Flash Fiction and Combating Your Weaknesses

While working on my MA this year, I’ve really tried to focus on identifying and combating my weaknesses as a writer. It turns out it’s very easy to identify weaknesses. Here are some I’ve identified myself, by looking at the habits and strengths of successful writers:

  • the boundary between emotive and shlocky
  • finishing things
  • working without tangible evidence of progress or success
  • writing comedy that is actually funny
  • writing romance that isn’t cheesy/cliche
  • writing convincing dialogue

And, for fun, here are some I’ve had pointed out to me:

  • your main character is too superficial and self absorbed to be likable (damn lady, that character is me)
  • you rely too much on rhyme in your poems
  • your dialogue is unrealistic
  • this has been done before so many times that I think if you’re going to do it, you need to do it WELL
  • I don’t like sci-fi so it’s difficult for me to critique it (but could you try though please, creative writing teacher)
  • I don’t like fantasy so it’s difficult for me to critique it (but could you try though please, creative writing teacher)
  • I don’t really write short stories so it’s hard for me to critique it (can I have some of my seven grand back please, teacher)
  • please stop rhyming all of your poems
  • ‘People carrier’ is not convincing sci-fi language, I don’t think people would say that in real life
  • FFS do you literally only know words that rhyme

Ok, I’ve gone off on a tangent now. But the point is: I am trying to focus on setting myself challenges which target my weaknesses. This flash fiction piece was an attempt to target the following:

  • dialogue
  • comedy
  • finishing things

I tried to find a picture on the topic of heaven but couldn’t find anything particularly relevant. Instead, here’s a picture of Pete and me on the ‘Heaven and Earth’ bicycle tour of Hoi An in 2014, and at the Danang Intercontinental resort the next day (the closest I’ve come to heaven on earth so far).

Seeing as this is a challenge to target my weaknesses – PLEASE feel welcome to offer some critique/criticism (particularly relating to dialogue, comedy and the effectiveness of the piece as a whole) in the comment section.

Thank you!

Emily x

  • P1050055
    Hoi An with Pete, July 2014.
    P1050114
    The view from our balcony in the Danang Intercontinental, July 2014.
    P1050161
    On the private beach at the Danang Intercontinental, July 2014.

     

    Checking In, Checking Out

    The pearly gates are furry, not pearly. Imagine that! I read the information plaque just after I joined the queue: a misprint that got out of hand, apparently. And it’s leopard print! Going by what I’ve seen of the lobby, leopard print and gingham are the height of fashion here in heaven.

    Angel bouncers are a misconception too – those decisions are all made electronically nowadays. Well – there is an angel, but he’s more ‘fancy spa receptionist’ than ‘shit nightclub doorman’, vibe-wise. I reach the front desk after two hours. Angel gives me a glass of watermelon juice, a glowing smile and a sing-song greeting.

    “Hello and a very warm welcome to Earth Heaven, may I take a surname for yourself please, sir?”

    In case you’re wondering: yes, it was unexpected.

    “Trent.”

    “Fabulous Mr Trent sir, thank you. Okay, bear with me, bear with me… George is it?”

    “That’s me.”

    Angel swallowed a guffaw before apologising stoically. Turns out George is slang in Earth Heaven for a fluorescent pubic wig. Pretty rich considering his name-tag read ‘Colostomy Southampton’ and I hadn’t said a bloody thing.

    “Fabulous! Okay, Mr Trent sir, bear with me… okay. First and foremost: you bashed your head on an outcropping of rock while bouldering with your girlfriend in the Dordogne, correct?”

    “Well, she’s my wife actually, but- ”

    “Oops, terribly sorry, it was your honeymoon, bear with me… Okay that’s sorted for you… Can I just confirm with yourself that this collision caused a large intracranial haemorrhage which increased intracranial pressure, prevented blood supply to your brain and subsequently resulted in death for yourself?”

    “Uh-”

    “Sorry Mr Trent, I know it seems like stating the obvious, it’s just a little formality we have to run through with yourself sir for legal reasons, terribly sorry sir.”

    It was only at this point that I mustered the wherewithal to ask if my wife was ok. My blood ran cold as Colostomy’s brow furrowed sympathetically. Well it might have done, had my blood not ceased to circulate my body as a direct consequence of my recent death.

    “Unfortunately not, Mr Trent, sir.” Colostomy patted my forearm reassuringly. “According to these records she’s gutted, actually sir.”

    “So she’s alive?!”

    “Oh! Sorry, yes, alive. Definitely alive! Misunderstood your question there. DOIYNNNG!” Colostomy mimed a slapstick halo tug. “I honestly think, Mr Trent, I’d lose my own halo if it wasn’t an integral component of my immortal, celestial form! On that topic though, Mr Trent sir, I can actually at this juncture offer you a free upgrade to our couples package for no additional cost, is that something you’d be interested in at all today, Mr Trent?”

    “Excuse me?”

    “It’s something we offer all new arrivals sir, although I should point out that whatever decision you make for yourself and Mrs Trent is final, sir; once it’s in the system I can’t undo it under any circumstances.”

    “Hang on. Are you asking if I want you to kill Jenny?” Colostomy giggled uncomfortably, shifting in his ergonomic gingham cloud chair.

    “Well, in a word, sir, yes. Though many customers prefer to think of it as offering their spouse the chance to get to heaven early and remain with their loved one. Yourself, in this case! Unfortunately I will need to press you for a quick decision on this one.”

