Sunday, January 17, 2010

Flash Fiction Competition -- Part 2

As promised, I’m going to reveal whether Husband No. 1 or I won the Mystery Writers of America-New England monthly flash fiction contest, but first I want to ask:

Have you ever read a book and thought to yourself: “Why did anyone publish this? – it’s terrible.” Have you ever loved a book that others hated -- or vice versa?

Of course you have -- because evaluating (and also writing) fiction is subjective. For a writer, this is very important to keep in mind while we are trying to attract agents, publishers -- and readers. Just because one person doesn't love our writing, doesn't mean there isn't someone out there who will. Of course, the ideal thing for any writer would be to find several hundred/thousand/million in that latter category!

I think last week's Flash Fiction smackdown proves my point about subjectiveness. I posted the two entries over at another place where I blog,, and kept the contest open to the nationwide readership for 24 hours. By the end of the voting period, the first entry had won, 56% to 43%. On this blog, however, readers favored the second entry by a 2-to-1 margin.

Let me refresh your memory about the entries, both of which began with the same 11 words:

I was glad to find that the ground hadn’t frozen yet. Mother Nature loved me. Last night at the camp, Harold had humiliated me. “A pistol on the partners hunting trip? Idiot!” This morning in the woods, I’d emptied it into his body. Now a shallow grave, dead leaves across the top, maybe a few branches. Tonight’s snowfall would cover everything. One fewer partner. A growl on the left broke my concentration. A scrawny wolf appeared from the brush, then another straight in front of me, then another to the right, and one behind. Maybe Mother Nature loved Harold more. (Did you guess this was composed by Husband No. 1?)

I was glad to find that the ground hadn’t frozen yet. It makes it so much easier to clean up the blood. The sight of crimson tentacles spreading through the fresh, white snow would set the wrong tone for the New Year anyway. While most people have traditions like making resolutions they’ll never keep, eating black-eyed peas or buying a new broom, I like to start mine with a clean slate. Unfortunately, that means getting rid of the old by Dec. 31. Good thing the fireworks and popping champagne corks make it hard to hear my Glock do its work. (Did you figure out that I wrote this -- AND won the Mystery Writers contest?)

As further proof how subjective the writing process can be, take a look at these Flash Fiction entries that my fellow mystery writers and fans offered at the Workingstiffs blog after I posted ours:

I was glad to find that the ground hadn’t frozen yet. The soft brown earth beneath the snow gave easily beneath my spade. Nearly three feet down before I finally hit the hard pan. I put the spade aside and bent to line the grave with Grandma's finest quilt. I piled the dirt around the edges where it would be easy to pull into the hole. Then I lay down and blanketed myself. Goodbye, cold world. – Gina Sestak

I was glad to find that the ground hadn’t frozen yet. Only an hour of digging and I had quite a can of worms. People already think I'm strange, especially the women at the Nightowl Bar.I've seen the way they look at me; the disgust in their eyes. They think they're better than me, but they're not. Yeah, I'm glad to find that the ground hadn’t frozen yet. The worms here seem to love dead human flesh. I don't see the disgust in their dead eyes now. --Wilfred Bereswell

I was glad to find the ground hadn't frozen yet. Being transferred to this miserably cold part of the country was bad enough, hardly any property available to rent near an entertainment center. Everyone wanted to huddle close so no outdoor walking was necessary. I found a spot thanks to some lucky sod transferring further south. Most of the foundation was already dug, and it wasn't too expensive to enlarge the softer ground as it helped remove all those blackened tree stumps. There was government subsidies for that. My house arrives tomorrow. – Pat Gulley

I was glad to find the ground hadn't frozen yet. It was difficult enough to dig up dinner when the temperature wasn't six degrees below zero and the wind wasn't howling down the small space between your neck and your collar. Whose idea had it been to bury the stag in the first place? Somehow I think the video that posted on YouTube from the "Hunting Cam" totally defeats the goal of fooling the game warden. Better get this barbecue going or work on my alibi now! -- Mari Sloan (who then went on to finish the story, which you can read by clicking here.)

Each of these began with the same 11 words, but ended in a far different place because of the author's unique experiences and imagination. Interesting, isn't it? How would you have written a story that began ... "I was glad to find the ground hadn't frozen yet"....


Lynn said...

This is great writing, but you already know that. So imaginative. You get right to the heart of the matter, as the best flash fiction always does.

If you like Flash Fiction competitions, I hope you'll consider submitting your work to Writer Advice's Fifth Annual Flash Prose Contest. Details, deadline, and prizes are at

B. Lynn Goodwin
Author of You Want Me to Do WHAT? Journaling for Caregivers

PatRemick said...

Thanks for posting the info, Lynn.

Lynn said...

You are very welcome. =)