what I have called Quickfiction before (also, flash fiction), and enjoy the constraints and creativity.

I even presented about this idea at NCTE one year:

The other day, the first round started up with a prompt (there are multiple rounds, in which finalists move ahead to a new prompt). There are quite a few people in the writing contest (nearly 7,000), with many “groups” (11o) that we are placed into. In my group, the genre was “horror” (not my favorite) and the action I had use was “shuffling cards” and the word I had to use was “wind.”

This is what I wrote:

A Game Of The Knight

Marina wiped blood off the face of the King. The card smeared with a streak across the eyes. She shuffled the cards and dealt out hands, ignoring the Knight’s chatter. It was getting more difficult for her to hold her cards as the darkness wore on. The Knight had won one hand and remained unscathed. She glanced at her cards, holding them close as wind rippled over the edge of the mountain. Marina played the King, feigning confidence, calculating how the game might proceed even as she slowly lost more of herself to the Knight.

Now I wait until July, apparently, to see if I make it to Round Two.

Peace (writing it),

ReWriting the Script with WMWP: Turning Fact Into Fiction

On Saturday, at the Western Massachusetts Writing Project annual fall conference, which had the theme of “Rewriting the Script,” I sat in on some interesting workshop sessions. I’ll be doing some sharing out from the conference in the days ahead.

The first workshop session I attended was all about being a teacher/writer. It connected nicely with the ethos of “teacher as writer” that those in the writing project believe in. In this session, led by WMWP colleague and writing consultant erin feldman, we worked first on the idea of a “Do Over” — or a moment in our life when we might have made a different decision or choice, and altered the trajectory of the event itself.

This was the true piece of writing — something real to reflect upon.

Then, we moved into a brainstorming session in which we created characters and personality traits and setting ideas (not related to our Do Over piece). Finally, we merged those ideas together, writing a piece in any fictional genre that explored the truth of the non-fiction piece through the lens of the fiction piece.

I found the process interesting, and ended up with a short story told in Second Person Narrative Point of View, which only hinted at what I had written about earlier (I see all of the connections, of course) and I can see how the fiction gave some distance to take chances to process the real event.

Here is a rough little blurb from what I wrote:

       You’ll remember the decision you made in the tomorrow of this very same picture, when your step-father will take your brother on the day trip to the ocean, and you will decline, hoping to hide with your books for the day. You’ll remember the sound of your mother’s voice, the tilted echo of cries, the car with a shattered fender and the empty seat where your brother had been, but was no longer. You’ll remember your step-father’s broken arm. His broken eyes.

And you’ll remember, again, the balloon and the way you and your brother struggled so much over the string, in the minutes after this picture was taken, when the balloon broke free, and began its lopsided ascent into the sky above the pier. Both of you were so unusually quiet in that moment, and he even took your hand, as you both looked up and he was the one who wondered out loud about where it is that things go when they disappear from view.

Peace (it’s real),

Writing Short: Flash Fiction in 140 Characters

One of the hashtags I keep open in my Tweetdeck is #25wordstory, which was first introduced to me by Brian Fay, and I try to contribute now and then. The small stories, confined by 140 characters, are interesting to write. While some believe the stories have to be 25 words, exact, I am more of the mind that it has to fit inside a tweet.

With flash fiction like this, you need to leave gaps for the reader. You can only hint at the larger story. They are interesting to write, and intriguing to read.

In the past week or so, I have written a handful for the hashtag and in the interest of curating, I ported the stories out of Twitter and into Pablo in order to marry the words with images. Then, the stories all got pulled into Animoto for a video collage hosted on YouTube. (Note: I am trying to make clear my paths of composition these days.)

Writing these very short, short stories reminds me of a presentation I once did for an NCTE Ignite session called Writing, in Short.

Peace (expand it),

A Single Word Can Change a Story (Perhaps)

Short Fiction Ornament String

Yesterday, I wrote this flash fiction story on Twitter with the #25wordstory hashtag. You know … write a story in 25 words (give or take a word here and there, that’s my interpretation). My aim was to infer another story, behind the ornament being put away, and also, to shorten each sentence to make the story more and more compact by the end.

I let that story sit and then realized, if I added the word “cried” at the end, as a last single-word sentence, it would change the emotion of the story. While before it wasn’t clear why she was putting the ornament away, now with that one word, you have a better idea (albeit, still not completely clear. Is she crying over remembering? Over loss? Sadness? Maybe happiness?)

And what, I wondered, would happen to that story — still so very short — if I changed that last word to something else. Another emotion. What if I made it “laughed” or “smiled”? Would the whole tenor of the story shift? I think so.  I used “laugh.” But now I wonder, after reading it with some distance, if “smile” would not have been better.

It’s interesting what you can do in the small confines of a Twitter story. A single word is a powerful anchor of emotion.

Peace (in the tiny),

Getting A Story Gift on the Back of a Postcard

Kelly's 25wordstory postcard
I love this idea that my friend, Kelly, had about taking the idea of the #25wordstory format from Twitter and moving it into a postcard project. She offered to send anyone who asked a 25 word story on the back of a postcard from her vacation spot, and I eagerly took her up on the offer. A few days later, this fantastic story arrived in my mailbox. Just as 25 word stories are a perfect fit for Twitter, so too is it a perfect fit for the back of a postcard.

Way to go, Snail Mail!

Peace (in the story),