Fridays at the online writing group I belong to are set aside for writing flash fiction. Every Friday at 9 a.m. a writing challenge is posted on the Flash Friday blog for Shenandoah Valley Writers, and participants have twelve hours to come up with something before the deadline at 9 p.m. Then the judging begins.
Last Friday was the first time I participated. I have known for a while what flash fiction is, though I never tried writing it, except for a six word story one time. Last week’s challenge was to write a 50-word story based on an uncaptioned photo of astronaut Buzz Aldrin’s foot taking one small step for man. In the moment when I viewed it on my Droid Razr in a darkened parking lot outside my office building before heading home from work, I did not recognize the photo. To me it looked like someone in hiking boots stepping into mud.
Flash fiction, I learned somewhere, can be anywhere from six words to thousands. There are even flash novels out there somewhere. What binds all these stories together in their own genre, however, is that they are succinct; they are brief. Every sentence, every word even, is important. Flash fiction doesn’t contain long paragraphs of description simply for the beauty of writing. Not that there’s anything wrong with such paragraphs, in other books. That’s just not what flash fiction is.
So I drove home last Friday, recording ideas for my flash fiction into the digital recorder I use for work, and when I stopped at Martins for groceries, I jotted down ideas into paragraph form. I was racing the clock by that point. By 9 p.m., my entry had to be posted in the comments section of the SVW Flash Friday blog, and it then was nearing 8 p.m.
At home, though, the writing went quickly, and by 8:20 or so I had a finished version. It was pretty good, I thought, and I even dared to think it great. I had read over the six or seven entries to the previous week’s contest and thought my 50-word story easily a contender to be this week’s winner. On my first try, I’d produced a masterpiece — one giant leap for writerkind. And I patted myself on the back for being someone who scores a hundred percent without even studying…much.
Then I saw how many other people entered the contest. I’ll give you a hint: It wasn’t six. There were twenty-one entries, plus one by the moderator herself. Not only did I not win, I wasn’t even one of the two runners up. Suddenly, my story seemed a lot more like sixty percent.
I’m sure my story is fine for what it is, a first try, but I definitely learned a lesson in humility Saturday after I read over all the other entries, most of which did use a theme of space exploration, whereas mine was about mud. When the results came out, I wasn’t much surprised. Sad, maybe, but also encouraged. It was my first try. That’s why there’s practice.
Read on for my flash fiction:
(Photo credit: NASA, I suppose? Found through Google)
Mud. I’ve embraced the name. I’m more like mud than they realized. It’s squishy; it won’t be brushed aside like dust. When someone steps on it, it leaves an impression. It also sticks to shoes. They don’t know they take it along with them. Unlike dust, mud has a life.