QuickFic 26/02/16: The Winner

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Now. When we look at the photo, we hear a Beatles song. We think of adventures, of soulmates and sunny days.

You guys? You guys see murder, mayhem, dragons and hipsters.

We love you. You are really, really great.

Here are this week’s winners.

RUNNER-UP: Chrissie Cuthbertson

Hunting and Gathering in the 21st Century

The bait trap sinks off the end of the jetty, falling through the dark water to the bottom of Hiidentakanen. We tie the rope to the mooring ring. Artic loons dive for the little fish that are also our quarry. One goes down and then the other, and the lonely cry of the first to emerge floats on the lake like a soft mist.

We lift the bait trap two hours later to find it empty. We sink it again to leave it overnight.

Next morning, we leave the camp to lift the bait trap and again find it empty.

How silly we were to think we could find our own food like early Homininae; pick bilberries, forage leaves, grub starchy burdock from the earth, bake fish in charcoal.

Down the bait trap goes again.

Two days pass, and we forget the bait trap lying on the floor of the lake. At night we remember. We rise and walk through the white night. The water is still, but for fish catching insects.

Now the bait trap feels heavy at the end of its rope. Hand over hand the bait trap is lifted, the water dripping through the trap as we haul it onto the grooved boards of the jetty.

Inside, we find a drowned otter, its hands gripping the wire mesh, its fur wet and tufted like a teenage boy on the way to meet his girlfriend, its eyes empty and its bloodied teeth dreadful in its wild animal face.

 

WINNER: Liz Falkingham

Fading Light

It was his hands that first caught my eye. Strong fingers with squared-off nails; the way the tendons of his wrist ran taut to the curve of his thumb. Impossible not to imagine those hands on me, not to wish for it, though I had a husband at home who would break in two to know it.

No fool like an old fool, that’s what they say. Nothing changes in your head – it’s the trappings that wear thin, a body worn and pulled out of shape by babies and biscuits. Young men are so beautiful, their skin strapped tight across smooth-carved muscles. He was so beautiful.

So when he asked ‘You wanna come see the crocs in the river?’ I said yes, and there was that old butterflies sensation, pinging back across the years. Nothing changes.

He shouldn’t have laughed. I never could stand feeling stupid. He asked for $20, said it was the rate for a guided river walk. My face gave me away.

‘What? You thought I’d do you a freebie?’ The sun was sinking behind his shoulder, the planes of his face gilded red gold. Then the mocking smile. ‘Oh – you thought I’d do you, full stop.’ Laughter threaded with disgust.

I just wanted to get away. Maybe I pushed past harder than I should. That laugh.

His hand was the last thing I saw, as he fell back into the water. Reaching for me at last, from the teeth-filled embrace of the river.

 

Congratulations, Chrissie and Liz! And well done everyone for being brilliant.

See you next week!

QuickFic 26/02/16

Morning!

Ready to get your QuickFic fix?

Before we have a look at this week’s prompt, let’s have a quick reminder of the rules. They’re very simple:

We’re about to show you a mysterious and potential-laden prompt. You should have a look at it, allowing yourself to be slowly but unavoidably drawn down the potent path of inspiration, and then you should write a story, of 250 words or less, using that prompt in some way.

Send us that story to academy@faber.co.uk by 2:50pm this afternoon, because that’s when the deadline is. There’s an excellent chance that you might win these books!

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Plant not included (despite its pleas for help)

Come on then. Let’s have a good old look at that prompt.

This is it:

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See you back here at 3:30!

By entering our QuickFic writing competitions, you’re granting us non-exclusive worldwide permission to reprint your story on our website should you win. The winner will also get a chance to win a place on one of our Start to Write one day courses, because at the end of the year we’ll be choosing our favourite of all the winners – the champion of champions, basically.

For more creative writing exercises, click here.

QuickFic 19/02/16: The Winner

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Ahh. Poor old manager. Nobody likes a bit of melancholy clouding up their Friday, do they?

So, that’s the first line – well, the first line to the preface, anyway – of Vanity Fair. But just what did you guys do with it?

Excellent stuff, that’s what. You took that manager and you made him miserable for all kinds of reason. Shout-out this week to the bear. We loved the bear.

Anyway. Want to have a look at our winners? (Trust us, you do).

Here they are:

RUNNER-UP: Jaine E. Irish

Lulu

There they were – his “friends” – people he thought he knew. He had been there for each one of them; listening, holding, feeling their pain. Yet here he was, alone, on an empty stage, the curtain closed and before him, a raging sea of polka dots, checks and black and white stripes. Weird hats, ruffs and huge, satin bows weaved a rich tapestry in front of his eyes. Bangles with bells on that jangled as they danced about and shoes – shoes like you have never seen before.

