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),
Kevin

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),
Kevin

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),
Kevin

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),
Kevin

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),
Kevin

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),
Kevin

 

Quickfiction: Sounds

I wrote this quickfiction piece after realizing that I might never buy another CD again.

Sounds
Listen to the story
Remember when it was vinyl and the bookcases were so weighted down that they bent to the left? You worried so much about what would happen to the cats if it fell and crushed them. Music had that kind of weight back then. You could sit on the ground, legs crossed, for hours as you listened, explored and read through each word of the liner notes. The revolution changed that as you carted your albums off to the landfill or tag sales or to friends who still had room and interest, and bid farewell in dramatic silence. Then, the sounds were captured on little shiny discs. The new bookcase, however, was the same as the old — bent and crooked with sounds. It might have been some woodworking error, yet here you were again, with the weight of music on your mind. You had long given up even reading liner notes during the revolution, losing touch with the stories behind the songs. The names too small to even read now. When the bookcase fell to gravity, you moved all of that plastic to boxes in the basement and shoved the round discs into an over-sized folder, optimistically hoping some random nature might take over. It never did and all you had now was disappointment. Music, yes, but also disappointment. Now it’s all on this box in the palm of your hand. You’ve realized something. You may have bought your last disc. Ever. You hold the last plastic box in your hand. Green Day. 21st Century Breakdown. Yes. That seems about right as you open the top to the recycling bin and toss the box in. Forever.

Peace (in music),
Kevin

Quickfiction: Ghostly Playmates

I was working on a few new Quickfiction pieces this week. Here is one, inspired by a post over PostSecrets blog where a woman said that when she hears her children playing with imaginary friends, she thinks it is the fetus she aborted long ago.

Playmates
Listen to the story
This cigarette tastes ugly. I draw another breath and struggle against the tide of air again. In the distance, I can hear him, playing. His five year old head is off in his imagination. This house looks strange, as if someone else is living here other than me, and him, and all of those ghosts from his imagination. I am sure they are here to haunt me, not him, but got caught up in the excitement as kids do. Even ghost children can’t resist the possibility of play. Another drag. Another shot of ugly. Is this how I punish myself these days? It used to be cutting. Then drinking. Tattoos up and down my arms. Now tar in my lungs. There they go again — playing pirates now, avenging stolen treasures. I can only hear my son’ voice and then empty silence where their voices lay scattered to the wind. Boys? Girls? One of each? How could I not even know what they were before they were gone? And why are they haunting me, us, now that we found some semblance of happiness? He’ll never know the truth about these imaginary playmates. But I know. I know. I draw another breath and choke on the sadness of siblings who only linger in the air. I crush the end on the ground beneath my shoe and begin to forget all over again.

Peace (in the story),

Kevin

Rubberbands: A quickfiction piece

It’s been some time since I have written any of my quickfiction, but I was inspired for this short piece by a magazine article I was reading about a child prodigy violinist who used to sit in his room, with rubber bands, making his clothes dresser into a musical instrument.

If you are interested is more of my quickfiction, you can see my site over at Hypertextopia. The collection of stories there is called Inside Kaleidoscope Dreams.


Rubberbands
(listen to the podcast)

You scan the floor for rubber bands. Underneath the rug. Inside the kitchen drawer. Behind the cushions of the couch. Anywhere you think they might be, you look. Of course, you have learned to be careful. Your mom will take them away, again, and shout at you, again. “Rubber bands? Rubber bands?” Her voice will echo through your head for the rest of the day, crowding out the melody. Someday, when you are older, you will have your own place and your own guitar and you won’t need rubber bands. You will sink into that freedom and know it to be paradise. For now, it is all about the rubber bands. You count them in your hand — onetwothreefourfive. Not quite enough, but enough for now. You close the door to your bedroom and push the chair against the door. The drawer of your clothes chest open reluctantly, as if it needing some oil, and one by one, you extend the rubber bands across the surface of the open spaces, fixing it so that you can adjust the length of the rubber bands as you need by moving the drawer in and out, out and in. One band becomes smaller, lower pitched, while another become longer, higher. It is a full eight minutes of adjustments, getting it all just right in your head until you can close your eyes and begin to play. The melody dances, first through your fingers, then along the vibrating hum of the rubber bands, and finally filling the room with light only you can see. You know it won’t last and it doesn’t. Either your mother will pound on the door, or your brother will shout some obscenity at you from the hallway or the dog will start barking at someone in the street and all will be broken. Today, you are shattered by a string, the snap of the rubber like a shot in the night, startling you with a surprising ferocity. The silence at first is odd and then, almost comforting, until you hear your mother yell: “All right, who took the damn rubber band from this deck of cards?”

Peace (in fictionalized worlds),
Kevin

Inside Kaleidoscope Dreams: A hypertextual collection

Since November, I have been working on Quickfiction stories and sharing them out here at the blog. It has been a really enjoyable writing experience for me and interesting experience, too. But I have been struck about what to do with the stories after they have been posted on the blog. I considered self-publishing via LULU, and then thought about creating a website.

Recently, though, I have been fooling around with Hypertextopia and it occurred to me that the platform might make sense for gathering all of the short fiction stories together under one roof, so to speak.

The result is something I am calling Inside Kaleidoscope Dreams — which is a collection of the stories gathered together under themes and also by narrative device. I have included audio readings of the stories, plus some photographs for illustrations. And I also wrote up a short author reflection about the project.

Head to Inside Kaleidoscope Dreams

(Note: The illustration above shows the concept map that I created, with links to various stories. It shows the connections of stories in a visual way. The readable version, however, is brought together in a more cohesive structure.)

I am interested to get feedback from people about the use of this hypertextual platform. Does it make the reading of the stories more interesting? Or just confusing? Do you have any suggestions for improving the design of the book?

Later, I will share out some of the nifty things that you can do with your writing in Hypertextopia, including re-arranging words, ideas and stories.

Peace (in linklinklinklinked text),
Kevin