Showing posts from December, 2018

FlashFlood Advent Calendar 2018: Day 25

Day 25: Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas....
For our last writing prompt in the 2018 Flash Flood Advent Calendar, we're putting ourselves first...literally.

Write a story in which the main character is you, but everything else in the story (setting, characters, situations) is fictional.  It's up to you whether you simply want to write yourself into a circumstance that just happens to be different from your life, or whether you prefer to go down the Alice-in-Wonderland you-finding-yourself-in-an-unexpected-place route.

If you'd like an extra challenge, use 'joy' as a theme, and give your story a happy ending.  Try to avoid a conclusion that's trite, pat, predictable, twee, or mawkish.  (Did we mention that this is a challenge?)

Thank you so much for writing with us during these past 25 days.  If you have a moment, we would love to know what you thought of these prompts, and your thoughts on NFFD in general.  If you could take a moment to fill out this sh…

FlashFlood Advent Calendar 2018: Day 24

Day 24: Silent Night...
It's Christmas Eve, and for those celebrating Christmas, it can be a time of many and loneliness, serenity and stress, quiet and chaos, joy and grief, and pretty much everything in between.  And for those not marking the holiday, there is plenty of traffic and bustle and Slade to put up with.

In today's prompt, we're going to take a step away from it all and think about something that it is easy to get too little (or too much) of this time of year: silence.

Write a story or scene in which two people have a conversation, but at least one never makes a noise.  It's your choice whether you want to replace speech with other forms of communication, or just relegate the quiet character's talking to the off-camera moments.  Just make sure there is no direct speech (dialogue reported word-for-word in quotation marks) or reported speech (the narrator or author summarising what the character said) within the piece.

For an extra chall…

FlashFlood Advent Calendar 2018: Day 23

Day 23: Making Beautiful Scenes from Radishes

The Night of the Radishes (Noche de Los Rábanos) is an annual event taking place on the 23rd of December in the Market Square of Oaxaca, Mexico where artisans make and display beautiful scenes out of carved radishes. 

Can we take some radishes of our own and shape them into something surprising and beautiful?

Find some writing that you did for any purpose other than creative expression.

This could be a shopping list, job application, essay, half-finished letter, financial report or note to your family or housemates requesting that they put their dishes in the dishwasher instead of leaving them in the sink.

Have a read over it and use its words to craft a story.  You may add words, but challenge yourself to add as few as possible.

If you want an extra challenge, don't add any words; craft your story by rearranging the words you've already written.

If you'd like to share the flash fiction love, consider purchasing one of our …

FlashFlood Advent Calendar 2018: Day 22

Day 22: Story Sketches
One of the most exciting elements of flash is the way whole worlds can be suggested with broad strokes and a few carefully chosen details.  In today's prompt, we're going to play with writing loose and free, making sketches with our words.

Part 1

Tell a story with the bare minimum of fussiness and elaboration.  Set yourself a timer for no more than five minutes (and you're very welcome to go shorter if you're feeling brave), and get the bones of a story down on paper.

Instead of seeing this as merely an outlining of a story, try to imagine yourself as the flash equivalent of a sketch artist: you have a limited time to capture the essence of a moment or scene, and you're choosing this fast and gestural approach on purpose.  Embrace the omissions and the playfulness of your quickly-drawn lines.

You are welcome to use the art provided as a starting point, or begin with a blank canvas, whatever you prefer.

This exercise works wonderfully if you&…

FlashFlood Advent Calendar 2018: Day 21

Day 21: Good Things Come in Small Packages

It's the shortest day of the year, so for today's challenge, let's celebrate the shortest of short shorts....

How short a story can you write?  Can you write a story that's....
25 words?  (This is the maximum length for Hint Fiction, and the word length for various competitions past, such as the Australian Writers' Centre 25-Word Challenge and Bath Spa University's 25-Word Novel Prize.)18 words?  (Although not flash fiction, Gotham Writers' are currently running a free 18-Word Past-Year Memoir Competition.  If you write Creative Non-fiction for this prompt, we'll count it!)6 words?  (The Gravity of the Thing regularly publishes six-word flashes.) For an extra challenge, write a flash suite in three sections, one of each length above.  Let the three sections ping off each other in interesting ways, but each section should stand on its own as a complete micro.

