For the week of February 7 through February 14, Flash Fiction Chronicles is having its second String-of-10 Contest—String of 10 TWO—for the best 250-word story written from a specific prompt: a series of ten words given to you on February 7, 2010.
JOEL WILLANS, nominated for the Pushcart Prize and winner of the Yeovil Prize and Global Short Story Award is our guest judge for this contest. Find out more about Joel BELOW.
- Read the contest’s String of 10 Writing Prompt which will be available at 12:01 on February 7, 2010 here as well as on the FFC Daily Prompt Page and at Gay Degani’s Author Thread at Every Day Fiction.
- The contest is open to stories of up to 250 words. Entries over the word limitation will be disregarded.
- Submit via email addressed to firstname.lastname@example.org. All entries must be copy and pasted into the body of the email. No attachments will be opened.
- There is no entry fee.
- You may enter as many 3 separate and different stories up to 250-words each.
- All stories must contain at least four words from the String of 10. Any stories without at least four words from the string of 10 will be disregarded. The prompt words may be slightly modified such as tense, number, etc. (Example: walk can be amended to walks, walked, even walker or walkers)
- The aphorism that is given doesn’t not need to be found in the story, but rather to be used as an additional source of inspiration. No story will be judged on its use. Note may be taken if a story uses the aphorism in an inspired way.
- What matters most is your story, not the prompt words or quotation. Seamless integration of any four of the prompt words is the goal.
- All entries must be in English, original, unpublished, and not submitted or accepted elsewhere at the time of submission. Flash Fiction Chronicles/Every Day Fiction/Every Day Publishing reserves one-time publication rights to the 1st- through-3rd winning entries to be published at Every Day Fiction and Flash Fiction Chronicles.
- Entries must be received via email by 11:59 PDT Sunday, February 14.
- Winners will be notified by March 20. Publication will follow in April.
- The preliminary decision the judges of the top 10 and the final decision by guest judge, Joel Willans, of the top three stories are final.
Stories from the first String-of-10 Contest can be read at these links.
1st Place: The Haircut by Sharon E. Trotter
2nd Place: The Forever Summer by Mary J. Daley
3rd Place: Choices Made by Jim O’Loughlin
1st Place: Winner will have his or her story published at Every Day Fiction in April 1010 and be paid the standard payment of $3.00 per story. A copy of The Best of Every Day Fiction TWO along with a copy of Pomegranate Stories by Gay Degani, the editor of Flash Fiction Chronicles will also be awarded as well as an “I Write Every Day” t-shirt.
2nd and 3rd Place: Winners will have their stories published at Flash Fiction Chronicles in April. (NOTE:There is no payment for publication at Flash Fiction Chronicles.) A copy of The Best of Every Day Fiction TWO along with a copy of Pomegranate Stories by Gay Degani, the editor of Flash Fiction Chronicles will also be awarded to both 2nd and 3rd place winners.
ABOUT JOEL WILLANS
Originally from Suffolk in the UK, Joel Willans has lived in Canada, Finland and Peru. A copywriter and travel blogger, he now gallivants between East Anglia, Helsinki and Spain. Joel’s stories have been broadcast on BBC radio and published in more than a dozen anthologies and many magazines. In 2008, he was nominated for the Pushcart Prize and won the Yeovil Prize and Global Short Story Award. “By ma biscuit or kiss ma fish”, his short story collection, is currently shortlisted for the Scott Prize, while his flash fiction can be found at places like Prick-of-the Spindle, Pank, Word Riot and Boston Literary Magazine. His story “One Bright Moment” is Every Day Fiction’s most popular story of all time.
Consider lightning. This phenomenon cracks open the sky, takes our breath away, but we might miss it if not for the warning of thunder. We hear the deep rumble, we look up, tension sparking the air, and wait for the flash. Thunder grabs our attention and lightning dazzles our eyes, and together they stir our hearts.
Flash Fiction is fast, a 1000 words or less, every sentence written with purpose, not a word to waste. And if this statement is true, it’s even truer for the first few words.
