My Flash Failures


As the last Friday of 2014 passed, I found myself looking back on a year of Flash! Friday writing. Over the past year, I’ve read countless1 wonderful works of short fiction by some brilliant flash authors.

I also participated in the contest myself most weeks, writing forty-three2 stories for the contest, and even participating a few times as a judge3.

A few stories I wrote for Flash! Friday this year I’m quite happy with, including (shameless plug) winning entries The Sands of Space and Time, L’Enfer, C’est La Guerre, and Terminal.

But every failure is a lesson, and many of the stories I wrote fell disappointingly flat. So here I go, taking a look at a handful of my many, many lackluster entries for Flash! Friday this past year4.

Windmills Passing

This prompt had a lot of potential: a cliff-side Spanish bell tower overlooking mountain forests, with a bidding to include a fire.

I immediately saw the image prompt as a fairy-tale setting. Also, being in love as I am with strong female characters, I knew I wanted to turn the typical damsel-in-distress upside-down. Given the bidding to include a fire, what better heroine than a female firefigher?

In writing the story, though, I made the most basic mistake in writing flash fiction: not writing a story. A firefighter heroine entering a fairy tale to become a knight in kevlar armor should be a great adventure.

Instead, I foolishly set the story in the uninteresting valley of time after an exciting arson call, but before the fairy tale adventure. To top it off, the title alludes to Don Quixote, calling into question whether the unseen fantasy tale is even real.

Sigh.

Hailee Eddinger Loves Errant Nights

You can only do so much with a 150-word limit. In this story, I tried to do too much. A time travel story, with a time-traveling teenager from the future and a feudal knight traveling back to the Trojan War in a shape-shifting time machine was just too much to cram into 150 words5.

It didn’t help that I fell back to Hailee Eddinger, a character I fall back upon whenever writer’s block strikes me. With a 1000-word limit, I might have pulled this story off, but it just doesn’t work as-is.

Double Sigh.

The Rift Between Worlds

Worldbuilding is hard to handle within the story. In the middle third of this story, I had to stop the action for an info-dump explaining the setting. It could have been an interesting world — the post-WWII world split into fragments by angry magical forces, like a modern Tower of Babel — but info-dumps suck.

Even worse, the info-dump didn’t help to explain the story: that of two parents trying to rescue their daughter from magical forces who stole her away.

Facepalm.

Rain Keeps Falling

This story stacks fail on top of fail. Boring crapful title. Uninteresting damsel of a female character, trapped in a she-needs-a-man plot. And to top it off, the plot rips-off a Ray Bradbury story6?

(In fairness, Bradbury and other SF authors have done and redone the idea of a rain world where the sun is seldom seen, that doesn’t save the story.)

I think some of the other stories could have been saved in some way. This one just needs to be burned.

Triple-dog Facepalm. With arsenic sauce.


[1] In a strict mathematical sense, the number was finite and countable.
[2] Give or take.
[3] Lesson learned from judging: knowing what stories I like is easy, but explaining why is much harder. I’m quite impressed by the dedication of the few people who comment on virtually every story submission.
[4] “But Frankie!” I can hear you saying now. “Why in the name of cheese and rice would you make your readers re-read your worst stories?!” First, my name isn’t Frankie. And second, nobody has to read any of these stories. But I find it helpful to think about why my stories flopped. Maybe someone else will learn something from my screw-ups.
[5] A more talented writer might have been able to make this work.
[6] Ray Bradbury, All Summer in a Day, a story wherein schoolchildren on a rainy Venus witness the one hour per seven years when the sun comes out.

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