Friday Fictioneers – Void


Making the first mark is a terrible joy, an unforgiving test, he thinks.  Until that act, the paper is a white pre-world of every possibility. Afterwards, passages form and doors clang shut. It is the moment when the hawk hangs motionless in the sky before it stoops for the kill. And the universe holds a stilled expectancy. The brush trembles in his hand.

The sitter adjusts her position.  “Are you alright?” she asks.

He wipes a bead of sweat from his brow. What if I’ve lost it?

“Yes,” he says brusquely, and dips the brush into the vermilion.


Friday fictioneers is a weekly challenge to write a 100-word story in response to a photo prompt. You can find other stories here. Congratulations on your fourth anniversary as Friday Fictioneers Facilitator, Rochelle, and thanks. The blank prompt this week was a challenge and a terrible joy.

Friday Fictioneers – Pieces of Eight

PHOTO PROMPT © Claire Fuller

Fisherman’s twine, a bottle-top, seashells, a smooth pebble, a knobbly rock. The treasures in Granddad’s cabinet were as the man himself – surprising, various, and chosen with love. These were his treasure chest and his story book.

Heaving myself up onto the stool, I gazed. Though I’d seen the cabinet before, the contents changed with time, a bit like Granddad’s memories.

“What are these?” I asked, reaching for a stack of coins.

“Arrr,” he said, a protective arm drawing me down with the coins to his lap. “Arrr, Jim lad. Them I got when we took a Spanish galleon.”



Friday fictioneers is a weekly challenge to write a 100-word story in response to a photo prompt. You can find other stories here

Friday Fictioneers – News

PHOTO PROMPT © Rochelle Wisoff-Fields

I was cooking breakfast, bacon sizzling in the pan, when they called to tell me you were dead. Had been dead for four years. Perhaps murdered. The gears of time slip, and the past crashes into today with the force of a motorway pile-up. Events concertina, throwing up mountain ranges and dredging shadowed valleys.

If only I hadn’t. Or you didn’t. I search the Internet for four-year-old details. A marriage gone wrong. A property dispute. A failed police investigation. The news runs out as attention shifted.

The bacon starts to crisp and burn. I serve-up just in time.



Friday fictioneers is a weekly challenge to write a 100-word story in response to a photo prompt. You can find other stories here.

Friday fictioneers – Bigness


“That’s an awful lot of water in one place,” he said, standing on the edge of the world and scanning the ocean. He wheeled, strode back into the hotel, and never returned to the seashore.

Instead, he built himself a pond, enclosed within the courtyard of his farmhouse. The water duplicated the sky, reflecting inverted trees. The low ramparts of the steading held chaos at bay. He was content.

“The ocean is very big,” he told his wife, “but we are also very big.”


Friday fictioneers is a weekly challenge to write a 100-word story in response to a photo prompt. You can find other stories here

Friday Fictioneers – The Vaults



Howard paced the corridor on his nightly rounds, overhead lights receding to the vanishing point. On each side, shutters protected treasures he had never seen:  the deeds to a castle; a dragon coiled tight around an oak chest of jewels; diadems of starlight.

Howard Carter felt destined for greatness. He wouldn’t be a security guard all his life.

“What do you see in there?” people would ask him.

“Wonderful things,” he would reply.

But he knew what dreamed behind those shuttered doors remained beautiful only until the moment a door was opened on cardboard boxes, overstuffed sofas, and cricket bats.


Friday fictioneers is a weekly challenge to write a 100-word story in response to a photo prompt. You can find other stories here

Friday Fictioneers – Fame

PHOTO PROMPT © Roger Bultot

The man who came back from space is upstairs dying. When Dad returned, there were medals, starbursts fireworks, and marching bands.  He was war hero and celebrity rolled into one, and also my father. Some rubbed off on me – at school I got the girls.

But he never talked about it.  Not to me, or anyone. He never did anything again and became more and more withdrawn, taking to his bed five years ago. Though I keep hoping he’ll tell me the secret of the stars, all he’s said is “fame’s not all it’s cracked up to be”.


Friday fictioneers is a weekly challenge to write a 100-word story in response to a photo prompt. You can find other stories here.



79. Flash in the pan – tips for writing flash fiction


I write flash fiction in the Friday Fictioneers group every week. Flash fiction is very short fiction, typically under 750 or 1,000 words. Within it, some people distinguish between “drabbles” (100 words), “dribbles” (50 words) and so on. These distinctions don’t really matter.  The genre is good exercise for a writer in editing skills and wordcraft.

The talented Friday Fictioneer, Claire Fuller (author of Our Endless Numbered Days) produced 12 hints on writing flash fiction . That stimulated me to write a few of my own.

It’s still a story. Beware of writing something that’s just a scene rather than a tale. Flash fiction has to do all the things a story normally does. It must have a plot with a beginning, a middle, and an end. It needs a narrative hook, character development, conflict, resolution, dialogue and all the other elements of a regular story. The general rules of fiction apply in spades. The “show don’t tell” principle is especially important here.

Flash fiction is short, so …..