In a story, especially a short story, the opening sentence, like thunder, arrests our attention, charms us, makes us curious. If it doesn’t, we’ll turn our heads, move on, and miss the show.
Consider the following examples from Every Day Fiction’s Top Ten List.
We were children, not lovers, but as we lay on the grass looking at stars, talking of angels, she took my hand and said that a moment can change everything. One Bright Moment, by Joel Willans.
“You are my heart and muscle, Yardi,” Napier would say. “There is no criminal in all of Marseilles who can stand against us.” Without Napier, by Michael Ehart.
Do they create tension? Do they conjure up an image? How much do they tell the reader about character, plot, and setting? What do they promise the reader? Do they have a rhythm that seduces? In other words, do they rumble?
Although not every first sentence can fulfill every purpose, a well-crafted one will announce, at the very least, something is about to happen.
What is “about to happen” in “One Bright Moment?”
Two children are star-gazing, talking of angels, and one says “a moment can change everything.” The reader might be thinking, “what kind of moment?” A good one? Bad one?
Is there tension?
The two main characters, a boy and a girl, are talking about angels. This might suggest to a reader that death is lurking down the page or perhaps an illness. The reader knows the peaceful first moment is brief.
Is there an image?
Children on their backs in the grass close enough to each other to join hands.
What does the first line promise?
This boy and girl are “not lovers,” but the reader might wonder, will they be lovers, and is this what this story is about? Or will it be about what stands in their way, what will change in a moment?
What is “about to happen” in “Without Napier,” the second example.
Two men work as an “invincible” team against the criminal element, but the reader senses that one of the partners is no longer around through the words, “Napier would say…” This perception is reinforced by the title of the story.
Is there tension?
Each of the two characters, Napier and Yardi, has his own skill set. The reader understands that if Yardi is the heart and muscle, then Napier must be the brains. If one of the partners is gone and the other must fight alone, will he survive?
Is there an image?
An implied image of two men working together on the side of right because they work against the criminal element, but with the designation of the setting, “Marseilles,” the whole of a reader’s knowledge of France, sea ports, and a few French words comes into play.
What does the first line promise?
The partner who is left behind will probably have to fight against the criminal element. Without the “brains” of the operation, he will be the underdog. Will he be smart enough to succeed?
In the examples above, much is given to the reader as soon as he or she begins to read.
- The general nature of the characters, children, not old enough to be lovers, in one; male colleagues in the other.
- A sense that whatever the situation has been, that situation will change in the story, thus creating tension.
- The setting is also suggested by the language used, a grassy place at night in “Moment” and a French seaport in “Napier.”
- Characters set down in a specific place and time create an image for the reader.
- Each first line offers a question to be answered by the end of the piece: what will change for the two children in a moment and will Yardi survive without Napier?
- Each line has a rhythm that suggests the tone of the story.
Sometimes a perfect first sentence comes into a writer’s mind and inspires a particular story. The words grow from those beginnings for the writer just as they grow for the reader.
However, frequently the language a writer uses to get himself started will not survive the rigors of writing and rewriting . What the writer thought he was going to write changes. In that case, it is the responsibility of the writer to craft openings that will entice readers and authentically enhance the story that follows.
I’m not saying that a strong first line can make or break a story, but if a reader isn’t caught up in the first few sentences, he may not read far enough into the story to find out how good it is.
Here are some examples of openings. Which entice you enough to click the link? Do they have rhythm? Do they rumble?
“H… hello, Mr. Sterne.”
Water drips from icicles outside the kitchen window.
It was over 80 degrees in our Hollywood bungalow when my mother opened the door to our O’Keefe and Merritt oven, turned on the gas, and stuck in her head.
He was D44 and Linda was D45, and, not being the earliest to take their seats, they did the sideways shuffle, coats in hand with smiling apologies.
Aye aye, lad. You made it then. You cut it so fine I was beginning to think you might not be coming.
Tires crunched driveway stone and a black sedan appeared at the gate.
A toothpick hung from Lester’s mouth.
Three cookies arrived with our check from Pappa Chow’s Chinese Buffet.