QuickFic 23/09/16: The Winner

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We did something a bit different today. We asked for QuickFic stories inspired by a randomly-selected Wikipedia article, which happened to be about Sverre Farstad, a Norwegian speed skater and Olympic gold medallist.

RUNNER-UP: Anne Petrie

Speed Skating

‘You’re skating on thin ice, Lou. You’ll be in deep trouble if you carry on like this.’

I can’t stop, though I hear the creaking and cracking beneath my feet. There is too much still to do.

‘I must,’ I tell her. ‘Only today. I’ll stop tomorrow.’

‘You said that yesterday and…’

‘I know, but this time I mean it.’

I look down. The ice is fragile, translucent, beneath it a fathomless depth of numbing cold where nothing can be alive. Down there the dead dwell in chilly passivity. I shiver and wrap my arms around myself, but still I tremble. I want to sleep, to but I must not. You die if you sleep, and there is so much to do, so very much to do.

‘The usual, love?’ the man says. He takes my money and hands over the wrap. I snort, wait. The shakes start to subside, the weariness recedes, the fragile ice thickens. Now I can skate. I can spin and spiral and flip and fly and the dark abyss of the dead will not claim me.

 

WINNER: Sharon Telfer

Frozen

He keeps the blades sharp, the leather supple. Harder to keep his body in shape. The muscles in his legs are softening, that crouching balance tipping to one side.

The occupiers have forbidden skating. They seek to crack those they have conquered, shatter these people of the ice. He teaches other sports, gymnastics, football, wrestling: games of softness, the body’s rounded warmth. He trains his players to bend, to twist, to clutch. He yearns for the cold solidity of the ice.

Other men have gone into the mountains. They move on the enemy through the winter’s dark shrouded like ghosts bearing the white touch of death. Boys he was at school with, men he used to see in church. He has been sounded out, careful conversations started. He has pretended not to understand. Now people talk to him only of the weather.

He has a family to protect, he reasons, young children, his mother is frail. It is a shock to him, his fear. He has hurtled down the frozen river, the ice spitting in his face, the deadly water kept away by an inch of glass, his life balanced on a slither of silver speed. Now, overnight, terror has smothered him like a blizzard that leaves the morning world indistinct, uncertain, unfamiliar.

He takes down the skates down, runs his thumb across the edge. Whorls pattern his skin like lines traced in the ice. He wonders if this war will end in time.

Congratulations, Anne and Sharon! And thank you, everyone – there was some seriously special stuff sent in this week. It was beautiful.

Happy weekends! And we’ll see you again next week.

QuickFic 16/09/16: The Winner

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RUNNER-UP: Laura Riley

Ready?

Do I have my keys?

Yes, of course I do. I already checked. Twice. OK, nothing wrong with a final check. Yep, there they are.

Oh no the coffee machine… The warmer is still on. It’s on a timer Sarah, it will turn itself off eventually. Don’t worry about it. Oh no, wait. Am I thinking about the old machine? Maybe I should check the manual. Do I have time? Yes, it’s only 3 o’clock. I don’t have to be there for two hours. Where did I put the manual. Here it is. OK, great, it will turn itself off after thirty minutes.

Wait, that can’t be right. I had coffee over an hour ago. Why is it still on? I should just turn it off. OK, it’s off. The pot’s dirty now. Should I clean up? No, it’ll still be here when I get back. It’ll be fine.

What if it goes really well and he wants to come back here though? What if he’s really into cleanliness? What an awful first impression to make. No, I should clean the whole kitchen. It should sparkle.

What time is it now? Twenty past four. I said I’d be there at five. I’m running out of time. I can’t be late. How would that look? He’d know then. He’d realise how messy my life is. How could we move on from there? No, I can’t go out today. There’s not enough time. I’ll just cancel. Maybe tomorrow.

I’ll be ready tomorrow.

 

WINNER: Nathalie Kernot

The Salmon Run

The window bites cold at her fingers as she holds them to it, a long, still wave. He has reached the crossing, penguin-huddled with men in jeans, dark coats, peeking scrubs of hair. The sky a burnt blue, the sun violent on parked cars and windows and the pale faces of strangers, the grimy pavement bleached brilliant white under their feat. Her breath mists the glass, changes the weather. When it fades, he is on the other side of the street.

She is taking less with her than she expected. Her clothes, her makeup, some photographs, a hollow nest of space at the top of the bag. The inside of it still warm, this morning, when she put her chilled hand in to check. Its leather fine and smooth, an old cheek under her palm.

