Monday, 30 November 2020

Save the Date: the next NFFD Write-In is 26 June 2021!

National Flash-Fiction Day's next mass-writing event taking place on 26 June 2021.

Here's the deal...

Throughout National Flash Fiction Day 2021, we'll post one prompt per hour here at The Write-In.

If any of these prompts inspire you to write new work, you have until 23:59 BST on Sunday, 27 June 2021 to submit your work.  We'll publish responses to the prompts between Sunday, 27 June and Monday, 28 June 2021.

Here's how to submit...

The word limit is 300 words, and stories must relate to one of the prompts, but those are the only rules.

Submissions close at the 23.59, Sunday 27th June 2021 (BST)!

Full submission guidelines can be found here.

We can't wait to read your work!

Monday, 8 June 2020

'Time, Tide and Talland' by Nigel Jarrett

It was my wife Rachel's idea to stay at Talland House, once the holiday home in St. Ives of the Stephen family but now converted into holiday flats.

We'd been to the town before, my parents having taken me and Rachel as teenagers (our first sunburned fumblings) and we having stayed there with our kids. They in turn take theirs - our grandchildren - and sometimes invite us too, just for a few dutiful days.

Now we go ourselves mostly out of season, when the place reverts in the imagination to Victorian times. Fish oil flowed in the streets then, and it was a long haul by road to St Erth. It doesn't matter if it rains: in fact, the more weather-beaten the better.

We'd never searched hard for it, but all that time Talland, which looks out on Godrevy Lighthouse, retained the facade in photographs taken when Virginia and Vanessa  Stephen played cricket in the garden, Vanessa holding the bat with awkward correctness and her sister (later Woolf, of that ilk) somewhere else at silly mid-off.

We had one of the back studio flats. Little bits of old Talland peeked through like pentimenti, but scarcely enough to be redolent of times past. Unlike Rachel, I believe literary landscape is geography of the mind.

However, on the third night, Rachel woke with a start. At the bottom of the bed she saw something, someone. Not a dream, not a trick of the light. There was a movement, a motion  focused for a mini-second. We had a laugh about it at breakfast. But the spectre failed to re-appear.

Later that day, we found the exact spot on Porthmeor Beach where my father, one morning in 1957, had sculpted a sand mermaid. By late afternoon, the sea had claimed her.

'Home Safety' by Linda Irish

Of course things are the same as always. Michael makes light of our relative family rankings. Ella-The-Elf-Wife contradicts herself to be agreeable. Jeannie pulls ‘help me’ faces over forkfuls of pond-life.

Impossible fish and spinach pie is apparently our absolute favourite although nobody remembers saying so. Mum joins every dot for us on a neighbour’s recent illness. Dad’s deaf when Michael mentions insurance. Now the cricket scores. Weather reports from Florida, never mind the devastating floods closer to home. We bowl overripe resentments. Fire answerless questions. It’s funny how the house still smells of safety, despite years of casual emotional vandalism.

“Your Dad’s lost so much weight,” Jeannie whispers in the hallway.

I straighten a dimming family photo. “He’s old.”

“But he’s approaching skeletal,” she insists. She’s become attracted to the dramatic.

My brother’s touting his latest cochlear implant device in the lounge when the hospital ring. Isn’t that strange, 3.42pm on a Saturday? Dad’s snoozing. Michael takes the call, quicksteps Mum into the kitchen. As he passes me, Michael places his hand on my shoulder. Squeezes like he’s checking for irregularities.

“I should dry the dishes,” I hear Mum say. There’s a splutter. A percussive tremor on the slate tiles. When we were kids, I was scared of the Big Wheel. Once a year Riley’s Funfair would roll up and butcher the playing field out back. Michael bet three week’s pocket money I was too chicken. As our car creaked and swung at the apex, he snatched my robot coin-bank, then opened his fingers. Eighty-two feet. Why should I remember that now?

On the bus home Jeannie files her nails furiously. I think of Michael’s hand on my shoulder. How if he hadn’t done that, I might still feel safe.

'PROMPT- Bathroom and Arriving' by Linda Irish

Artwork by Linda Irish

Write a story set in an unfamiliar bathroom, or where a bathroom features. Why is your character here?
For an additional challenge, write from the POV of the room.

Artwork by Linda Irish

Arriving - write a story inspired by this picture
For an additional challenge, write a story where there is something inappropriate about your character’s arrival somewhere. 

‘Spacetime’ by Joanna McParland

Every morning I make my coffee and go outside to sit on my bench. It is a length of slate set on stones, built into the wall of the house. The seat is cold at this early hour, but it wakes me up to the day, and here, we sit together.

I feel content like this, with our backs to the village. From here, my eyes run past the millstone, across the fields to the sea; and look back over the years. Through distant clouds, the trees on the horizon, the merging of sea and sky; the farther I look, the further back in time I see. And all that has happened exists still.