  • Keep the idea simple.
  • Be clear what the main conflict is and introduce it early, ideally in the first sentence
  • Rule of one. There can only be one central character, one setting, one scene, one plot.
  • Keep the timeline tight (even to within a few minutes) so you develop the idea rather than describing it. This isn’t an extended narrative, it’s about a moment or series of moments.
  • Make the title ring so it does some of the heavy lifting for you

Enter the action at a late point, come out early. This principle of film-making applies also to flash fiction. You don’t have time for backstory.

Reduction. This is a top tip from storyville. In cooking, a reduction is when you boil away most of the liquid to leave a thick and intense sauce. Reduce. Don’t start out writing to your word-length.  Let the story take its course, then edit down. Perhaps the most famous example of successful reduction is the six-word story “For sale: baby shoes, never worn”, often attributed to Hemingway.



Write like a poet – make every word count. Cut down on adjectives and adverbs and let the nouns and verbs do the work. Take the time to find the right word. Reading novels won’t help you write flash fiction. Reading poetry may.

Work with the reader and make use of the space beyond the page. Skip as much of the backstory as possible.  If you reference history, fairy tales, romance, sci-fi or other tropes you can invite the reader to supply background, context and meaning themselves. What is not said may be as powerful as what is. The baby shoes story is a great example of this.

Write vivid characters. They add density and carry the action. But don’t use too many characters. One or two are usually enough. Remember to develop a character arc so there’s change in the story.

Create an illusion of generosity. You can open up a sense of space if you risk devoting precious words to small details. That way it doesn’t feel cramped like a full story cut down, or worse still, like an outline rather than a story.

The ending is crucial. Think about it very carefully. It’s not a gag, so don’t turn it into a punchline. The ending should leave the reader pondering the story and wondering about the resonances. Often, the finale is a twist. More radically, it need not be the dénouement at all. David Gaffney recommends putting the dénouement in the middle. That way you can devote the ending to considering the ramifications of what has happened.

Break all these rules if you’ve got a really cool idea and you can get away with it.

The memory vats

PHOTO PROMPT © Shaktiki Sharma

Legs pumping, heart pounding, Irgul thrust his way up the mountain path. He raced through the stone archway into the cloying fug of the memory chamber. Donba glared, strong arms corded as he stirred the thick vat.

Irgul bent, hands on thighs, gasping for breath. “Sorry, sorry, I’m late. Give me a minute.”

“It’s a solemn responsibility keeping the tribe’s remembrances mixed. Where were you?”

Irgul winked. ”Making memories.”

His friend had to laugh. “Yes, I saw them arrive. Crimson. Nice one, lad.”

He took the handle from Donba and ladled, lest the heavy elements separate out.


Friday fictioneers is a weekly challenge to write a 100-word story in response to a photo prompt. You can find other stories here.

78. The Big Push

It was the summer of the big push. The plan for this year was to get across no-man’s-land and find myself an agent. In June, my writing career was poised on the brink of breakthrough.

The Great War Project

As I reported in this blog the literary consultancy, Cornerstones, asked to see as revised version of my novel The Golden Illusion. They act as scouts for agents. I was thrilled!  The book is a mystery story with a twist. The sleuth is a conjurer who believes he hunts an ancient illusion. Instead, he reveals a conspiracy concealing an atrocity that spans the centuries.

Writing is a cruel game though. At the end of August, Cornerstones decided not to represent the book. Though they were very complimentary about it, it was still a rejection. They said:

“The concept is high – a magician as your protagonist is gripping – he’s intriguing and mysterious and powerful. His voice is accessible and engaging and the ancient magic has an allure. In a way, this is submittable right now and you may well get agent interest.”

Despite that, they felt it needed more work – more than they were willing to risk. So here I am, still in no-man’s-land, all barbed wire and mud and shell craters filled with water. Another big push repulsed. I’ve been through this before when a publisher showed interest and then rejected the book, and also with an agent.

All you can do is pick yourself up again.  And again. And keep heading across the field to the far trenches. But I get better at handling defeat. I have flanking manoeuvres now. Though none of my novels has yet survived going over the top into hostile terrain, I know I can get short stories published. I fired off five stories to magazines. I have another two on the launch pad. With that many, there’s a good chance of some being accepted and cheering myself up. In fact, one story, Bomaru’s Quest Part IV, has already been accepted and published today by Literally Stories. You can read it here.






The Machine

PHOTO PROMPT © Sandra Crook

The Machine’s skin was hard, harder than any crocodile’s, tougher even than stone. Irgul stared at it. Today, after reaching manhood, he would become one of the four Bearers. After the feasting, they would parade the Machine round the village, like their fathers before them.

Irgul reached out and caressed the Wheel. It turned. An idea glimmered just beyond his grasp.

Sp’andor, the old shaman, watched the boy and smiled, remembering when he also had that seductive idea for transportation. Irgul would discover for himself, he thought indulgently, how easily clay pots smashed when jolted along the forest paths.


Friday fictioneers is a weekly challenge to write a 100-word story in response to a photo prompt. You can find other stories here.