Flash Fiction: 2013 365 Challenge #159

Holiday snaps that tell a story

Holiday snaps that tell a story

Flash fiction is great for bloggers. In a world where everyone is always busy, being able to offer a story that only takes ten minutes to read is a real gift.

My installments aren’t flash fiction, but I do try and make them as standalone as possible, for the people who don’t follow every day.

(Thank you to those who do – if you’ve read every Claire installment, you’ve read 120k words since January. If you’ve read all my posts that probably adds another 80-100k words. Thank you, you’re amazing!)

One of my favourite blogs – Apprentice, Never Master – features daily Flash stories, as well as a weekly serial on Wednesdays. Interestingly I haven’t kept up with the weekly serial because I missed an episode and need to go back to catch up (Gwendolyn, if you’re reading, a catch-up ebook at the end would be fab, please! 🙂 ). With Gwendonlyn’s Flash Fiction, I don’t get the chance to read them all, but I am always drawn into the ones I do read. There are some fabulous scenes and moments. It amazes me how a story can be written in so few words. (As someone who struggles with the concept of brevity.)

Captions please?

Captions please?

The most moving (and shortest) piece of Flash Fiction I know is “For sale, baby shoes, never worn”, attributed to Ernest Hemingway, who apparently wrote it for a bet. Although, as a parent, I don’t necessarily see the sad meaning. I have plenty of baby shoes never worn, because the darn kids grow so fast…

Listening to the radio in the car this morning (a rare treat, as I’m normally forced to endure endless loops of Wheels on the Bus) I heard The Boxer by Simon & Garfunkel. It is a complete story in a little over 200 words. Songs, particularly folk and country songs, are often excellent examples of Flash Fiction (I wrote about it once).

On the subject of music, I also heard The Whole of the Moon, by The Waterboys, in the same set (chosen by Mark Owen from Take That, on Radio 2) and it transported me back – rather randomly – to a wedding I attended when I was around fifteen. Big hair, big hat, floral dress (me, not the bride. It was the 80s or early 90s). We stayed in a static caravan and the song played endlessly on the radio. Songs, like smells, can take you backed to the oddest moments in your life.

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Below is the next installment in my novel Two-Hundred Steps Home: written in daily posts since 1st January as part of my 2013 365 Challenge. Read about the challenge here.You can catch up by downloading the free ebook volumes on the right hand side of the blog:

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“Oh, Kim, it looks gorgeous.”

Claire flicked through the pictures on her iPad, as the two girls pored over details of Wilderhope Manor. Jealousy twisted in her chest as she took in the traditional beams, the four-poster bed, the wooden floorboards and immaculate bathrooms of the refurbished hostel.

“I can’t believe this fell into your lap at short notice. Just goes to show, one person’s heartache is another person’s lucky break.”

Kim beamed. Then her face fell. “I hope it isn’t a bad omen, that the groom got cold feet and ran off overseas. It feels wrong, somehow. What if some of their guests turn up to our wedding by mistake?”

Claire giggled, “That could be quite funny. It would be ages before they figured it out – you don’t see the bride and groom for hours at a wedding.”

“Don’t! I’d be mortified. I don’t know that I would recognise all of Jeff’s friends without their rugby kit on. What if I welcome them in, only to discover we didn’t invite them?”

Realising that Kim was serious, Claire stopped laughing and turned to face her friend. “Kim, you just need to put a big sign out front, declaring it to be the wedding of Kim and Jeff. Two signs, three if it makes you feel better. Send out special passes with your invites, that people have to present on arrival. Don’t worry! It’ll be fine.”

Kim ran her hands through her two-tone hair and tried to smile. “I’m sorry. There are so many details to think about and mostly I just want to sleep. I’m growing bones inside here, you know.” She stroked her belly, and her face changed imperceptibly. Claire felt a chill, as her friend disappeared into a world containing only her and the baby growing inside her.

