Short Story: Wisdom of the Cloven Hoof

The following is a piece of flash fiction I wrote yesterday for the express purpose of writing it in permanent marker on a hydration backpack.  Thus, the story itself is neither polished nor meant to be very good.  I can’t remember what gave me the idea, but it worked and I’m happy with the result.  I hope you enjoy the story!

There was once a man who set out to test the old proverb “Never feed a camel with a knife.”  He bought a camel.  He bought a knife.  He bought a large brick of smoked Gouda.  He bought a lawn chair, in which he sat as he sliced the Gouda, laid it on the flat of the knife, and offered it to the camel.  The camel did not eat.

The experiment had failed.  The camel had not eaten, the man had not fed it, and the presence of the knife meant nothing whatsoever.  The lawn chair was the only thing that had done what it should.  So the man tried again.

The man offered.  The camel refused.  The cheese and knife began a long-term relationship.  The lawn chair bore it all.  Man and camel began starve.

On the nineteenth day, the man fainted from hunger.  When he awoke, the camel was looking down at him.  He offered the cheese in his hand, and the camel, at least, ate.

So pleased was the man that he did not notice the camel had pilfered the knife while he was senseless, and had cut his wallet from his pocket while he was feeding it, and was now galloping away at speed with his identity and credit cards, and a small fortune in mixed coin.

Moral: Nunquam pascere camelum culto.

Veritas in fabella omnia.

Note: “Nunquam pascere camelum culto” is very bad Latin for “Never feed a camel with a knife.”  The clause “with a knife” is ambiguous, presumably the reason for the above story.  “Veritas in fabella omnia” is also very bad Latin for “Truth in every story”.  It has no relevance to the story— as if the author needed a short sentence to fill up the final remaining blank space on a certain hydration backpack.  Whatever the case, it seems to imply that camel muggings at knifepoint are commonplace.  This translator cannot say for certain without risk of lawsuit by someone who had a terrible day with an ungulate.

Note to the note: These notes were not included on the original hydration backpack transcription.


Cheats for Writing

I’m going to tell you how to cheat.

That’s right.  There are ways to hack your way to an emotional response.  You can bypass the usual systems of good characters, solid plot, and vivid setting— you can even get away without a very good writing style— and still evoke a positive reaction from readers.  Yes indeed!  You don’t have to go through the misery of learning how to actually write.  I’ll give you a couple examples and tell you exactly how to use them for MAXIMUM EFFECT.

In short, don’t.

Imagine you’re writing the next Star Wars movie.  The franchise has millions of fans.  No matter if you write a good story or not, people are going to come, spend money, and watch your movie.  You could write anything you want and they’ll still watch it.  Why?  Because the story is that big.  It doesn’t matter how well you write; it just matters that it’s Star Wars.

You have a cheat. Continue reading “Cheats for Writing”

Short Story: Klepto-Mobile

I wrote this short story way back in June for a competition.  The competition required a fantasy story exploring a new world, in under a thousand words.  This version, the first one I wrote, is nearing two thousand words.  While I did cut it down for the contest, I prefer the longer version.  There’s a sentimental value to any short story you write at midnight in pink pen.  Enjoy.  If you’d like to read the shortened, polished version, you can find it here:

Stealing cars was more fun when they weren’t magical.

Stu leapt into the third one, pressing the ignition button and the brake at the same time. The cars were all new, meaning his hotwiring techniques set off more alarms than Stu actually ever tripped. They were all magical, meaning at least two of them had tried to melt his eyebrows in creative ways. Stu had never seen such an angry llama.

Stu held the key fob close to the dashboard and tried the button again, with nothing but a beep in response. He had found the key in a tray by the door— it had to fit one of these. He couldn’t survive many more hotwire attempts.

Definitely not this car. The speedometer had a rooster stenciled into its face, and after the acid-spitting llama…

Stu kicked open the door and dove into the next car. He had little time. He could thank his stars, though, that none of these “alarms” had alarmed anyone but him. He was—

The silver convertible screamed. Continue reading “Short Story: Klepto-Mobile”

Short Story Challenge: The Result

Last week (last year, in fact), I posted a short story challenge.  In 24 hours, write, edit, and publish a short story.  The ideal playground was New Year’s Eve, when sleep deprivation is socially acceptable anyway.  Some people decided to take it easy and start in the early afternoon, and some people (like me) started a bit too late.  Some people decided not to participate after all, and some decided not to publish.  Nevertheless, several people wrote short stories and posted them not a day later.  Those lucky writers began the new year having already affirmed their writing identities— they can now go on with their lives and write as much or as little as they wish.

Writing more is more fun, but still.

Those who participated (that I know of) are listed below, in no particular order.  I’ve tried to read and comment on all of them.  If you value a good short story, you’d be wise to do the same.

Last New Year’s Eve, by Rachel (typographigirl)

Nothing but the Tooth, by Robyn Hoode

Game Over, by Shim (magicandwriting)

Erasing the Future, by Anna Lee

Auld Lang Syne, by Erin (erinkenobi2893)  (For those interested, she posted another, original short story more recently: Dawn.)