The rest of the house is dark behind her, the soft cushion of their things. A rug she doesn’t like. The chair he favours in the evenings, shying from her hand as it reaches to touch his hair. His piano, untouched. It presses her close to the window, lets her turn to watch him nearing the corner. 

He will call her mother, first. He will be alright.

He is too far to see properly, now, a little minnow, a silver flash in the sun. Maybe looking back at the house, maybe watching for her with his marble eyes, unchanged since he was first in her arms, slick and hot and newly born.  

 

Congratulations, Laura – and an extra big congratulations to Nathalie, for being our winner two weeks in a row! Outstanding.

See you all next week, you wonderful bunch of fiction fiends. May your weekends be word-filled.

QuickFic 16/09/16

Hello there.

Shall we do some writing?

We’ve got a brand new prompt for you at the bottom of the post, and we can’t wait to see what you come up with.

As always, we’re after stories of 250 words or less, inspired by the image below. We’d like those stories in the body of an email, and we’d especially like it if you could include a title and your wordcount. That would be tiptop.

Send us your story, by 2:50pm, to academy@faber.co.uk.

Hey, look at these books you could win!

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Right, let’s take a look at this week’s prompt:

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Who’s out there? What’s she thinking? Tell us: 250 words or less.

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 02/09/16 – a special one!

Good morning, flash fiction friends.

We’ve got a quite special QuickFic for you today.

The first reason it’s so special is that it’s a celebration of this very wonderful book, published yesterday:

 

It’s a beauty, right? You can find out all about it here.

The other special thing is that for the very first time, today’s prompt isn’t a photo or a first line. It’s not even a song.

It’s a whole bunch of them.

Yep, we’re asking you to write a 250 word story inspired by this The Lesser Bohemians playlist, put together by Eimear McBride herself!

An important note on copyright here: it exists. And lyrics are its most expensive limb.

Please don’t use lyrics, because it means we can’t reprint your story and that means your story can’t win.

What we’re going for here is inspired by the playlist. A similar mood or a memory it might trigger or whatever. Just not the lyrics.

(Titles aren’t subject to copyright though. Go wild there.)

As always, you should send your stories to academy@faber.co.uk by 2:50pm today, 2nd September. Please include a title and your wordcount.

To re-cap:

  • 250 words or less
  • Inspired by the playlist, but not plagiarising it
  • academy@faber.co.uk, by 2:50pm

The winner will win these excellent books:

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Lovely.

See you back here at 3:30, when we’ll announce the winner – we can’t wait to see what you come up with!

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 26/08/16

Guys. It has been a long time. The summer has raced away and we have missed you and your micro-fictions so very much.

But we’re back now – with a brand-new prompt in tow.

A quick reminder of the rules, seeing as it’s been a while:

  • You’re about to see a prompt
  • We’d love a very short story, of 250 words or less, inspired by that prompt
  • Paste your story into the body of an email, including a title, and send that email to academy@faber.co.uk by 2:50pm today
  • You might win some books:
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Some *lovely* books, in fact

Without further ado, here it is then, this brand-new prompt:

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Oh dear. What’s happened there then?

Do tell us – by 2:50 today!

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 15/07/16: The Winner

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RUNNER-UP: Thom Willis (we’re going to have to ban you soon, Thom)

Reactions

“…bones, for some reason!” and he laughed; hugely, uproariously. She sank into herself. Oh god, that laugh. So certain of its own hilarity, so arrogant, so obnoxious. A toxic cloud of self-amusment that drifted slowly out from him until it stifled the genuine fun from any given room. He should have a warning, a yellow triangular sticker slapped on his face. Caution. Fumes.

She fumed. He could feel her resentment, white hot burning a hole in the sofa they just about shared. The gulf between them made it feel like two separate pieces of furniture. He tried to lighten the mood with a joke that screeched down to Earth in flames. Why did she do this? Incinerate the joy around her? She should have a warning, a red circle. Danger! Naked flame!

Those two are so great together, though you wouldn’t know it to hear them talk. They have a real spark, true chemistry. The way she reacts to him… It’s like hate, but you can see she’s knocked out by him, and she makes him just explode. They should have a warning, a big sign. Keep out. Private.

 

WINNER: Simon Higgs

Fathom

When Tom told what he considered to be an amusing anecdote, he would laugh the whole way through it. That uproarious laugh was one of a multitude of things that first drew Red toward him, a tide of tremendous traits that had turned, and now each and every one of them repulsed her.
 