“Did you know the baby can already hear? Isn’t that amazing?” Kim looked up, eyes alight with joy.

Claire wasn’t sure how she felt about it. I guess it is incredible, to think there’s a little person growing in there. She hadn’t really talked about the pregnancy with Kim during her stay. It wasn’t that she didn’t want to, it was just hard to find anything to say. The wedding was a neutral ground they could both have opinions on.

I might never get married, but what little girl hasn’t scribbled a design of her wedding dress in a school book, or draped a net curtain over her head. One of Sky’s apps came to mind. Of course, these days, little girls can create it in colour animation with a few taps of a screen. It’s a different world. By the time Sky gets married, they’ll be able to 3D-print her dress to her exact specification.

“What else can I do to help with the wedding preparations?” Ouch. That wasn’t the most subtle change of subject. If Kim noticed, she didn’t comment. She sat forward and reached for her camomile tea.

“Mum’s sorting the flowers, as she’s local to the venue. She’s going to get them from the market and do the arrangements herself. She arranges for the Church, you know.”

“Are there any other bridesmaids?” Claire couldn’t remember if Jeff had sisters or nieces that might be invited, or if Kim would include some of her acting friends.

“No, no bridesmaids. Jeff’s nephews might be page boys, but we haven’t decided anything. We can’t afford to hire suits – Jeff’s borrowing his brother’s, if it fits.”

“What about your sister? Will she come back for the day?”

Kim frowned, losing some of her new-found glow. “I don’t know. We Skyped the other day, but she’s really busy and of course the flights are expensive.”

“I’m sure she can afford it. I don’t suppose she earns a pittance, teaching English to Chinese businessmen.”

“Living in Hong Kong isn’t cheap though.” Kim bristled in defence of her sister.

Claire smiled inwardly. Blood’s thicker than water. Funny how we can be as critical as we like of our siblings, but bare our teeth and growl if anyone dare say anything bad about them.

“Have you and Jeff agreed an invite list? I’m happy to help you write invitations or place settings if you like?”

“We’ve invited most people digitally. Thank god for Facebook, Twitter and all that jazz. We don’t have to worry about seating plan as we’re having a buffet. The hardest part is going to be sorting the bedrooms.” She giggled mischievously. “We get the four-poster, that’s easy. But deciding who to put in the six-bed dorms is going to be fun. Do we go for chaste or racy?”

Claire giggled too, and suddenly they were both sixteen again, huddled under the duvet at a sleepover, discussing who had snogged whom, and all the other teenage gossip.

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10 thoughts on “Flash Fiction: 2013 365 Challenge #159

  1. I so can’t write flash fiction. But I admire those who can. I agree that it’s great to read. I like novellas for the same reason sometimes. But the shortest story I’ve managed to write is about 10k…

    • I wrote a couple of short stories to see if I could break into the (very difficult) magazine market. Unsurprisingly I didn’t and that was that! I’m not tight enough with plot and character description to get anything across in less than 1000 words, never mind 100!

  2. Flash fiction befuddles me! I keep meaning to try it one of these days though because it sure would make for fun blog posts. Brevity is not a strong suit of mine, however thinking of it like a song has given me a whole new perspective. Thanks for that insight!
    And I love that song ‘The Whole of the Moon’ — so much that I borrowed it as a title for one of my books! 🙂

    • Definitely check out Apprentice, Never Master as some of her pieces of Flash Fiction are brilliant standalone stories. The children’s 500 word stories on Radio 2 were also amazing (kids are amazing at fiction generally, as they cut right to the heart of the story.) Actually I might do a post on the Radio 2 competition, although I guess non-UK residents won’t be able to listen to the recordings. Will investagate.

    • I don’t think it’s for everyone but it’s probably a good way to hone the writing skills. We had a writing tutor who would make us reduce word count by half – horribly challenging but rewarding. I confess to being lazy on word count (hence why all my novels are over length)

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