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: Ash

Allow me to present this year’s 24-hour short story.  I started it at 11:57 last night, barely staying within the rules.  I have to say, it turned out differently than I expected.  Check out the other short stories written last night, which will be collected soon on the host blog.  Enjoy.

“Tell her she smells like your mom,” said the imp from John’s jacket. “That always works for me.”

John smoothed his lapel. The imp squeaked as John’s hand squashed it.

“Is that him?” John’s date leaned forward. The imp had interrupted while she introduced herself, and he was too embarrassed to ask her name a second time. “The elf?”

“Imp,” said John automatically. “And no. I left it at home. It doesn’t like this jacket.”

“If you’re expecting to keep this woman, I suggest you prevent her from smelling it,” said the imp, poking his head above John’s collar. “Great long johns, fresh air is sweet unto my nostrils!” He snorted noisily. John cleared his throat to cover the sound, but his date wouldn’t hear the imp anyway.

“Is it really that fickle?” she asked, cocking her head. “I thought it went everywhere you did.”

“Everywhere I want it to,” said John with a dead smile. The tips of her red hair brushed her shoulders. John shivered, imagining flames smoldering and burning her skin. “How did traveling treat you? Did you enjoy your first time navigating New York City?”

She deflected the change of subject with a smile. “I’m curious about the terms of your agreement with him. I mean, with it. Is he— it— bound to doing whatever you say, or is it his choice? Can he do anything, or is he limited? I keep saying he, but you know what I mean.” She laughed, touching his arm across the table as if they shared this hilarious joke. Her hand was scorching.

John didn’t like her much. Continue reading “Short Story: Ash”

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.

Short Story: A Death of Stone

As promised, the response to the 24-hour story challenge from New Year’s Eve.  I began writing at 10 pm, stopped at 1:45 am, and have made several finishing touches since.  I’m pleased with it.  I managed to incorporate some new techniques (which will be featured in upcoming blog posts), and I think the story works.  I look forward to seeing your thoughts, so critiques welcome.  Thanks for joining me.

A date in a haunted cathedral is not as fun as it sounds.  I still think someone should have told me that sooner.

Considering the date alone, nothing could be better.  Julie Brennan was the one girl who had recognized my clay statuette of Hades and matched it with a slavering Cerberus (no one else from the Greek mythos deserved Hades’ affection quite as much, she claimed).   Sculpture and mythology would have been enough for me, but then she had to go and be pretty.  Some people are like that.

As for the cathedral, neither of us could complain.  I liked the doors best.  From the entryway to the alcoves to the little door behind the altar where one could potentially access the bowels of the pipe organ— each one, no matter how tiny or hidden, held crenellations and statues to satisfy the greatest of admirers.  I sometimes imagined some tiny person, shrunk by the cathedral’s magic, crawling their whole life and never seeing the end of one of those crevices.  I pitied that depressed little cathedral-man.  But, someone had to be that guy, and I’m glad I got to stick with Julie.

But the haunted part…  Okay, it’s not really haunted.  The cathedral does things, and I can’t figure out if it’s supernatural because it’s holy or supernatural because it failed its How-To-Resist-Weird-Stuff class.  In any case, it seems less religious than most churches I’ve seen.  Most of that comes from its tendency to resurrect gargoyles.

Yes, I knew this before I brought Julie. Continue reading “Short Story: A Death of Stone”

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 Story: Your Antennae Are Showing

A couple days ago, an idea came to me at about midnight.  Forty-five minutes later, I had nine hundred nearly-illegible words covering two sheets of paper, making up one of the most fun short stories I’ve written.  I’m really glad I forced myself to sit up and write instead of sleeping the idea away.  I hope you enjoy the story.

“Fifteen minutes, Lex.”  I pressed the button to call the elevator and the doors slid open.  “Keep your mouth shut for fifteen minutes, until we take off.  Then you can say what you want.”

“I understand,” Lex said.  “You’ve told me this before.”

“But you haven’t listened yet.”

“I’ve just…”  Lex grinned in anticipation.  “I’ve never seen one in their true form.”

“You’ve waited this long— you can wait fifteen minutes more.  Just until we’re in the air.”  I punched the button for the roof.

“Yeah, fine,” said Lex. “I’ll keep it under control.  Just get us in the air quick.”

This was the fifth time Lex had promised, and it was beginning to annoy me.  Lex was a scientist— an enthusiastic one— with an odd fascination with humans.  He could talk about them all day.  According to him… well, it was best not to know what he thought.

The elevator slid open.  Currently disguised inside and out as a helicopter, our ship sat bulbous and squat on the flat roof.  Standing a good distance away from its strangely thin blades, Marise stood at near attention in her heels and form-fitting skirt.  From the way she clutched at her handbag, and the glances she gave toward the helicopter, she was nervous.  Great, I thought.  She won’t last a minute before Lex gets through to her.  With luck, the anxiety would be for helicopters, or heights, or all her human invulnerabilities.  Let it be anything but fear of strange men asking weird questions.  Lex’s “interest of science” tone of voice was bad enough without anxiety. Continue reading “Short Story: Your Antennae Are Showing”

Short Story: Smiling

This is a short story I wrote just before my last post about mysteries.  In fact, this story sparked the discussion in that post, as I tried to figure out if this would work.  I’m still not quite sure, but I’d love to hear your reactions to it.  It’s a little darker than I usually do— not as much humor, definitely.  I don’t think it’s my best work, but it’s definitely unique for me, and I hope you enjoy it.  Bonus points for unraveling the mystery.

They took my picture today.

I write this on a piece of notepaper the warden gave me.  I’m allowed to write one letter home, to you; but I’m not sure if this will get to you.  They will try to read it, but even if they do, it won’t be in time.  The mail here is notoriously slow.  And if they do read it, it will not get to you, for I will be in a different cell, possibly a different jail, pending further investigation with no contact allowed.  I will disappear, and they will be victorious.  But that is only if the mail is not slow.  It will be.

I was captured yesterday, trying to sneak a bribe to the warden.  Never mind that he took it— it was a foolish plan, ready to fall apart the moment it began.  I was easily caught.  I was sick, never a good thing on a job, and that slowed me down enough that they caught me before I had gone ten steps.  They slapped me straight into solitary confinement, then transferred me to a shared cell with a man named Sam.  Sam used to be a con artist, but turned thug the moment they put him in the slammer.  No inmate goes near him now, and he’s supposed to be in solitary, except the warden thought I’d be a good cellmate.  Sam’s been fine so far— we’ve met before. Continue reading “Short Story: Smiling”

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”