He never asked to be Manager. All he wanted to do was sing – to Lulu. Everyone had laughed, pushed him away and scuttled off into their own hot, little tents.

Inside he was screaming. His teeth clenched along with his buttocks and he found it hard to breath. Hot tears tipped off his lower lids melting furrows through the greasepaint on his face.

He dragged himself up from the hard, wooden boards . He lay the palms of his hands flat against the tight, velvet black waistcoat and pulled sharply on the two pointy bits at the bottom with his pinched fingers and thumbs.

Standing, he felt a bit better – his lungs dropped inside his skin and puffed up as he sucked in the smoky air. He lifted his chin and stuck it out. He closed his eyes and visualized. She stood before him, Lulu, her fabulous, yellow hair piled on top of her sweet head and her own dear little eyelids closed – waiting.

 

WINNER: Paul Jenkins

Circus Story

Sergei Plovda, the last of The Great Plovda Brothers, once admired and loved from Novosibirsk to Novi Sad, sits before a faded curtain and stares out into the summer night.

He has long retired from the trapeze. He had moved with his brothers into circus management. And now he is the Last Plovda, not so magnificent.

The sound of excited families, the laughter that kept you warm long into the cold nights – and let me tell you those nights east of the Steppes could chill a newlywed’s bones – could not be heard this evening by Sergei.

When you understand the sadness in a clown’s eyes, it is time to leave the circus. His eldest brother, dear Konstantin, had told him that many years ago. And now he felt that time upon him.

Where do acrobats go when they can no longer fly? They become soldiers, drinkers, compulsive gamblers. They die as all men must, just earlier than most.

There are no retirement parties for the circus folk. There are drinks. Many, many drinks but these are wakes for the living, not farewells to colleagues headed for the golf course.

The queue to the tent is now a trickle, the seats nearly full. Soon the ringmaster’s voice will announce the wonders to come.

It is a glorious summer’s evening, the setting sun a deep cut around a battered boxer’s eye. Lilacs, pinks, mauves. A sky to make an old man cry.

Somewhere behind Sergei, a tiger roars.

The show has begun.

 

Congratulations, Jaine and Paul! And thanks to everyone for a brilliant bunch of stories.

Happy weekends, happy writing!

QuickFic 19/02/16

Good day, flash fiction fans!

A brand new QuickFic prompt awaits you. If you already know all the How To Play guff, scroll on down!

But if this is your first time, or you want to check you’ve been doing it right, the particulars:

  • We’re about to show you a prompt. It’s a first line this week!
  • You should look at that prompt and then write a story, of 250 words or less, inspired by it
  • Send us that story, in the body of an email (attachments slow us down; don’t slow us down), by 2:50 this very afternoon. We’re academy@faber.co.uk.
  • Don’t forget to give it a title
  • You might win some books
  • These books:

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  • But not the biscuit tin. That’s Ian’s, and he would be cross.
  • The biscuit tin is empty by the way. It has been for weeks.
  • Send biscuits!

Anyway. Enough particulars. Shall we have a look at that prompt?

Here it is:

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Well now. Maybe he’s run out of biscuits too?

See you back here this afternoon!

By entering our QuickFic writing competitions, you’re granting us non-exclusive worldwide permission to reprint your story on our website should you win. The winner will also get a chance to win a place on one of our Start to Write one day courses, because at the end of the year we’ll be choosing our favourite of all the winners – the champion of champions, basically.

For more creative writing exercises, click here.

QuickFic Flash Writing Competition Winner! 12/02/16

It doesn’t matter how long we do this. It doesn’t matter how cheery the prompt, how Spring-like the weather, how chipper the readers. You always find the darkness.

Some folks in a Volks

Some folks in a Volks

We had death, we had demons, we had disasters. We had cracked smiles and stolen pooches and all manner of evils.

But we also had some brilliant, brilliant writing, so great job. Thanks to everyone who entered.

As every week, it was tough to decide, but we think we managed. Here they are, a winner and a runner up.

RUNNER UP: Simon Higgs

STOPPING SHORT OF CHICAGO

“That dog,” said the old man, holding the silver framed photograph in both hands, “That dog would chase anything. Sure, he’d chase a cat or a stick like any other mutt, but he’d chase cars too, and the silver train that ran across the plain past Omaha and up to Chicago. He’d hear that warning bell as the train approached and Pa would have to try and grab him, else he’d just set on after that train, never a hope in hell of catching it.
 