As a child Red had watched her many brothers as they dammed the stream that ran past the house and created reservoirs for their toy naval battles. The steam always won in the end of course, especially if she gave it a little helping hand by tugging at an out-cropped twig or stone.
 
Tom had seemed to her like a rock, back in those days when she levered him away from his wife and children. Yet now she was breaking through and away downstream and running her inevitable course. The thing Tom had feared most, that she would one day change her course, had happened. The Storm had come and the swollen river, force of nature, was once more on the move, and he hadn’t even worked it out yet.
 
When that dam breaks, his soaring laugh will then be silenced, drowned deep beneath and unable to absorb. To Red this has already begun – his eyes now pearls, his bones of coral made. That damned laugh was his own drowning, and the story he was telling was not so funny, and everyone else could see the coming end.

 

Congratulations, Thom and Simon! And thanks everyone, for another round of astoundingly good flashing.

See you next week!

QuickFic 15/07/16

Hi there!

Firstly, sincere apologies for our non-appearance last week. It might have been the day after the Summer Party here and it might also have been someone’s significant birthday.

I can’t say for sure. It certainly wasn’t me.

(It was me.)

Anyway. Moving on. Here’s a new prompt!

As always, we’re looking for stories of 250 words or less, inspired by the prompt and sent to us at academy@faber.co.uk by 2:50pm. Please include a title and a word count.

You might win these books!

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Right then. Let’s have a look at this prompt.

Here it is:

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Yep.

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 01/07/16: The Winner

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Runner-up: Laura Riley

The Question

A satisfied sigh curled from Jennifer Attley’s rouged lips, as she relaxed into her exquisitely upholstered chair. She drained the last drops of her weapon of choice – a Vodka martini. Ice cold Grey Goose, Noilly Prat Original Dry, and three olives leaning proudly at the side of the glass – served alongside a generous Xanax chaser. This particular cocktail had ensured many a good night’s sleep. She’d upped today’s dosage. Nothing short of the hand of God would rouse her once it took its effect.

It had been quite a day. The screen icon had listened intently as her husband – studio owner Jerry Montgomery – informed her of his plans to divorce her. There was an ingenue – not his first – but there was a complication this time. The ingenue was pregnant.

He told her this as they both sat upon their marital bed. He told her this, after they had just shared that bed. Once he was finished, Jennifer rose calmly, crossing the room to her bureau. She confidently grabbed for the revolver inside, and without a moment’s pause pointed it between her husband’s eyes and pulled the trigger. Wiping away her prints, she forced the gun into her husband’s dead hand.

They would find her first – immaculately laid out downstairs. Then they would find him – another apparent suicide – but who had been first? This would be the greatest story of her career. No-one would ever know the answer – but the question? Oh, the question would live on forever.

***

Winner: Rebecca Pizzey

Gored

Through an octopus of smoke in Spanish: you can’t die from a bull kick to the head. Several cigarette laughs and a thump on the poker table. Someone remarked that the matador deserved it – not quick on his feet.

The balcony was awash with late afternoon heat and a cacophony of sounds and smells from the street below, into which the men were leisurely spitting and tapping ash. His money spent, Thom turned away from the gambling men and saw that Biddy had arrived.

She was surveying him imperiously from between the encasing wings of an armchair, her long fingers encircling a crystal martini glass – the only thing she was known to embrace.

She looked utterly royal; everything about her, from her carefully arranged silk frills to the tight curl of her hair, was demanding of a Velázquez.

Thom extricated himself from the table and plunged into the heady hotel suite. The only movement in the velvet quiet was the revolving liquid in Biddy’s glass, over which she was appraising him.

‘You must have been devastated.’ Her voice was the punch of a diamond earring. ‘All that money – and he fell.

‘I didn’t watch the fight,’ she went on, a flush creeping up her exposed collarbones. ‘I was seeing to Marty.’

Thom’s voice died in his throat.

‘He’s as good as dead. Like your friend the matador.’ Her martini whisper folded itself into Thom, who had no time to wonder whether he could have been quicker on his feet.

***

Congratulations, Laura and Rebecca! And thanks, as always, to everyone for their brilliant stories.

See you next week!

QuickFic 01/07/16

Gooooood morning, team. Ready for a flash fiction fix?

We definitely are.

