Archives for flash fiction

How I write flash fiction

There’s something freeing about writing a short story, compared with a novel, and that effect is exploded when it comes to writing flash fiction. So when I was nominated by writer Lisa Devaney for the ‘My Writing Process’ blog tour, I decided to take the opportunity to explore the way I write flash fiction. But first, something about Lisa [below] who I met at the book launch party for our mutual friend Tina Seskis, whose book One Step Too Far was published in April by Penguin. Lisa’s new novel In Ark is just published. It is a new genre called cli-fi [climate change fiction]. In the year 2044, Mya Brand lives in New York City and pursues her passion—trying to digitally save the life story of every human on the planet before climate change makes Earth un-liveable. Recovering from a failed marriage, she stays laser-focused on her mission. With support from her actress best friend and bartender buddy, she is rebuilding her life and trying to heal her hard shell. For more info about In Ark, visit Lisa’s blog here. Now to my writing process. What am I working on? I have a selection of flash fiction ideas at the moment
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Categories: My Flash Fiction and On Writing.

Flash Fiction: Redbreast/After

Her breasts float in the bath, the left is as it was yesterday. The right is fragile. Between the three black lines it is red from the squishing of the white metal frame of the scanner. The faint indigo blush of a bruise spreads outwards like a bottle of ink spilt on a carpet, as if absorbed from the blue light which x-rayed her tissue. She watches as the black marks of the radiographer’s pen dissolve in the bubbles. She will not get of the bath until the lines have gone, she decides, until the experience is washed away. They float in front of her in the bath, bobbing to the surface like corks, demanding to be noticed. Just as they did yesterday. They still look perfectly normal, feel perfectly normal. Left and right, slightly lob-sided as usual. And usual has been restored. Almost. She takes the mug of tea her husband has made her, he closes the door behind him quietly as if she is mourning. Since walking out of the door of the assessment clinic with the ‘all clear’ ringing in their ears, they have lurched from tight hugs of euphoria, tighter than they have hugged since the
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Categories: My Flash Fiction.

Flash Fiction: Redbreast/Before

Ever since the letter arrived, every day has lasted a year. Eight days since the screening. Nine sleeps to go until the re-tests, except sleep won’t come. So Shirley sits in the bath and tries not to look. Tries to look anywhere else but… there. She averages two baths a day, with relaxing aromatherapy oil. She swishes her legs from side to side, watching the bubbles hide the dimples on her knees. She flexes her legs, admiring her muscle tone. She studies her red toes, painted yesterday while her husband watched the Sunday afternoon football. She’s never before noticed the relationship between footballs and breasts. Everything she looks at now is related to breasts, even though she’s stopped looking at her own. Balls of any description, hills, clouds, apples in the fruit bowl, the cold pile of mashed potato on her dinner plate. Eight sleeps to go, seven, six… They float in front of her in the bath, bobbing to the surface like corks, demanding to be noticed. They look perfectly normal, feel perfectly normal. Left and right, slightly lob-sided as usual. Except usual has been suspended. She hooks herself into her bra every morning with efficiency, briskly, avoiding the
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Categories: My Flash Fiction.

Flash Fiction: ‘An Apple Five Ways: 5/Trainers’

The trainers were new and very white. He didn’t want to walk every day, but neither did he want to die. He couldn’t ignore the doctor. His wife came back from the shops with the trainers and a pedometer to measure every step he took. He couldn’t ignore his wife. He didn’t want to die. So on Monday morning he dressed as usual – old grey trousers, white shirt thinning around the collar now, black belt he’d worn for years with his work suit but notched tighter, ditto the grey tie. The trainers shone as bright as a Belisha Beacon; if a Belisha Beacon was white of course, not orange. They’ll do the job, he told himself as he laced them up tight. He walked back and forth across the pink shag pile bedroom carpet, up one side of the bed and around to the other. If he shut his eyes, he might think he was wearing his slippers. He didn’t see why he couldn’t do his ‘heart walk’ as Margaret called it, in his old brown suede lace-ups but Margaret had taken control, as always. As always, it was easier to do as she said and she said trainers
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Categories: My Flash Fiction.

