Flash fiction is a work of extreme brevity that still offers character and plot development. Depending on word count, flash fiction has all sorts of names: twitterature, the dribble, the drabble, sudden fiction, micro-story. It’s all fun and it’s all challenging.
It’s also a great way to network! Even those who love to read are low on scrolling time. But it takes only minutes to read an entire story in this genre, start to finish and with all the bells and whistles.
When I was marketing the release of a new novel in 2015, I joined the annual A to Z Flash Fiction Challenge in which participants publish a new piece every day for the month of April. I met tons of fellow writers, wrote satisfying work in lightening speed…and gained plenty of new followers by getting them addicted to my flash fiction serial thriller, Gaslight.
A is for Audience
April swatted her nose and pushed hair from her forehead, her hand limp and clumsy with sleep. Feeling itchy, she moaned, flopped over on her belly and scratched her rump. Something tickled her back and she jerked herself missionary again. Eyes snapped open, blind in the dark and searching the blank gray ceiling. Blankets were puddled around her ankles, nightgown rucked up to her waist.
“What the hell?”
The clock read 12:07 a.m.
Yawning, she disentangled her feet from the sheets and swung her legs over the side of her bed. “S’long as I’m up I might as well pee.”
She rearranged her jammie-cammie straps so that her nubile breasts were more modestly covered. Eyes half-mast, she padded down the hallway. 70-watt Energy Star light bulbs seared through her pupils when she flicked the switch. Blinking against the glare, her reflection fuzzed in the mirror. One tiny detail forced immediate focus and spiked adrenaline: a dark brown, antennaed, almond-shaped bug scuttled over her shoulder and burrowed away from the light. Under her pajamas.
“Oh my god!”
The nightgown flew over her head and across the room, landing in a heap on the other side of the toilet. April choked out hoarse, secretive screeches while slapping every inch of skin and raking fingers through rat-nested hair. Malignant eyes scanned the room, found their prey, and then ceramic soap dish met unfortunate cockroach.
Gasping at the clatter in the eerie quiet of early morning, April caught her breath. She wadded up soiled panties and tossed them in the hamper, then gingerly shook out her nightgown. Sleep was far off and the thought of her bed was revolting.
Another jolt racked her nerves when flashes from half-a-dozen cell phone cameras greeted her. Her bedroom hissed in familiar stifled laughter.
“April Fools Day already, huh?”
After the challenge was completed, I published the story on Wattpad, where it can be read in its entirety, free of charge.
Flash fiction is great to experiment with, because you can get immediate feedback on your writing with very little time wasted on anyone’s part. I submitted another piece to #FlashMobWrites and won an honorable mention.
Sugar & eggs
Brown sugar, packed. Thump.
White sugar, heaping. Ssssss.
A teaspoon of vanilla. Splash.
Two eggs. Crack. Splat. Crack. Splat.
I lift the metal bowl to my face, lips a hairsbreadth from slimy golden yolk, and breathe. Glorious.
“What is it about sugary eggs and vanilla?”
Now that other ingredient. I wrinkle my nose and scoop the pungent stuff, spoonful by hated spoonful. The whir of a hand mixer reminds me that humming helps. But there is nothing soothing about a random tune—my grandmother did that and she never hit a note—so I choose something. Fast.
“Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer…” I hate when people just can’t let Christmas go. Damn if that song isn’t still stuck in my brain. “Mmm mmm mmm mmm mmm, huh huh.”
Dough rolled and ready, exactly one quarter-inch thick. I sift through cutters. Heart? Suspicious. Star? Ironic. Four-leafed clover? Just hateful. I smile and select the clover.
“One little, two little, three little clovers.” The dough is satisfying to cut. Solid but pliable, like Play Doh. Forgiving. “Five little, six little, seven little…” The rest of my invented song escapes me. “See, that’s why you stick with the classics.”
I strip off my rubber gloves and bang the tins into the oven. Then wait. And wait. Baking cookies have no business smelling so…so…
“Had a very shiny nose.” I tap my feet, crave the ding. “And if you ever saw it.” My hands sweat in their mitts. “You would even say it—”
A delicate tea saucer. And a paper doily. I plunk down the clover while it’s still steaming. Oil seeps into the doily, an evil halo. But warm cookies are more appetizing than cold cookies, so I shake my head, get a grip. Last minute inspiration sends down a sprinkle of powdered sugar—a kindness or a mockery—and I push through the swinging doors.
My slippers tap checkerboard marble floors. A home shouldn’t echo like that.
Click. Click. Click.
The tick-tock of a disapproving grandfather clock melts my resolve and I slow, my breath shallow.
A firm grip swings me around and I almost drop my offering. “I’ll take it to her.”
Blood thunders in my ears. I can hardly hear my own feeble, “Okay,” so I bob my head and shove the plate into his chest.
“It’s almost over.” His smile is blurred, his finger tracing my jawline warm.
I nod again and a hot tear hits my shoe. An acrid smell escapes her sickroom and buffets my cheeks as he closes the door on my shame.
I scrub my face with both hands, square my shoulders. A galvanizing breath strains my diaphragm. “Okay. Fresh linens.” Stick to the basics. Don’t think. “All of the other reindeer…”
My steps echo to the stupid melody and I wonder if I should perform a step-ball-change to mix things up.
Tick. Tock. Tick. Tock.
I pause to open the glass door, halt the heavy pendulum.