We thought we’d share some tips from previous winners and a few sample stories.
First the tips:
Aidee Ladnier: It’s easier to stick to singles: single goal, single setting, single decision for your character to make, single POV, etc.
J. Scott Coatsworth: Yes, the simpler, the better. But keep in mind, there should be a story here – not just a scene. My favorite example – actually micro fiction: “For sale: baby shoes, never worn.” Suggests a whole story and tragedy with very few words.
Alicia Nordwell: Try more than one approach. If I have a theme-inspired idea I really like, I’ll try to write the story in different ways, so I have options to pick from. Waiting a few days before looking at them again helps with refining the ideas/editing. Choose active verbs to cut down on adverbs and make sure you don’t repeat any words. Having feedback or eyes to catch those sorts of things are invaluable too.
Angel Martinez: Succinct, succinct, succinct. Backstory? *tosses out window* Paragraph of landscape description? *tosses out window* Small talk dialogue? *tosses out window* *tosses whole story out window just to see what happens*
Jenn Burke: You have to remember that this is supposed to be a complete story. It needs to build to a climax and not just highlight a piece of a bigger tale. That’s incredibly hard to do in flash fiction, so I wish everyone the best of luck!
Clare London: Written a sentence? See if you can use less and more evocative words – describe the setting and action as a single package, rather than two strands. And I often find 1st person POV – especially dialogue – more immediately resonant (is that the word?) than a more removed 3rd person.
Now, here are some samples of what you can do with the “Renewal” theme, by our judges and other non-eligible folks:
J. Scott Coatsworth
Hank stared at his three-dee screen in disbelief.
“We’re sorry. We are unable to renew ‘My Gay Cyborg Boyfriend.’ This book has been checked out by the System.”
What the hell was the System doing reading gay porn? He’d been crazy-busy, called in three times that week for unpaid overtime in Reprogramming. People were losing their shit in record numbers these days.
He blamed the System.
“The System will save mankind,” they’d said when they launched it two years before. “It will reorganize every aspect of our society.” He’d even helped create the monster. Hell, it was a paycheck.
Bad idea, though. Fucking recipe for a Terminator, if you asked him. Not that they had.
The reality had turned out to be much more banal. All those new “sharing economy” jobs? Now run by the system. And people had little to do from day to day, as The System took over more and more of their daily work. Thank god for Government Cheese. He snorted.
Autos that flew themselves. Hotel rooms that self-cleaned and rented themselves. Hell, he bet even movies would watch themselves one of these days.
And now the goddamned system was reading his library book.
He’d had enough.
He pulled out his touchboard and accessed the grid, logging in with a dummy account he’d created years before. For all its complexity, programming hardware was still a lot more straightforward than the wetware of people’s brains.
When he’d helped build the System, he’d left himself a backdoor, just in case. He’d been an untrusting bastard even then.
Was it still there?
He snuck inside. This was gonna take some time, as the System was spread throughout Thundercloud. He’d have to lock the door behind him.
Time to give the System a little renewal.
The winter had been cold and long, an unheard of three hundred days. Everyone else in the lair had sought mates for the time of storms. Petak’s nature did not include such things. He wanted none of the fondling and kissing the others craved. He sat alone in the cradle cave, as someone must. The others were grateful he refused all offers to spell him.
The egg’s prismatic facets winked in the firelight amidst its furs, the fire Petak must keep just so, the furs he must keep wrapped tight. The people had lived without a guardian too long. Cowering in the lair, only daring short forays during storms so the Vidrix could not swoop down and snatch foragers away. The Vidrix always knew.
Complacency had kept the people from planning. Guardians lived several human lifetimes and the last left only a single egg when they died, a precarious situation. If the egg failed, the lair failed. One chance—and the people entrusted it to Petak because he was happier alone. Not the best of reasons. Previous egg-minders had been the best of the people—wisest, strongest. The first to meet the new guardian would form a bond, people said.
Petak had no confirmation. The last egg-minder had died in his grandmother’s youth.
The sudden crack speared through his drifting thoughts. He leapt up, terrified the egg had cracked from cold. But no, the shell retained its heat. Its inner life still shone. The prisms were more translucent now. Something was happening. Petak was about to call for help when a thunderous crack followed the first. A nose poked through. Then an iridescent scaled head.
He knelt beside the egg and spoke softly, “Guardian, do you know me?”
Into his mind, an alien voice spoke a single word. *Petak.*
Defaulting to Null
The long queue made Lex jittery, bouncing in place. Today was the last day for Recommencement for this cycle. They knew they should’ve come sooner. There had been plenty of time, notices on their server. But things kept coming up, and Lex figured if they defaulted—no big deal.
The lethargic line moved with intent. One person at a time shuffled up to the Declaration Stations, keyed in their Recommencement choice, placed their palm on the surface, waited for the prick, then walked away. Mollified.
As Lex got closer, the whir of machinery sung behind a computerized voice. “Congratulations on Recommencing. All modifications should be completed within twenty-four hours. Please contact your health care provider if problems occur.”
A warning brandished over their module. “Defaults set within twenty-five hours. Once you Default, you can no longer Recommence. Have a good day.”
Several messages popped up in front of Lex as the line dwindled and the seconds became excruciatingly long. Friends and family asked if they’d made it through Recommencement or Defaulted. They swiped the irritating queries away with a flick of their fingers.
Two more people.
A station opened up. Lex flew to the terminal. Choices lit up the screen.
Default. Male. Female. Intersex. Agender. Genderfluid.
They jabbed the display.
A metallic voice asked, “Place your palm on the pad to confirm choice.”
They pressed down, a small twinge from the needle pricking their palm. Fluid pushed into their veins, the burning sensation overwhelming but welcomed. Euphoria actualized.
A five-minute warning flashed on their module.
Message urgent followed the chime. Jo’s fretful expression materialized. “Did you make it?”
“I’m still they.”
Jo’s laughter broke the unwieldy tension. “I wouldn’t know what to do with a male-only partner.”
Lex winked. “Lucky for you I’m not.”
I’m huddled alone in the fuel room, monitoring the gauges. Enough in Tank #3 to power His craft back to the space station, safe and smooth.
Barely dried tears still nestle in my beard.
I shouldn’t care. Open relationships are the norm nowadays.
That’s what He said last night, through lips that smiled at my shock, that were still halfway around Second Officer (Onboard Facilitation) Grend’s cock.
Seven months together is a fucking long time, when soporific space days are marked only by a change of task sheet. Where intimacy is planned in advance, lusty breath rationed, precious lube usage kept to a minimum.
I thought it’d count for something.
I’m too old to fall into that ‘screwing your boss’ trap. Funny how even in a controlled environment, libido blows common sense farther than any satellite.
Humiliation. Can’t forget. Betrayal. Calls for action!
I glance at Tank #3, pumping its precious feed to His craft.
There’s a heady thrill in giving way to your emotions, albeit adolescent, vindictive and probably criminal.
I flip the switch on the tank lid, and an amber light awakens.
I remember doing this once, on an Earth car. Belonged to a guy who dumped me. I was only a teenager.
I unscrew the lid. There’s only a matter of seconds before the break in flow is noticed.
The amber light starts flashing. So, scold me.
I unzip my suit, disengage the urine bag, release my cock. And piss into the tank.
Not enough to endanger the landing: enough to make it choppy as all hell. Twenty seconds of hot, pure, rejuvenating revenge.
Zipped again, I tighten the lid. Amber returns to a pale green pout.
And I’m smiling like that teenager I once was.
We can all move on, right?