I’ve started writing flash fiction again after a break of a couple of years. I’m not sure why, but I’m enjoying it. I’m still responding to photographs, but this time from pictures that I own. And I’m still setting a rule of it needing to be exactly 100 words plus the title, and it must be a complete story, not just a scene. If you want to have a go, feel free to use the photograph above as inspiration for your own piece of flash fiction – you can work to my rules or you can set your own. If you post yours online, please do link back to this page, and if you want to post a link to your piece in a comment on this page, I’ll try to have look at what you’ve written (just to have a read, not critique) if I have time. If you want to write your own, you might want to write it before you read mine, so that my idea doesn’t get stuck in your head.
Goodman Orthodontics Limited
She watches him arrive for work, his shoulders slumped, head down. Wills him to look up and smile. A nice ordinary smile. His wife’s left him, she thinks; no, died tragically. He’s single and lonely. Has five sad children, or better, none. She discovers he works in dentures, and passes his office daily. She considers sending a memo: re your Status Update, re my Decision-Making, re our Team-Building. Then, at an adjacent table in the canteen, she sees his teeth glow too white, too bright, like luminous underwater animals.
The next day she works furiously, her back to the window.
My fourth novel, Unsettled Ground, is shortlisted for the Women’s Prize for Fiction. Read more about it here.
I never liked to think what lay under the water: probably more than pond weed and duck poop. I swam in the lake because I didn’t want Peter to think I was afraid, or worse, boring. He liked to jump in, but I never even put my head under.
I heard they sent the divers in, or dredged it, or something. But that was much later, of course, after my swimming days were over. And after Peter’s days were over too.
I never learned if they found anything. I didn’t read the papers; I knew what had happened. I’d been there.
How many manuscript submissions does a reader in a literary agency receive in a month? What kind of cover letters do they like best? Read an interview I had with Susannah Godman, Reader at Lutyens & Rubinstein literary agency in London.
The teeth grinding and sobbing wake me. It’s disconsolate, broken-hearted, a funeral kind of weeping. I hear it through the wall, and I pull the cord with the red triangle. The nurses’ station buzzer sounds and shoes squeak on linoleum. The crying stops.
‘Where’s the fire, Mrs Jellico,’ the girl asks, although she knows I have no words left.
When she’s plumped my pillow and gone, the noise starts again. Keening, moaning, grinding. I rap on the wall.
The nurse is back, syringe in one hand, eyes kind. ‘Shh,’ she says. ‘Shh, Mrs Jellico. Not long now.’
The crying fades.
Hear me read:
I’m not sure exactly how I got from the photo to this story; perhaps milling = grinding = teeth. Anyway, I got there. This is a Friday Fictioneers story of 100-words inspired by a weekly photo posted by Rochelle Wisoff-Fields. This week’s photo is provided by Shaktiki Sharma. Click here to join in and write your own story, or here to read other people’s.
Last week I was asked by Penguin books to provide some tips about writing flash fiction, and they’ve just gone live on the Penguin website. Do take a look. I will be posting this piece on my own website in the future, so if you have any you’d like to add, please comment below here, and I’ll add them to the post, credit you and link to your website.
I wake with my eyes still closed and hear the squeak of the treadle that you asked me to oil, the hum of the wheel under your hand. I imagine the needle, ticker, ticker, tickering, in and out of the hem; your pursed mouth and concentrated frown. I smile when you swear, almost see the pins falling from your lips, the pricked finger, and the thread snapped.
But your chair is cold when I rise, the machine still. Only the stain of faded blood on the edge of my shirt proves that once you sat and sewed.
This is a 100-word (or so) piece of flash fiction written as part of the Friday Fictioneers Group, hosted by Rochelle Wisoff-Fields. This week the picture is supplied by the wonderful writer Sandra Crook (go and look at her writing – it’s very good). Click here to join in and write your own story, or here to read some more.
For two nights and a day they bloomed. Filling the world’s skies with light and apparently, sound. We sat on the playground, our faces turned skyward. The greatest firework display on earth our teachers said, their mouths round with each flowery burst. We watched late-night television in the common room, the hands explaining physicists’ and UFO experts’ theories, prophets’ and doctors’ warnings. And the doom-mongers’ threats: don’t watch, the lights will blind.