If you'd like to help further the aims of Nation…

FlashFlood Advent Calendar 2018: Day 20

Day 20:I Second (Guess) That Emotion
Tears stream down my face.  I wring my hands.  My heart pounds, races, flutters, and skips a beat.  I bite my lip and break out into a cold sweat.

What could possibly be happening?  Could it a dramatic moment in a story?  Or is it an allergic reaction to common word pairings?

If you guessed the latter, this prompt is for you....

Step 1.

Pick a mood or emotional state that you'd like to write about.  This could be fear, anxiety, love, arousal, boredom...anything where you can imagine a character's physical response.

Step 2.

Put on a timer for five minutes or so and jot down all the common physical manifestations you can think of for that mood.  What is your character doing and feeling?  What is their body doing that is beyond their control?  What might they be doing deliberately?  What are they doing unconsciously?

Embrace cliché!  Seek out and celebrate all those common word pairings!  For fear, you might end up with something like the f…

FlashFlood Advent Calendar 2018: Day 19

Day 19: Surprise!
Many holidays in December involve the exchange of wrapped gifts.

Have you ever had to act surprised when someone gives you a holiday gift but you already know what it is?  Have you ever wrapped up a present for yourself only to act surprised when it comes time to open it? 

Today's prompt gets at a wonderfully philosophical question: can a person be surprised by a present they give themselves?

Write a flash in which you aim to surprise yourself with every sentence — perhaps even every word — as you're writing.  If you think you know how the sentence is going to end, take it a different direction.  If you think you know what word you're going to use, pick something else.  If you think you know how the story will end, find a different way to resolve it. 

At first this may feel as impossible as trying to tickle yourself, but relax, have fun, and give yourself permission to write weird and wonderful.  Free yourself to write nonsense if you like, as long as…

FlashFlood Advent Calendar 2018: Day 18

Day 18: He's Makin' A List, Checkin' It Twice
For some people (and not just Father Christmas), December is a month of lists.  Shopping lists.  Gift lists.  To-do lists of Everything that Needs to Get Done before schools break up.  Is NFFD going to give you a break from all this December list making with our latest writing prompt?  Not likely.

Write a character sketch in the form of a shopping list.  What kind of story can you tell with only a list of items to purchase?  What might a list say about a character's situation, needs and aspirations?  If you'd like an extra constraint, limit your shopping to a grocery store or supermarket.

Try to resist adding in any extra context or information that wouldn't appear on a typical shopping list.

For an extra challenge, try to tell a complete story through your shopping list.  Can you construct a narrative just through the items on the list?  What changes for your character by the end of the list?  Or, can you surpris…

FlashFlood Advent Calendar 2018: Day 17

Day 17: Say that again?
When we edit, we're constantly on the lookout for unintentional repetition, clichés and go-to words and phrases.  Today, however, you have our permission to embrace the repeated word, the recurring sentence.  

For today's prompt, write a story in which you intentionally repeat a phrase or sentence at least three times.

For an extra challenge, try writing a prose villanelle, e.g. a flash which steals the skeletal format of a villanelle.  Ignore the rhyming, but choose two refrains, and write your story according to the following recipe (where R1 = refrain 1, R2 = refrain 2, and s = any sentence):

Paragraph 1: R1 s R2
Paragraph 2: s s R1
Paragraph 3: s s R2
Paragraph 4: s s R1
Paragraph 5: s s R2
Paragraph 6:  s s R1 R2

Focus on effectively weaving in the two refrains, and letting them build throughout the piece, feeling familiar but fresh every time the reader revisits them.  (If you'd like to include internal or end rhymes and/or write senten…

FlashFlood Advent Calendar 2018: Day 16

Day 16: Negations
If you've been battling holiday shoppers, menu planning, gift lists, or just grouchiness brought on by super-short days, then you may enjoy a chance to embrace the negativity with today's little prompt.

Write a story in which each sentence involves a negation, e.g. a negative word, phrase or clause that contradicts something, or indicates the absence or opposite of something.

Common examples of negative words include  'no', 'not', 'never', 'none', 'nowhere', 'nobody' and contractions like 'isn't', 'don't', 'won't', 'hadn't', 'can't', 'couldn't', 'wouldn't' and 'shouldn't'. 