Flash Fiction: ‘An Apple Five Ways: 4/Hunger’

The businessman never noticed him, people generally didn’t. Whether because they really didn’t see him or it was a conscious avoidance of the uncomfortable, he wasn’t sure. He knew he wasn’t pretty but he tried to keep himself in order. He’d learned over the years how to stay invisible, to recognise kindness, developed an instinct to avoid trouble and to be gracious. He was first in the supermarket every morning, into the bathroom where he stripped off and washed. Sunday Opening had seemed a bonus, the supermarket was open seven days a week except it opened very late which messed with his routine. Thirty years he’d been on the road. His food came from bins at supermarkets and restaurants. Twice a year, spring and autumn, he updated his clothes and shoes at the same charity shop, the cancer one down the side street, where the manageress let him in early before the punters arrived. He chose what he needed and she would put her own money in the till. Often she added a book to his pile, something she thought he’d like. A poetry anthology one year, a guide book to the birds of Britain and Europe another. She never refused
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Categories: My Flash Fiction.

Flash Fiction: ‘An Apple Five Ways: 3/Temptation’

Florence’s calorie counting was going well. She’d bought a diary and kept it in the front pocket of her handbag with a mini-pencil. According to her doctor, the trick to losing weight was to “Know what you eat, and then cut things out.” Florence found that concentrating on what she was eating was helping her diet, though finding out the calorie count was a pain in the proverbial. Today’s list so far was:- Large hot chocolate and skinny blueberry muffin on the way to work; Diet Coke [all the other women in the office were dieting and they drunk Diet Coke, without exception]; Bottle of sparking water with peach [because water had no calories and peach was fruit]; Pizza margherita for lunch in the canteen [that was two of her 5-a-Day]; Mini-pack of chocolate Bourbon biscuits bought in the canteen and saved for afternoon break; A piece of Tara’s birthday cake with lemon in the icing [Chloe on Reception said lemon juice helped her lose two stone]. In the canteen there was always a bowl of fruit, usually untouched, slightly soft, browning; it smelt like the food waste bin which hadn’t been emptied since the last time the bins were
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Categories: My Flash Fiction.

Flash Fiction: ‘An Apple Five Ways: 2/Outdoors’

The list fell out an old book. It was a story torn from a paper magazine and the headline read ’10 things for your child to do outdoors’. Marianne was clearing out the apartment belonging to her elderly neighbour, who had recently died. Evelyn had lived alone and had no family and Marianne, liking to be helpful, found herself sorting and emptying the flat of Evelyn’s life. There were so many books, thick, old-fashioned books with pictures on the covers, so different from the e-books waiting on Marianne’s tablet for her to read. The motivation was absent. But now the printed word drew her in. She sat on the floor, surrounded by books large and small, thick and thin, and picked up one at a time. Gold letters, The RAC Guide to English Villages; Gates on fire, Rebecca; An egg, Cooking for One by Delia Smith; A beach, the sea, Echoes; Reader’s Digest Guide to the Garden. The piece of paper fell from the gardening book. It was the first Marianne opened, drawn by the cover picture of old English roses. Pink, pale as the first hint of a sunset, dark like a blood blister forming. ’10 things for your
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Categories: My Flash Fiction.

Flash Fiction: ‘An Apple Five Ways: 1/Hers’

She gets on the number 45 and sits upstairs. He sits down so he can see when she gets off. In town they cross the road to the station. The ticket machine is out of order and he is pleased, he prefers talking to a person. He stands in line behind her. She buys a return ticket to London, so does he. On the train, he sits two rows away. It’s a bit close but she may make a telephone call on her mobile and he needs to hear. She could be arranging to meet someone. He sits with his good ear facing her, she sits looking at her phone, typing. But there is no call. At Waterloo he waits outside M&S, studying a poster about Kew Gardens. She re-appears, carrying a small green bag. Her lunch. He has no food, didn’t expect to be gone for long. He can’t go into a shop now, and risk losing her. Really he just wants to touch her, but he knows this is not possible. He is frightened she will disappear on contact, like the time he looked at his reflection in the pond at Wisley. He dropped to his knees to
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Categories: My Flash Fiction.