Too late they learned: it wasn’t the lights, but the noise. They say the world is disabled; but we sign that now we are all the same: deaf.
Listen to me read this story:
This is a 100-word (exactly) flash fiction, part of the Friday Fictioneers group, hosted by Rochelle Wisoff-Fields. This week’s picture is supplied by Vijaya Sundaram. Click here to write your own 100-word story, or here to read others inspired by the same picture.
I stand under their bedroom window at night and hear them talking:
‘I don’t think she’s ever had a boyfriend,’ she says.
‘No?’ he says.
‘Still a virgin; at her age. Can you imagine?’
‘Not like you then, is she?’ he says, and she shrieks and laughs as if he’s goosed her. They are both silent for a minute or two, and I try not to imagine.
‘Do you think she misses it?’ she says.
‘You can’t miss what you’ve never known,’ he says.
‘But having someone?’
‘No,’ he says. ‘Not her.’
And I turn away, both stronger and sadder.
Listen to me reading it:
This is a Friday Fictioneers story, hosted by the lovely Rochelle, and inspired by the photo above. This week provided by Janet Webb. Click here to join in and read more.
A few weeks ago my short story, A Quiet Tidy Man won the Royal Academy & Pin Drop short story award. At the award ceremony the winner was announced by actress, Juliet Stevenson. The recording of the event and her reading my story aloud is now available to listen to. Visit this page, and click through to listen.
Cara lay on the bunk, the baby asleep beside her, his arms thrown wide as if surprised to be falling. From far below, in the ship’s hold she felt as much as heard, the melancholic bleat of a cow – the sound travelled through steel, along the gangways, up the posts of her bed and into her skull. Cara wondered if the animals ever stopped missing their calves.
She woke later, with the baby on her chest, both of them tipped against the ship’s hull, the bunk no longer horizontal. The engine wailed, gears shrieking. But no, not the engine. The cows.
This week I thought it might be fun to also post a recording of me reading my story. (And in the odd way that minds work, I only realised that this story bears the same name as the writer, C.E. Ayr, who gave me the idea to record it, after I’d written and titled my story.)
This is a Friday Fictioneers very short story inspired by the picture above (this week the image was provided by Jan Wayne Fields). Friday Fictioneers, which is hosted by the lovely Rochelle Wisoff-Fields, is a weekly group, where lots of writers from around the world write a 100-word (or so) story inspired by a picture, post them on their own websites and read each other’s. Click here to join in, or here to read some more stories.
Her body sank to the cobbles, each bony vertebra grazing skin against whitewashed wall. In slow motion she slid sideways into the shade, eyes glassy and the taste of dirt and leather in her mouth from a million sandals that had trod the alley before her. It was empty now, everyone indoors – away from the midday sun. As sleep, or something greater overtook her, she saw her mother pouring homemade lemonade from a pitcher she had never owned.
This is a Friday Fictioneers story. A re-run (because it’s summer and we’re all busy) of an FF story I wrote in 2012. It became a Continue reading →
The plane is full. The fat man spills over his seat into mine. I count tiny houses from the window, a blue tear behind each one.
‘Going to England on vacation?’ The man asks.
‘Going home with my Dad,’ I say.
‘You couldn’t get a seat next to him?’
Something in his voice makes me turn. He’s gripping the arm-rests, sweat beading his top lip. ‘Scared of flying, he says, teeth gritted.
We hold hands for the rest of the flight, while he tells me about his holiday and I try not to think about my father’s body in the hold.
This is a Friday Fictioneers story, inspired by the picture above. Rochelle Wisoff-Fields, our host is doing a few re-runs of previous pictures, and this one is from February 2013, as is my story (although slightly edited). The picture was supplied by Rich Voza. You should go to Rochelle’s website to read her joint story (with Doug Macllroy) which is incredibly moving, and there you can also see how you can join in with Friday Fictioneers or read other people’s stories.