“We’d have to go out in the pickup along the side of the tracks, sometimes for miles. Eventually find him, in the shadow of a shed or a lone tree, worn out with running and that big old tongue of his hanging out. He was a bright enough animal, but he’d just do that same thing, over and over. Must have made him happy on some level I guess, but he sure never made it to Chicago.”
 
The old man put the photograph down beside him on the table, he looked at the time on his gold-plate carriage clock, then picked up the silver framed photograph again and held it in both hands.
 
“I remember the day this was taken.”

“Tell me about it.” She said for the fourth time that day.

He looked blankly at his daughter, failing to recognise her. “I can tell you about that dog young lady.” A smile spread across his face, “That dog would chase anything.”

WINNER: Simon P. Clark

TIME TO GO

The man is running, and he’s holding something. His shouts are muffled by traffic.  He tries to wave one-handed, struggling under the weight of whatever’s in his arms.

Jane squints to see better, turning to her husband.

‘Is that Vincent?’

‘Damn fool’s making a scene,’ he mutters. The car’s engine thrums to life.

‘He seems rather upset,’ says Jane.

‘The train leaves at eleven sharp.’

A hand on his arm. ‘Yes, honey, I know, but – ‘

‘He’s shouting something,’ says Danny. He stands up, resting a hand on Bumper. The dog’s tongue lolls and he shifts his weight.

A horn cuts through the air, a curse, the screech of brakes.

‘Good God, the man’s insufferable!’

‘What’s he shouting?’ says Jane. A thought strikes her: something else has happened.

‘Look, Daddy, he’s running through the cars!’

Danny laughs and waves to his uncle.

Vincent’s voice is raw with terror, his face shining and white.

‘Stop! Please! Get out!’

Jane shields her eyes from the sun. ‘What is he holding? Is that – what is that?’

Danny is still waving. ‘Hello!’ he shouts. Bumper growls and the air quivers.

‘Look!’ shouts Vincent, and he’s near enough now. ‘Look! It’s Bumper! Good God, it’s Bumper!’

The body is limp and awkward in his arms.

‘Not your dog!’ shouts Vincent, wild and mad. ‘That’s not your dog! Get out of the car!’

They turn to look, and already the thing is grinning, and changing, and opening its jaws, but there’s nowhere to run.

*

Brilliant stuff, right? Special mentions also go to Nicky Tate and Andy Vale.

Keep them coming – join us next week!

QuickFic Flash Fiction Writing Competition – 12/02/16

Hi there!

Are you feeling in a flash-fiction sort of mood?

Because we have exactly the thing if so. Yep, it’s time for another round of QuickFic – so, experienced Fic-ers, head to the bottom of the page for the prompt!  For those of you who are new around these parts (welcome, by the way), it’s a very simple game:

We’re about to show you a prompt. You should write a story, of 250 words or less, inspired by that prompt, and send it to us (academy@faber.co.uk) by 2:50pm this very day. No later.

The winner will win these LOVELY BOOKS:

You *don't* win my weird hand.

Look at these books! You could win these books! But not my weird hand! You don’t win that!

Come on then. Let’s have a look at this prompt.

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Wow. Don’t they look creeptastic?

See you back here in a bit!

By entering our QuickFic writing competitions, you’re granting us non-exclusive worldwide permission to reprint your story on our website should you win. The winner will also get a chance to win a place on one of our Start to Write one day courses, because at the end of the year we’ll be choosing our favourite of all the winners – the champion of champions, basically.

For more creative writing exercises, click here.

QuickFic 05/02/16 – The Winner

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Whachoo lookin’ at?

That little rascal was our prompt for this week, and although we say this every week (and it’s true!), there was SUCH a high standard of stuff that came in today. We were blown away.

Top marks!

But here are the three stories we liked just that little bit extra.

RUNNER-UP: Van Demal

Harmless Fun

‘Imagine it’s blood,’ she says.

I’m waiting for the giggle that will undo the spell. It doesn’t come. We watch each other through the frame of her fingers and I find myself in a battle. Who will look away first? Her gaze is constant whereas mine shifts from one eye to the other. When the periphery slides to darkness and those hands wobble blood-black around her cold white gaze she releases me.

She smiles. ‘Dinner time!’

These games wear my nerves. Never Cops, only Robbers; the soft toys stitched back together (we need patients if we’re playing hospitals); dolls with drawing pin holes in their eyes; each portrait she says is me a darker red than the last.