For an extra challenge, tell the story entirely with negations.  No affirmatives allowed.  Instead of specifying what happens to your main character, describe what your character doesn't do, think, want or notice. Leave the reader fill in th…

FlashFlood Advent Calendar 2018: Day 15

Day 15: Specialist Knowledge

Write a story in which you steal specialist vocabulary from a subject you know little about. 

This subject could be as broad as 'science', 'cooking', or 'dance', or as specific as 'laws of thermodynamics', 'sushi making', 'foxtrot dance steps'.  Grab a text-book or browse Wikipedia pages until you find some interesting words and then fold them into a story. 

For an extra challenge, let chance choose your subject for you.  Go to Wikipedia and either use the featured article or click the 'Random article' link on the left until you find a page which words or concepts that are unfamiliar.  (Feel free to follow links within your chosen article.)

Do you enjoy writing writing prompts? If you might be interested in providing a prompt, image or exercise for a future writing prompt project, let us know!  We're interested both in prompts that help established writers hone their craft and prompts that inspi…

FlashFlood Advent Calendar 2018: Day 14

Day 14: Sense of Place
We're only a week away from the shortest day of the yearThe low, bright sun and long, midday shadows always make me think about my surroundings in a way that I often forget to do in high summer, which makes this a perfect time of year for a prompt about place. 

Write a piece in which the setting is one of the main characters, if not the main character.  Construct a story that couldn't be told in any other place.  Try to give the story's place a real sense of development and personality, and its own character arc.  At the end of the piece, what has changed for the landscape?  How has the setting developed? 
The setting needn't be glamorous or exotic; tthis prompt is a great excuse for a little walk down to the postbox and back with your writers' eyes set to maximum observation mode.
For an extra challenge, feel free to incorporate some of the flashy themes and word count restrictions from elsewhere on the internet....
Win a spot at the I…

FlashFlood Advent Calendar 2018: Day 13

Day 13: It's All In The Name

It's the 13th of December today, and coincidentally, 13 is the number of the so-called Yule Lads of Icelandic folklore.  These trolls visit children during the last 13 nights before Christmas, leaving gifts or rotting potatoes.

One of the most wonderful features of the Yule Lads are their names which describe their personalities and translate into English as wonderful things like Spoon Licker, Meat Hook, and Door Sniffer (according to Hallberg Hallmundsson's translation of the poem “Jólasveinarnir” by Jóhannes úr Kötlum).

For today's prompt, we're going to come up with some great names of our own and see where it takes us.

Step 1

Set a timer for a couple minutes and write down the most interesting, unusual, and evocative character names you remember from literature or real life.  If you're having trouble getting started, children's books and fairy tales are great sources, as are the complete works of Charles Dickens. Also have …

FlashFlood Advent Calendar 2018: Day 12

Day 12: Making Connections

We're already halfway through the advent calendar, so what a perfect time to think about midpoints....

Step 1: Take two pieces you've written before about different themes, people, locations or topics.  They can have some similarities, but don't cheat and pick two stories that you intentionally wrote about the same character or idea.

Step 2: Now write a third piece that could be placed before, between, or after these two pieces to create a complete Flash Suite. 

If you want to, you can make a few small cosmetic changes to the previously written pieces to make all three stories appear to be about the same people or to be set in the same place...things like changing a proper name here and there, or changing the weather so that the seasons are consistent across all three pieces.  However, try not to fiddle too much!

Embrace the gaps, and search for hidden connections under the surface of each piece.   And most of all, have fun!

For an addition…

FlashFlood Advent Calendar 2018: Day 11

Day 11: Playing with Genre
Write a piece of flash in a genre that you have never tried before, or that you think you dislike. 

You may wish to try one of the following:
Science Fiction Mystery/Crime FantasyRomanceSlipstreamAction/AdventureFable/FairytaleSpeculative Fiction Horror TragedyComedyDystopiaHistorical SatirePastiche Children's/YAMelodramaFlash with a trick twist endingFlash that's suspiciously close to prose poetry Aim for something that you'd be happy to put your name to, despite and/or because of the genre, but most of all, give yourself permission to have fun with this one.

For an extra challenge, combine two or more genres in one story.  Slipstream melodrama?  Dystopian scifi fairytale romance?  Historical detective prose poetry?  Whysoever not?