In spring I watch the greens unfurling: ferns, grasses, leaves. Delicately tinged with the hope of summer, I wrap the colours around me and hold them there for as long as I can.

With the hope comes longing, a lament for all the good things that did not last long enough. Happy memories I wish to keep for always. But memory is fluid, and the world is full of distractions. Here though, it is just us. The walls keep me safe and shield me from sadness.

This is where I feel closest to everything I love and have loved. Here I feel everything. I breathe the scents of the earth; inhale the blue sky. I smile, and the house smiles with me.

'What was the last thing you remember before waking up here?' by Tilly Greenland

Running through the meadows, feeling the flowers and grasses rush through my hands.  Perhaps that’s what I remember?

Floating sticks and leaves down the stream, seeing who reaches the bridge first.  Perhaps that’s what I remember?

Walking along the beach, wind in my hair, salt spray lashing at my face.  Probably collecting sea shells.  Perhaps that’s what I remember?

Eating chocolate cake, my favourite flavour.  Perhaps that’s what I remember?

Sitting at my table making jewellery, or sewing something, or making resin shakers.  Perhaps that’s what I remember?

Watching Netflix, curled up on my sofa, just me and the cat.  Perhaps that’s what I remember?

Going to meet my friends at the pub, before heading into town.  Perhaps that’s what I remember?

Getting a little drunk, unsteady on my feet.  Perhaps that’s what I remember?

Walking along the pavement, bright lights, loud noises.  Perhaps that’s what I remember?

A shout, a beep, a screech.  Perhaps that’s what I remember?

Flying through the air.  Bouncing off the roof.  Splayed out upon the floor.  Perhaps that’s what I remember?

Crowds gathered round, people crying and holding each other.  Perhaps that’s what I remember?

Yes, wait, I do remember.

What was the last thing I remember before waking up here?

Dying.  That’s what I remember.

'PROMPT- Go! Word Pattern Prompts' by J F King

Life Sentence

Your lead character consults a coach who speaks only in aphorisms (or are they clich├ęs?):
e.g., ‘You only come this way once, go for it, pulling punches…’
Is this irritating or helpful in addressing the situation presented?

The Inscription
Look at an inscription on a memorial bench: 
e.g., ‘..Who spent many happy hours enjoying this view…’
Who placed the plaque? Why? Is it really true? Would you re-word the plaque?

Create a day in conversation from a character who (over) uses litotes in their speech pattern:
e.g., ‘I shan’t be sorry, it is not without merit, the day was not unenjoyable...’
Does the day change? Does the speech pattern change?

'There Was Nothing Dreamlike About This Dream' by Asha Krishna

It was not supposed to turn out like this.

Two guards were now standing in front of me.

“I am afraid you cannot travel madam,” said the man at the check-in desk handing back a passport not my own.

I shift from one foot to another, fanning myself with the booklet, as the bags inch forward.

A tingling feeling runs through me as I get to the tail end of drop off.

I move towards the board, my eyes scanning the exotic destinations before resting on mine.

We scramble to reclaim our possessions and get off the floor.

“Sorry!” bags and purses collide as contents spill out along with apologetic smiles all round.

Getting out of the cab, I sashay into the enclosed area, my suitcase trailing behind in compliance.

I was dreaming away when the jerk of sudden brakes brought the Departures into view.

The cab ride was smooth, my head buzzing with numerous possibilities.

I was meant to be flying alone for the first time.

'Cutting Teeth' by Natalia Rolleston

‘’Blow into the bag slowly,’’ the stern woman with stiff auburn curls instructed. Her eyebrows told a different story. Disappointment had crept up on her and hardened her features over the years, as the bitterness had become lodged deep within her soul.

The older woman’s heartbeat, pulse and blood pressure returned to normal. Panic over. He was gone. The man who had grabbed her ankles from beneath the car had been there. The shock of it lingered. Replay. The purse hit the floor and disappeared as quietly and as quickly as the two hands had shot out from underneath the car.

She fell to the floor. Cold sweat had collected above her top lip - in a fractured second. The breath stolen from her lungs.

‘’Ma’am. What exactly was in the bag? I need to know for the report….Look I need to file this thing and get to my next job. I don’t mean to be rude. But it’s a homicide, so they really need me there.’’

Time stopped. Dry mouth. Pulse definitely still racing. Heart in chest, apparently no longer pounding.

‘’Lipstick, cell phone, bank cards, a tiny Halcyon Days music box and my husband’s teeth.’’

She pushed out the words as raspberry compote might push through muslin. Concentrated. Smooth. With a uniform consistency.

She drew her shoulders up, thanked the officer, pointed her torso in a westerly direction and hoped she would remember which one was her car, and that the keys were still nestled high above the left rear wheel.

It was white. Definitely white. Like her husband’s teeth had once been.

'PROMPT: Synaesthesia' by Tilly Greenland

See sounds, taste words or feel a smell. Confuse your senses.

Where will this condition take you?