Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Flash! Fiction 1

Those of you who have known me for a while know that I used to write songs. One of the things that I like about songwriting is that if you get a solid idea and run with it, you can have one done in 30 minutes. Just like that. It's magical. 

Sometimes those quick songs don't even suck. For example, everyone who has heard "Calling Dave" thinks it's a pretty good tune. Unfortunately, it's no longer available online. If anyone is really interested in hearing it, post a comment, and I can email you an MP3.

Novels, on the other hand, are not quite as easy to churn out. Even short stories take longer than 30 minutes.


Because there is something called flash fiction. Although the definition varies, one common thread is that flash fiction are very short stories of some miniscule length, say, 500 words or fewer. In this space, I have written about literary agent Janet Reid and her 100 word short story contests. I have entered a few, but never won. That's okay. I enjoy the experience. 

In my various journeys through cyberspace, I came across a writer, Katharine Osborne, and her story-a-day for a year project. This morning I decided to try something similar. 

I'm not sure I can manage one story per day. After all, I do have to devote some time to parenting, and my marriage, and -- oh yeah -- the day job. So if I tried to put out one story a day, I don't think I would have time for any other writing. But one a week seems reasonable. 

The challenge, as with any writing endeavor, often is finding the start, the launching point. Katharine decided to base her stories on a song from her iPod. For Janet's contest, she provides five "seed" words, usually related to a book she's excited about. 

I decided to take five words from the headlines of the day's newspaper. Below is my first effort. The headlines that I borrowed from were:

"Decision Day"
"Browns' Fujita Could Be Implicated In Scandal"
"Lane Described As Quiet, Smart, Friendly, No Outcast"
"Turkey Expects Bowling Green To Return Mosaics"

The words I chose were decision, scandal, lane, bowling, and turkey.

So without further ado, I offer "Turkey Bowling."

“And with the latest on the scandal, we go to Brent Scowlcroft, live in Hinckley. Brent?”
      “Thank you, Tom. I’m standing here in front of the Fowler Lane home where the alleged incident took place. Behind me, you can just make out the court—”
      “Excuse me, Brent?”
      “Yes, Tom?”
      “Was there an incident, or not?”
      “Or, there definitely was something afoul here.”
      “Then it’s not an ‘alleged incident.’ You should have said, ‘Where the incident is alleged to have taken place.’ Isn’t that really what you meant?”
      “Oh, excuse me, Mr. Hairspray. Need I remind you and our viewers exactly who finished first in our journalism class at Northwestern, and who finished 49th?”
      “Need I remind you and our viewers exactly who is sitting in a nice comfy chair earning well over six figures, and who is freezing his ass off in the middle of nowhere for peanuts?”
      “Rot in hell, Tom.”
      “Back at you, Brent.”
      “Anyway, folks in this quiet little town—a town not named for the would-be assassin of President Reagan, they like to remind people—were shocked when they first heard the reports of the incidents alleged to have taken place in this back yard. Some are asking the authorities to show leniency toward the alleged perpetrators, two brothers aged 12 and 38. Supporters say it was nothing more than youthful indiscretion, a bad choice made by otherwise good kids. But when I spoke with Sheriff Ray Mallard, he indicated that he might not be so charitable. Roll tape, please.”
      An off-camera voice said, “Um, we don’t actually use tape any more. It’s all recorded digitally so that we can easily upload it to—”
      “What is this? Give Me Shit On Air Day? Just play the damn clip!”
      The image changed to that of a grizzled, gray-haired man wearing a police uniform and sitting behind a desk, with bullet-pocked targets and various stuffed animal and criminal heads visible on the wall behind him. Though there was no accompanying caption, like quality newscasts present, one would infer that the person pictured was, in fact, Sheriff Ray Mallard.
      “I’ve seen this kind of thing before. Take a look at this,” he said, holding up a bloody, bent tennis racket. “Do you know what this is? This is a weapon of mass deplucktion. I don’t want to hear any ‘youthful indigestion’ crap. Those kids knew what they were doing. I refuse to believe that two ball boys, a chair umpire, two line judges and a half-dozen Rhode Island Reds just spontaneously showed up in these kids’ back yard. No, 40 years of law enforcement experience tells me that this was a planned event. I need to nip this kind of thing in the bud. Today, it’s chicken tennis. Tomorrow, turkey bowling. And I won’t have that. Not in my town.”

I have also put this story (and will put future flash fiction) on a new page, "Flash! Stuff." If you are so inclined, feel free to check in on that page periodically.

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