Attack on Trowbridge, by Lily J

Smile, by agoodoldfashionedvillain

Avengers New Year, by Iris

A New Year’s Mistake, by Darci Cole (aka Thor)

And Briar Eden wrote a story as well, which unfortunately has remained untitled.  You can find that here.

You can find my short story, A Death of Stone, here.  Congratulations to all who rose to the challenge.  I hope this can happen again, if only in a year.  If you enjoyed the challenge of writing a short story, but found the 24-hour bit odious, you don’t need an occasion to write a short story.  This challenge proves several things: you’re all capable of producing a good story under a deadline, you’re bold enough to publish something you wrote (I know mine was imperfect— I’d have liked to have had another week to edit), and you can write a short story almost on command.  Sit down and write.  There’s nothing better for you and your writing career.

A Short Story Challenge

Last year, on New Year’s Eve, a couple of my friends and I got together late at night.  We challenged each other to write a short story to commemorate the holiday.  I’m not sure what happened to their stories— mine, I know, is still sitting in a folder waiting to be finished.  Considering I couldn’t think of anything except ‘gravel elephants’ as an idea, I’m not disappointed.

This year, we wanted to do something different.  We wanted to do something better.  We wanted to do something with you.

I introduce my short story challenge.  Any who wish may take the hours leading up to midnight, December 31st, and write a short story.  Only two requirements here: when the new year appears, you are writing; and sometime the next day, that story is published.

The goal here is to write and publish in a short period of time.  This means you aren’t going to be able to edit much.  You’ll have about twenty hours to edit (if you don’t sleep), so you’ll want quality over quantity.  Eighteen thousand words won’t help you if it’s a repetition of your grocery list.  Instead, keep the story short and easy to edit, and don’t stress about the outcome.  It’s a challenge, not a competition, and the important thing is writing and publishing.

Here’s an FAQ, except ‘frequently’ here is replaced with ‘foreseeably’. Continue reading “A Short Story Challenge”

Short Stories

So this is a request I’ve been getting from a couple people: how do you write short stories?  The truthful answer, of course, is that I don’t actually know.

There are no real guidelines for writing short stories, but I think I can at least display what I know of them, and hopefully it will help some of the people wondering.  I can’t give any enormous insights, and I definitely can’t say anything that no one has ever said before me, but I hope you find this post useful.

First, the definition: a short story is a story that has anywhere from 1 to 7,000 words.  There are subsets of short stories, of course, such as flash fiction or micro fiction, but I’ll just encompass them all here as best I can.  My general target for short stories is 2,000 words.

As stories, short stories will include all of the fundamental parts of a story: plot, character, and setting.  However, all will have to be done in a shorter fashion.  For instance, you can’t describe every part of your amazing fantasy world in the space of a short story.  If you did, there wouldn’t be room for characters or plot.  You also can’t get very deep into character.  Neither can you get very complex with your plot.  Everything in writing is a sort of trade-off, but with short stories you’ve really got to know what you want to do. Continue reading “Short Stories”

Short Story: In Memoriam

Here’s a short story I wrote last night on a vague prompt.  I wanted to write a thriller, and this gave me the opportunity.  They say short stories are the best places to experiment, so consider this as such.  I hope you enjoy it.

“Would you like fries with that?”  The kid behind the counter picked at a pimple as he punched in Mark’s order.

The sounds of the mall around them almost drowned out the words, but Mark got the idea.  He shook his head.  He moved his newspaper to his other hand and dug his wallet out of his pocket.


“Iced tea, please,” said Mark.

“That’s six seventy-five,” said the kid, turning aside to get the drink.

Mark didn’t have any change, so he dug a ten out of his wallet, accidentally sending a picture of his two young children to the floor.  He picked it up, then handed the bill to the kid when he turned back with the drink and the receipt.  He was number twenty-six.  With all the noise in the food court, hearing it would be difficult.  He found a close table and sat. Continue reading “Short Story: In Memoriam”

Short Story: A Good Word

This is a short story I’ve had simmering within me for a while.  I wrote most of the first half about a month ago, but I had the wrong main character.  Yesterday, I reworked it so it would be more entertaining.  I hope you enjoy it.

“Everything seems to be in order,” the hunchbacked minion sniffed.  He shuffled his papers and folded his glasses into his pocket, glaring in the boy’s direction.  When he turned to his master, his attitude changed from haughty to humble.  It was like seeing a fox turn into a worm; even his hunch grew less offensive.  “The supplicant is ready,” the minion said.

The chief examiner, a blue-hued silhouette in the window, turned his head.  He spoke softly.  “He has passed all the tests?”

“He is intelligent for his age; he is fluent in three dead languages and has killed a fourth.  He has a suitable pocket watch, though it isn’t the finest example of timekeeping I’ve seen.”  The minion sniffed again.  “His name is Mor, which technically begins with ‘Mor’, but that seems to be the full extent of it.”

“And the last test?”

“I watched him make the spaghetti myself, m’lord.” Continue reading “Short Story: A Good Word”