    “That’s horrific! Jenny’s only 28! She deserves to live a long and prosperous life! To know what it feels like to look into the eyes of her-”

    “Okay, I’ve popped you down as a no for that one Mr Trent, since we are pressed for time – may I remind you that Mrs Trent will almost definitely die anyway within the next fifty to sixty years, and she is currently operating on a 78% likelihood of coming to heaven, at which point we’ll be back in touch with yourself, Mr Trent. So no worries, it’s – what’s that Earth phrase – six and two threes really, isn’t it sir? Oh no, not that one… Much of a muchness!” He laughed, muttering the phrase under his breath a few times. “Does that all sound okay to you, Mr Trent, sir?”

    “Well-”

    Now, in a moment I’ll give you your welcome pack and my colleague will be along to show you to your room. There’s an orientation presentation which screens hourly in the recreation room. Any questions you have will hopefully be answered then. Does that all sound alright for yourself, Mr Trent, sir?”

    “Uh-”

    “Ah! Here’s Pam: she’ll show you to your room and answer any other questions you have along the way, okay?” Colostomy hauled a gingham holdall onto his desk and smiled at me with finality. “Here’s Mr Trent’s welcome pack, Pam. He’s on the 532nd floor. Oh, and double room please, he opted IN to the couples package-”

    “No, I opted OUT of-”

    “Of course, haha! Pam, I’m as useful as a lead halo today! I’ll just call my manager and get that sorted, okay, best of luck to yourself there sir, Mr Trent, sir, bye bye!”

    Before I had chance to respond, Colostomy had disappeared and I found myself struggling to keep up with Pam through a labyrinth of corridors.

    “Pam is it?” I called after her, hoping to slow her down. “Lovely, a good traditional English name, reminds me of an aunt I used to-”

    Pam turned to me and beamed.

    “French, actually! Short for Pamplemousse! Pamplemousse Apartheid. And I know what you’re going to ask next so before you do: no, you can’t meet him, 33 years old and yes but they rotate the menu weekly. Hang on, my phone’s ringing.”

    Pam coughed, vomiting a cloud of pixels from her throat which formed into the shape of Colostomy’s face in the air in front of us.

    “Hiya Pam, could you just pop Mr Trent back to reception for me for a moment, love? Just an extra admin thing to sort, you’re both going to laugh when you hear it!”

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Poem A Day Prompt: GO OUTDOORS

highfields-boating-lakeSince I’ve moved to Nottingham, I’ve fallen a little bit in love with Highfields Park and the lake, which sits at the edge of Nottingham University campus.

Over the past six months, we’ve been on plenty of walks and runs around its perimeter (and hired a rowing boat once), but the past couple of days have been so gorgeous that I’ve been able to sit in the sunshine and write.

Part of me feels a bit hypocritical, after having always considered people writing on laptops in public to be a bit wanky. But one thing I’ve learned this year – having so much self directed time – is that spending every day in your own house, with no need to change out of your pyjamas, is not as brilliant as it sounds. In fact, you can end up feeling a bit stir crazy, and definitely not so motivated to write.

So this morning I got up and out by 8am and headed to the lake. I sat with my wanky coffee and wanky laptop and started writing, expecting to come out with something Wordsworth or Blake might be happy with, reflective of my verdant, tranquil surroundings.

Instead, I spent an hour staring at a little island on the lake and thinking about the scary geese that lived there, and wrote the following poem about the goose mafia that I imagine run this joint.

Emily x

Highfields Park Waterfall, Nottingham

Goose Island

Fuck off mate,
this is Goose Island.
No duck-heads allowed.
Tell me: which part of
‘Goose Island’
suggests we welcome
your crowd?
.
We earned this place.
Won it, fair and square.
So go on, sling yer
ducky hook,
take yer begging elsewhere.
.
You chancing mallard bastards:
you’re all the bloody same.
Green headed hooligans,
the lot of yer. Yeah,
I know your game!
.
And why should I care, exactly,
if you saw a tufted duck
stopping by?
.
Not that I feel obliged
in any way to tell you,
but it’s a business thing.
Right?
A protection racket,
if you will.
.
They pay their bills.
We watch their backs,
and that’s it.
.
See, Tufty’s bright.
He keeps himself to himself.
Him and the grebes,
I don’t mind them.
They know what side
their bread floats.
They’re alright.
.
Not like you mallard wankers!
Now get out of my sight,
before you get
the sharp side of my tongue.
.
My ganders are roosting;
they need some peace and quiet.
And if you disturb our goslings
you’ll have bigger fish to fry.
Sorry, mixed metaphor.
Yeah, the Barnacle Boys, that’s right.
.
Go on, shake a tail feather,
before the lads shake it for you.
.
Protection for you, mate?
Are you yanking my beak?
Not to state the obvious pal
but right now, as we speak
you’re waddling in
the nest of the beast.
.
If you’ll pardon the expression.
You’ll need an ambulance,
not protection,
if you keep on with this quacking.
.
The SWANS?!?!
Bruv you’re tripping,
you’ve been on the flippin’
pond-water again.
.
Swans and geese
look out for each other pal.
No, I wouldn’t say we’re friends
but it’s an arrangement,
understand?
.
It’s what you’d aim for
with the coots, mate,
if you had any sense.
Try some ducks your own size,
lower your sights.
Try the riverbank by the café
You’ll get a few pity bites.
Toddlers and OAPs,
that’s your target group.
.
I mean you ever see a human
cower from a bird your size?
Well get this: the other day
I hustled curly fries
AND a meatball sub.
Just from one well-placed hiss!
No there isn’t any left, pal.
Are you takin’ the piss?!
.
Now go on,
I don’t wanna see your type
paddling round here again.
And from now on,
just you remember
the pecking order,
my feathered friend!