If you haven't already done so, please consider signing up at EasyFundraising to support National Flash Fiction Day, without any extra cost to you. Every time you shop online at one of the 3,500-some registere…

FlashFlood Advent Calendar 2018: Day 10

Day 10
The 10th of December is International Human Rights Day, marking the day that Universal Declaration of Human Rights was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly, and 2018 marks its seventieth anniversary. The Nobel Peace Prize is traditionally awarded on this day.

Write a piece inspired by one of the articles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.  (If your browser doesn't support the fancy version, Here is a plain-text copy of the UDHR; scroll down for the text version.)

For an extra challenge, you could commemorate the UDHR's 70th anniversary by...
Making your story 70 words long...or, if you're up for a micro challenge, 70 charactersWrite a flash in which 70% of the words are in one language and the remaining 30% in another language or a mix of other languagesSpan 70 years within the space of your flash *
For more background on International Human Rights Day, have a look at the Resources provided by the United Nations.

Interested in doing something …

FlashFlood Advent Calendar 2018: Day 9

Day 9: Flash-crostics
Today is Anna's Day in Finland and Sweden, notable because it's the traditional day to start preparing the lutefisk (cod preserved in lye) that makes up one of the components of many traditional Scandinavian Christmas meals. 

We're resorting to a rather fish lead-in here, but speaking of starts....

Using the first letters of their lines of poetry, poets used to (and can still) spell out significant words or names.

Acrostics as they're called, are great fun; can we flash fiction writers get in on some of the fun with a bit of a variation?

To complete today's prompt, come up with an intriguing title, made up of at least 9 words or more.

Write a flash that goes with the title, starting each sentence of the flash with one of the words from the title, in the order in which the words appear in the title (and extra points if you can spot what the seven-word title to this post should be!).

Flash examples of with long titles includes some of thes…

FlashFlood Advent Calendar 2018: Day 8

Day 8: Honouring Your Broken Needles
Today is the celebration of Hari-Kuyō, or the Festival of Broken Needles, in the Kyoto and Kansai regions of Japan.

Hari-Kuyō began over four hundred years ago as a way for needleworkers, both professional and domestic, to acknowledge their work over the past years and celebrate their tools.  Traditionally, women bring their broken pins and needles to a local temple and lay them to rest in a block of tofu to thank them for their hard work.

In today's prompt, we're going to honour a different sort of broken object....

Step 1

Find a phrase or sentence that's nice enough in itself, but that isn't working in its current story (or poem or wherever its living).  Look for something that jars, distracts, or just doesn't feel like a good fit.

If possible, take this from your own work.  Maybe it's a something you've already edited out of a piece, or maybe it's a phrase or sentence you discover you no longer like as much whe…

FlashFlood Advent Calendar 2018: Day 7

Day 7: Little Candles
Today is the Day of the Little Candles, a day of celebration in Colombia in which small candles and paper lanterns are placed pretty much anywhere a candle or lantern can be placed.

In keeping, we're providing you with a tiny prompt today, but also shining some light on some other little flashy projects you might want to look at this December....

Today's prompt is to write a story of no more than 50-some words.

Take up our challenge and write the entire story using only one-syllable words...

...take up one of the thematic challenges put forth by these lovely projects:

Write a story of up to 50 words on the theme of 'winter feast' for the Scottish Book Trust's free monthly 50-Word Fiction Competition.  Deadline: Tuesday, 11 December.Write a story of exactly 53 words on the theme of 'contradiction' for Press 53's free monthly 53-Word Story Contest.  Deadline: Sunday, 30 December.Write a story of up to 150 words that includes…

FlashFlood Advent Calendar 2018: Day 6

Day 6:
Today is the feast day of St Nicholas, and a day where the children of families who celebrate St Nicholas' Day often receive sweets, fruits and small gifts in their stockings, socks, shoes or bags. 

We don't have presents for you today, but we do have a double dose of the present tense, should you wish to take up the challenge....

Write the same story twice (or more), written from two (or more) different characters' points of view.

You can write two separate, stand-alone stories, or write one story told from multiple points of view.

For an extra challenge, write in the present tense and interleave the two different threads so that the reader experiences the events unfolding in the story from two points of view at once.

Want to stay in touch with National Flash Fiction Day throughout the year?  Here's how:

Visit our website where you can check out our latest newsSubscribe to our newsletter (see below)Find us on TwitterFollow us on FacebookDrop us an e-mailSav…

FlashFlood Advent Calendar 2018: Day 5

Day 5: The 5-12 Dialogue Challenge
It's the 5th day of the 12th month, so the perfect day for the 5-12 dialogue challenge!

