If anyone’s interested in a flash fiction writing challenge then you might want to consider a game of Flash Cricket. If I could remember the blog where I originally stumbled across this little gem then I’d acknowledge the credit here, but unfortunately I can’t.
All you need is twenty random words. These will do:
Now copy those words into a separate file, and leave them there until you’ve forgotten any of the words on the list. It took me a good few weeks.
Once you’ve erased all remembrance of the twenty words get yourself into the mood for a non-stop writing session. This has to be done in one go. It’s all about creative spontaneity.
Ready? Good, then open up the list, read the first word and start writing incorporating that initial word. As soon as you’ve used the first word, check the second one, and continue writing incorporating each of the twenty words in order. It can be really difficult to make the links between the words, but the creative challenge is really fun.
The original rules allow 20minutes for the task. I think that’s fine if you’re a practiced flash writer. If you’re new, or relatively new to flash fiction, then give yourself anything from 20 minutes to an hour maximum.
Don’t be worried about the end result. There isn’t a writer out there who will produce a work of genius based on a random string of 20 words. It’s a fun exercise and nothing more. It’s there to trigger your imagination.
I found it to be very effective way of loosening up the old writing muscles.
Here’s my effort which I’m happy to share as it has no life outside of the challenge. It’s presented as is, warts and all as we British say, just how it first came out. No re-writing, no polishing, no corrected grammar. Here goes:
The man looked out over the Thames from a private area of the terrace at the palace of Westminster. Shadows from Big Ben and Westminster Bridge lay across the wide expanse of water. Sunlight glistened off the tops of the red buses as they crossed the bridge, like sparks coming from a flint.
On the other side of the embankment he could see a broken down tourist boat. The heat haze coming from the broken down engine caused a shimmer.
He thought about the various security arrangements at the front of the palace, the CO19 officers with machine guns, the police officers at all the entrances, and yet here he was, enjoying a pint on the terrace and there was nothing but a stone wall and the Thames. He wondered if it was something they’d overlooked; was a stealth attack by river possible?
He sometimes wished that he didn’t need to worry about these things. He wondered what it was like to have a normal job, almost to the point of jealousy.
He helped himself to a handful of complimentary cashew nuts that had been placed on the tables.
“Mr.Priest, Mr. Priest, sir.”
His reverie was broken. He turned to look at his caller. A Serjeant-at-arms adorned in traditional attire – green tights, white shirt, black blazer, and oversized gold medallion – stood at the entrance to the terrace. His hair slicked back with far too much oil.
“Yes, what is it?”
“The minister has sent me to find you,” the serjeant said.
“Well keep looking. You haven’t found me and my mobiles turned off,” James Priest said.
The serjeant was about to remonstrate but he saw the look in Priest’s eyes and he turned away like a child scolded by his mother.
Priest knew what the minister wanted to talk about, but it wasn’t strategy or spin that could solve this predicament. No, this particular puzzle called for a certain type of steely determination and that would have to come from Priest himself, not from some Eton educated Champagne Charlie.
He took a swig from his pint, and wondered how it had come to this: Operation Bergamot, huh, what a disaster.
The minister would be looking to pull the wool over everyone’s eyes, and he’d expect Priest to help. But he wouldn’t do it. Too many bad things, morally indefensible actions, had happened. The solution had to be buried somewhere in the throes of honesty.
That thought took him back to an article he once read about Cassius Clay. The young boxer had just won his Olympic gold medal, and he went into a burger bar on the banks of the Mississippi. They refused to serve him as the server stated the company policy, “We don’t serve niggers.”
The young Clay replied, “That’s alright. I don’t eat em.” He walked outside and hurled his gold medal into the Mississippi.
To Priest those were the actions of a man being true to himself, and that’s what he had to do now.
The minister would exert political pressure, and possibly even threaten Priest. He knew he’d have to stand his ground, almost tiger-like in his resolve.
He put his hand in his pocket and pulled out a keyring. An innocent looking item, but one of the keys amongst the bunch opened far more than a lock, it opened secrets. Shadows and silhouettes. Lies and deceits.
He looked back out over the Thames and saw an empty hamburger wrapper floating down the river. Would that be him or the minister? Yesterday’s Emperors, and tomorrows litter in the wind.
As a precaution Priest had left a detailed written account of events in case he had an ‘accident.’
He smiled at how much it had cost him to get the document witnessed by a solicitor, and the difficulty of finding a solicitor who would agree to secrecy without seeing the contents of the document first. Priest looked up at the impressive palace, more commonly – but incorrectly - known as the Houses of Parliament. Despite being the seat of government it was still a royal palace, although the last monarch to have been in residence was King Henry VIII. How much easier things would have been back then? All he would have had to do was write down his story, and seal the manuscript with his official seal stamped into hot candlewax. No witnesses, no costly solicitors.
Even now he had doubts, but he knew that absolution lay in truth.
He looked around him at this place of privilege, and he knew it would be his last day here. He would have to resign. The press would have a field day, it was only a few hours now and the story would break.
They would pension him off, and he’d retire to the coast. The minister would face the threat of criminal proceedings.
He still had the opportunity to back track and play more of the minister’s games. It was the easier option to take, and there would be financial rewards, gifts, as a thank you.
Priest once again thought back to the young Cassius Clay.
He wondered what the price for redemption would be? But he knew it was priceless, and with that thought his course was set.
- End -
The words I struggled with the most were Bergamot, and Candlewax. I think it shows too!
If you’ve got a writer friend who wants to tackle the challenge then rope them in. I did this at the same time as my writing buddy J T Harrell. We swapped the end results and gave each other constructive feedback. It’s also useful to see how another writer has utilised the words. My word count is high. I’m sure a more experienced flash fiction writer would complete the challenge in way under 800 words.
It’s a game you can play and repeat. Sites like Random Word Generator: http://creativitygames.net/random-word-generator will allow you to generate new lists.
That’s it from me. Take care,
M J Wolfson - That's me.