Flash Fiction: Consequences

That’s it. The clock tower? Uh-huh. The building at which the man was pointing disappeared as their pod went behind a wide white steel upright. Father and son were on a big wheel beside a river. Each time it completed a rotation, the wheel passed a derelict building, a pile of bricks except for a wall standing prone and leaning slightly to the right. Just visible was a faded advertisement hoarding which said ‘Queue here for London Eye tickets’. So why did you bring me here? Because of what it symbolises, because it’s important for you to understand. Silence. Come on, think about it. You did history at school. Yeh, Mr Gayle’s class. I know the Government used to be in London before it moved to Norwich. And? And… something to do with the final war? Yes, in that building the politicians decided to go to war. That was the beginning of it all. If they’d listened to the people… we didn’t want it, we demonstrated. But it was democratic then, right? So the people elected the Government. Which sounds cool, I mean, I’d like to do that when I’m old enough. But then Mr Gayle said it was crazy
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Categories: My Flash Fiction.

Flash Fiction: ‘Chairs Chairs Chairs’

It is just before nine. She takes her time clearing the tables, the ones outside in the dark alley between the Royal Festival Hall on one side and the railway arches on the other. The sun won’t reach here until lunchtime. The alley has quietened, the rush to work is drawing to a close and the queue at the coffee counter for ‘to-go’s’ numbers only two. She prefers clearing tables to serving at the counter. Outside, only one table is occupied. The same table, every morning. She watches him, without seeming to. Arranged in front of him are pencil, notebook, ruler, pencil sharpener and eraser. She straightens chairs as he arranges his possessions at precise angles to each other. Into the tableau he adds his silver phone, a used and re-folded napkin, large coffee mug and plate with crumbs of almond croissant. She knows his routine. Every time she is on the morning shift, he is here. It’s as if he gets a copy of the week’s timesheet when the manager pins it on the noticeboard every Sunday evening. He sits now and looks into nothing, studying the blank paper as if it tells him the meaning of life. He
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Categories: My Flash Fiction.

Flash fiction: Migraine, again*

Cochineal, crimson, carmine. Scarlet, vermilion, madder, magenta. Justine’s head was so full of red hot pain and every shade of red was there. Blood red, fresh and dried. Cherry Coke. London bus red. Chanel Rouge red. English postbox red. When she woke, she was sitting in the dark beside the studio window. Her headache was gone, her head felt tender and vulnerable as it always did after pain. Outside the London sky was dense black, the February clouds hiding the stars. Upstairs, Tinkerbell rang. © Sandra Danby If you like flash fiction, read these stories:- The Ten Questions Left or Right Redbreast/Before * excerpt from Connectedness, second in the ‘Identity Detective’ series, to be published in 2017. First in the series, ‘Ignoring Gravity’ is available now. ‘Ignoring Gravity’ by Sandra Danby [UK: Beulah Press] Buy now And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet: Justine’s headache includes every shade of red: MIGRAINE, AGAIN #flashfiction via @SandraDanby http://wp.me/p5gEM4-qd
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Categories: My Flash Fiction and My Novel: 'Connectedness'.

‘Useless’, a short story

The cups on the buffet trolley rattled out their accompaniment as the train’s wheels rumbled over points. Mary stumbled as the train lurched to the right and she caught a cup before it hit the sticky grey carpet. Then the train entered a tunnel and a rush of air transported the passengers into darkness, their ears tightened with pressure. Some people rubbed their earlobes, others pinched their nose with two fingers and snorted. A businessman chewed a toffee as he tapped at the keyboard of his laptop, a teenager nodded his head in time to music piped directly into the coil of his inner ear. It all added up to the combined rhythm section familiar to all train travellers. A buzzer heralded an internal train announcement: “My name is Colleen Murphy and I’m your customer services manager aboard this train today to Waverington. I hope you have an enjoyable journey. Thank you for travelling with Northern Rail.” The words faded away with a hiss. The train felt like Mary’s second home. She travelled the same route north every Friday and south again on Sunday, watching the countryside flash by at 70 mph. That was the average speed of the train,
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Categories: My Short Stories.