Have you ever read a story where every character sounds the same and had trouble keeping track of who is speaking?  If only those authors had tried this simple challenge for a cheap and cheerful method to help give their characters distinctive voices!

Write a flash with two characters where one character only speaks (or thinks) in five-word sentences and the other only speaks (or thinks) in twelve-word sentences.  No cheating with the numbers in the first draft, but of course, all bets are off in the second!

If you're up for an even bigger challenge, cut out the narration, dialogue tags, and descriptions, and make the story consist only of dialogue....

Need some inspiration for dialogue-only stories?  Have a look at the winners of the Bartleby Snopes Dialogue Only Writing Contest and see what these authors manage to do with only direct speech to work…

FlashFlood Advent Calendar 2018: Day 4

Day 4: Recipes
Apparently, the 4th of December is National Cookie Day in the US (not to be confused with National Chocolate Chip Cookie Day on the 15th of May, of course). Not only is the eating of cookies encouraged today, but some businesses even hand out free ones!

Before you get your hopes up, we're sorry to report that National Flash Fiction Day is not doling out free biscuits.  In fact, we haven't even turned on our ovens.  If you want cookies, it's up to you to sort out the recipe....

Today's flash prompt is to write a piece that involves a recipe in some way or another.  Not just cooking, not just the mention of a finished dish, but a full-blown recipe.

This could involve...
A character following a recipe to create a meal or dish, as in Kit de Waal's 'Recipe for a Late Lunch'A character creating a recipe for something quite different, as in Stephanie Hutton's 'The Right Ingredients'The use of the form, language, and/or structure of a …

FlashFlood Advent Calendar 2018: Day 3

Day 3: Mirror Images

Many people see the end of the year as a time for personal reflection.  We look back on the year, and make plans for the next.  Forget the resolutions and forward thinking for now, though; today we're going to focus on ourselves....
Step one Take a piece of paper and draw a line down the middle.  Spend a minute or two jotting down a list of adjectives or short phrases that you might use to describe yourself.  Write this list on the left side of the paper.  Sometimes staring into an actual mirror can be a great way to get the words flowing.
Step two  For each word or phrase on the left side, write a word that means the exact opposite on the right side of the page.  For example, someone who described themselves as 'tidy, impatient, and calm' on the left might write down 'messy, impatient, and restless' on the right.
Step three Write a flash about a main character who is the exact opposite of how you've described yourself, a character inspired …

FlashFlood Advent Calendar 2018: Day 2

Day 2: Rituals and Writing
Whether you're looking forward to lighting the first candle in the menorah tonight, burning (or eating) a Yule Log on the 21st, hanging a stocking by the chimney with care on the 24th, or just settling in for the annual reruns of The Wizard of Oz, The Italian Job and The Great Escape on the telly, so much of December involves negotiating holiday traditions, rituals and customs...our own and other people's.

Write a flash about a tradition, ritual, or custom that means something different to you than it does to your friends, family or community.

For an extra challenge, mix up something about your own writing rituals. If you normally compose on the computer, try longhand. If you tend to write to music, ditch the soundtrack. If you sit at a desk, try curling up on the couch. If you usually have have a cup of tea to hand, go crazy and swap it out for some elderflower cordial or orange squash or something. If you have no writing rituals, erm, well,…

FlashFlood Advent Calendar 2018: Day 1

Day 1: Beginnings and Endings
Welcome to the FlashFlood Advent Calendar!  Today we bring you the first of twenty-five days of flashy prompts, so it's fitting that we're thinking about beginnings....


You know those amazing first lines, the ones that grab you by the throat and don't let go of you until you've read the rest of the story (and even then they linger)?  Things like:

“The road is covered in ghost.”Jane Monson, 'The Unmended',Speaking Without TonguesThose who don't know any better come into our neighborhood scared.” —Sandra Cisneros, 'Those Who Don't', The House on Mango Street“Peony has whiskers; she has a pointy face and a tail made out of blue raffia; she's messing about in boats and dabbling-up-tails-all, and I am in love.” —C.G. Menon, 'Watermelon Seeds',Love Across A Broken Map: Short Stories from The Whole Kahani“To lift yourself out of a miserable mood, even if you have to do it by strength of will, should be eas…