It’s been a couple of weeks so let’s remind ourselves of the rules, shall we? They go a little something like this:

  • At 9:50 on a Friday, we give you a prompt
  • You write us a story, a very small one (up to 250 words), and send it to us at academy@faber.co.uk
  • (But make sure it has a title and your wordcount included before you do that!)
  • Do all of that by 2:50pm, because that is when the deadline is

At 3:30, we’ll announce the winner – and the winner will win these excellent books:

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They look nice, eh?

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

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Yup.

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 10/06/16: The Winner

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RUNNER-UP: Catherine Palmer

The Front

Pearce carries his burden with him, heavy by his side.  It throbs in the empty space on the right side of his body. 

As Pearce shifts in his seat, he looks to his left at Louise sitting next to him.  It’s a habit he’d picked up, always sitting on the right, always taking pictures in profile. 

He smiles at Louise.  She isn’t beautiful, her nose is too large, and Pearce can see the pores on her face.  But when she smiles, her eyes squint into half-moons and her mouth opens into a soft rectangle as her tongue pushes on her teeth. 

Pearce lifts his arm from around Louise’s shoulder, eats some popcorn, sips some soda.

“Are you okay?” Louise whispers, immediately attentive to his movement.

“Yes, good,” he whispers back.

As he settles back in his seat, Pearce rubs his shoulder.  He digs into his pocket, swallows a pill, grits his teeth.

Phantom limb pain, the doctor had called it.

“Difficult to treat,” he’d said, looking out at Pearce from the top of his glasses. 

“Psychological.” 

“It will go away with time.”

When he’d returned from the front, Pearce had learned to write with his left hand.  Granted, it was chicken scratch, but it was enough to get him through law school.  He could work on his car, kiss a girl, make coffee.  He could even dance the waltz like the couple on the screen. 

He could still live his life. 

If only the pain would go away.

 

RUNNER-UP: Susan McLeod

Celluloid

The mess hall fills rapidly. Men flood in, some with folding chairs, some hitching a hip on an occupied seat. The room is a desert of khaki.

I remove the film from the take-up reel and place it in its tin. A baby-faced private passes smoking a cigarette. Ash drops on my shoulder, the film stock.

“Back off,” I shout but he’s oblivious, eyes fixed forward.

The projector is ancient, a relic, and the reel changeovers will be manual. I thread the slippery cellulose nitrate ribbon, matching hole to sprocket.

“Hey, four eyes.”

The crowd grows impatient, hungry for the feature. Hello Frisco, Hello starring Alice Faye. A frothy confection yet drawing a bigger audience than the newsreel. The troops are more interested in a musical than the Eastern front. Go figure.

“Get on with it.”

I ignore the catcalls. Hand-cranking is an art, matching speed of frame rate to the sound – it requires focus.

Someone barges into me and I grab the projector as it overbalances. Laughter from the audience.

“He crapped it there, Jim.” The machine stills once more on its base. I release a pent-up breath.

A ball of paper knocks off my patrol cap.

“Bullseye!” More laughter, more jostling, more shouts. The cap lies where it fell.

I wave an arm and the lights blink out.

Silence falls. A beam of flickering light pierces the blackness and illuminates the screen. Bodies lean forward, faces turn upwards in reverence. The lion roars.

 

WINNER: Thom Willis

Close In Darkness

Sometimes all anyone wanted was to hear the rasp of the projector, the glassy sheet of film purring coolly though the gate and painting its vivid light on the wall. Some days it was all that I could think about, the thought that the darkness could be lit this way, like magic. Like stars up close.

One of those nights we sat near the back, your arm around me, my hand gripping your leg through sheer excitement. No funny business, not then not there. I would think about that later, in the silent grey of the early morning, and tremble.

The light of the screen was a hard rectangle adrift in the soft black fluid of the night. The images danced for us, sang shrill from a speaker somewhere behind the seats, beckoned us through the bright window. A night at the theatre for we who had no nights, we who sat in the close darkness as the fire screamed to the sky and the sky roared back, peppering our childhood bedrooms with soot, with lead, with carelessly spilled blood. How could we return to them now and be innocent still?

Impulsive, I turned and kissed you, once, on the cheek. You put your hand to it and stroked it like a new scar, eyes fixed ahead. Blinking tears, you held my chin and kissed me back. It felt sharp, like a bite, and I knew then that you were doomed, and I doomed likewise. The projector hummed on.

 

Ooof. Congratulations, Catherine, Susan and Thom – those are absolutely stellar. And thanks to everyone who entered. You are extremely excellent.

See you next week!