There’s more carnage on the windowsill, various crawling or flying things denuded of limb and life.

Meticulous at the sink, she worries at the web of skin between each finger. Gouts of paint slip across the white porcelain and vanish into the drain. I point at a smudge on the outside edge of the sink.

‘Fingerprint.’

‘Damn,’ she mutters and attacks it with some tissue.

How do I tell her parents? Hello, Mr and Mrs Johnson. Yes, a good day. We learnt about forensic cleanliness. Incidentally, I think your daughter may be psychotic.

No, I need this job. And who would they believe? She’s a harmless little girl. I glance at the pin-punctured dolls.

Dinner eaten, she wanders back to her spattered crime scene. I count the knives back into the drawer.

 

RUNNER-UP: Simon Higgs

Speak No Evil

With turpentine and salty tears I tried to cleanse her hands and wipe from the memory of her eyes that terrible tide and wide and freezing sea. The quick-bitten fingernails by baby teeth were Prussian blue and cobalt now, manganese and aquamarine.

From that darling mouth struck dumb, for eighteen months no words, not a syllable or squawk. A mouth that had all too briefly but oh so sweetly spoken so amusingly before. Our cheeky monkey, squeaky mouse.

In post-trauma exercises we planted trees and floated lanterns silently, or, far worse, with me uncontrollably babbling. Floundering, I tried to speak for three now. We listened to music, we walked and played and relentlessly she remained silent.

Her mother’s work adorned our home, Polaroid and Kodachrome, first framed by fingers, then by reclaimed wood. Those she had captured, down the years, from our boat were absent now, no salt in the wound.

‘Have you tried painting?’ I was prepared to try anything and procured brushes, oils, rags, and sheets of paper almost as big as she.

Upside down we gasped for air, blue with cold and screaming with fear. Only two of us clambered in the becalmed morning air onto the capsized hull and clung there.

My nailbrush scrubbed at her fingers, what had I done? This terrible vision she had created before us, what on earth was I thinking? More turpentine, more salty tears, more turpentine. ‘Daddy, stop, you’re hurting me!’ More salty tears.

 

WINNER: Anstey Spraggan

It’s Never Too Late

We know now that the sea had been sending us messages for some time. Whales beached themselves in odd places, sacrificed their lives with an ancient dignity. Fish leapt out of the water into the faces of reporters. The media loved it. Newspapers chewed up trees to publish the apocalypse, the public churned through oil and gas gathering information about impending doom.

Everyone saw it, heard it, lived it; but continued.

No one knows how the children and the sea first started to communicate. There are theorists who connect a captive orca called Dasha and a small girl called Polly Jennings. It is a matter of record that Polly became one of the first painted children.

Globally, children stopped speaking. Parents would wake and find their babies with painted hands; walk into their teenagers’ rooms in time to see them put down the brush and lift their palms to their faces like a frame. The children opened and closed their mouths like fish, peered through their blue and green fingers, accusing grownups, shaming drivers and consumers.

Parents discovered that the only way to restore the children was to turn the television off, leave their car to rot in the driveway, plant the lawn with vegetables to share. They recycled.

Polly Jennings stood on the beach at Rhyl. The seas were emptying of plastic, the smogs – globally – were clearing. She lifted a freckled arm, blue-green palm outstretched.

And back, from the waves, the flick of a tail, a shudder of hope.

 

Congratulations Van, Simon and Anstey! And thanks to everyone who entered.

Happy weekends, happy writing – see you next week!

QuickFic 05/02/16

Well good morning!

Ready to pop on those writing trousers? Fiction fedora propped at a jaunty angle?

Great. Let’s get going on another round of QuickFic then.

Now, don’t forget the essentials:

  • Your story needs to be 250 words or less
  • Your story needs to be inspired by the prompt at the bottom of this post
  • Your story needs to be sent to us (academy@faber.co.uk) by 2:50pm. Including a title and a word count will win you brownie points.

Wanna see what’s up for grabs?

It’s THESE LOVELY BOOKS:

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See? Lovely.

Right. Let’s have a look at this prompt, shall we?

Here it is:

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She’s clearly been getting creative. Your turn!

By entering our QuickFic writing competitions, you’re granting us non-exclusive worldwide permission to reprint your story on our website should you win. The winner will also get a chance to win a place on one of our Start to Write one day courses, because at the end of the year we’ll be choosing our favourite of all the winners – the champion of champions, basically.

For more creative writing exercises, click here.