Somehow, February is here. I don't know about you all, but January was...a month. So much happened, and yet none of it really made me want to write a short story.
BUT I DID. It's a flash fiction piece, and I used the first prompt about the accountant. Read an excerpt below.
Did you finish your story?
If yes, CONGRATULATIONS!! You are amazing.
If not, what tripped you up? I always seem to struggle with getting past a beginning. I can come up with a million ideas, and even a conflict...and then pffffft. Give yourself a postmortem, if you can. See what went wrong, so maybe next month you can adjust things to make the journey smoother.
I do have a tip below for that. A little aha! I had this month.
So scroll down for your prompts, your tips, and your reading recs!
And as I said before: there's no wrong way to do this, no wrong length, no wrong amount of effort or time to put in, and no wrong level of quality. All we want is to set a goal and meet it.
P.S. I've been getting a lot of emails and messages asking me where to send a finished short story or if I can build a place for people to post. I would love to do that one day, but for now, the best I can manage on my New Mom time is to regularly check the #Storyamonthhashtag.
But maybe one day! 🤞
The Accountant and his Umbrella, an excerpt
It would seem he was in a bind.
His umbrella had fallen, and now poor Mr. Quentin didn't know what to do.
Ought he to retrieve the opened thing as it rolled one way and then the other, a ferris wheel of hunter green and white stripes. (His wife had given it to him for golfing. Mr. Quentin didn't know how to golf, but his wife was optimistic the umbrella might prompt him to try. Such a very nice country club, after all.)
Of course, picking up the umbrella would tempt providence into delivering disaster upon his head. He knew the laws of fortune, even if his wife called him superstitious.
"What happens," she would always ask, "if it starts to rain? You'll get wet, and is that any better than having bad luck?"
Well, Mr. Quentin was getting wet now. And fast. The drizzle that had prompted him to open his umbrella was rapidly becoming a storm.
Oh, if only someone would walk this way to help him. Yes, he knew the odds were slim -- he so rarely passed fellow humans on the park path he took to get home. But surely others used it too. Accountants like him, who just needed a bit of exercise since they hadn't (yet) taken up golfing.
All accountants golfed eventually.
"I haven't been dead for very long," she told them.
Like I said above, I had a wee aha! moment this past month. I realized my problem is intimacy.
Intimacy of setting, intimacy of conflict, intimacy of time. I always aim Too Big. I write novels, I think in the scope of novels. Even novellas are hard for me! So I've always known, in theory, that my brain aimed Too Big.
But it wasn't until I thought of this word -- intimacy -- that it all clicked for me.
Intimate setting, intimate conflict, intimate time passage.
It'd not that you can't have a huge setting or a huge conflict or a huge scope of time in a short story, but at least one of the three elements needs to shoot small.
For example, let's say I want to write a short story about a planet that's about to get hit by a comet--what does preparation for that moment look like? Setting = big. Conflict = big. So I'm gonna have to adjust time.
To do that, I decide to pick one moment: as the comet is visible in the sky about to hit. Now I can show that moment from any number of characters -- a scientist who didn't make it off planet in time. A woman holding her son while she sprints for the last shuttle to escape. Heck, I could do both and have them intersect. But time is short, and the conflict is immediate.
This might all seem very obvious to you, but it has always been my problem. And finding that one word -- intimacy -- has completely unlocked something in my novel-writing brain.
Maybe it will for you too.
Short Story Recommendations
Remember, the best way to improve your writing is to read widely and study how others create.
Here are two stories I've recently read and loved: