Do you receive Dictionary.com’s Word of the Day? I do, and I’ve thought for awhile now that it would be really awesome to do a flash fiction story with the Word of the Day.
I recently convinced my fellow writer friend/coworker Joe to embark on a 10 Days of Flash Fiction Challenge with me, so I thought I would share a few of our favorites. I’m including three of my stories here, and three of his in the next blog post.
And, bonus: For one of mine, I’m also going to share my brainstorming thoughts on how I came up with the idea in hopes of motivating other writers out there; I’ll share a tiny bit of background info for the other two.
Coming up with new ideas can be hard, but it doesn’t have to be if you keep your mind open and continue asking questions.
Disclaimer: I swear.
The word limit was 350 words. The Word of the Day either had to be mentioned somewhere in the text, or basically the story had to embody the word.
The Word: Adultescent
Adultescent: a middle-aged person whose clothes, interests, and activities are typically associated with youth culture
Don’t Think I’ll Ever Try to Make You Stay
The man on the screen was not fucking around. He was going to kill the prostitute and then steal her money.
“George! Come to the table right now. Please. We need to have a serious talk.”
George kept playing GTA.
“That’s it! I have had it! We are having a talk about our marriage right now or I am walking out that door!”
“I’ll be right there! Geeze, I’m almost done. I dunno what the big deal is.”
Maura rested her hands on the table next to the roast and took a deep breath in.
“You’re fifty-three years old. When are you going to grow up? You won’t even stop playing that fucking game long enough to have this conversation, when I told you last night I wanted to talk to you about something important at dinner. You’re an adultescent. This is what I’m talking about. This is what the big deal is.”
There was a pause, then some gunshots from the TV.
“I don’t know why you always have to use big words I don’t know to make me feel stupid.”
“Were you always this way?” Maura picked up the roast and tossed it into the garbage before flinging the dish into the sink with a loud clang. She did the same with the mashed potatoes and green beans. “Did I just never see it?”
She made her way to stand in front of the television. George swallowed and blinked.
“Or did it take 20 years of marriage before you decided to show your true self?”
“Please just let me get away from the cops and then I’ll-”
“No, no.” Maura put her hand out before stepping away. “I’m leaving. Actually go to your job tomorrow so I can get my things while you’re gone.”
Closing the door behind her she muttered, “Can barely even keep a fucking Wal-Mart job.”
George sighed in defeat as his character died. He whipped out his phone and found just the right song for this moment: I Don’t Love You by My Chemical Romance.
Background info: In trying to find a super emo song I watched the video of I Don’t Love You, and was pretty much dying laughing because it was so perfect for what I was imagining for the story.
The Word: Lateritious
Lateritious: of the color of brick; brick-red
There’s Plenty of Room in the Basement
Holly did not like Jane, the realtor. She and Dan always seemed too in sync, like they shared something special. Holly didn’t trust her.
She and Dan were trying to find their first house as a married couple, and the first home their unborn child would live in. Holly was six months along. This process needed to move forward quickly. She could just imagine the picture-perfect nursery in the pristine house that would be something out of a suburban dream.
Which was why Holly was less than thrilled to find herself standing in front of an ugly, sad, mud colored house with no fence around the yard, and a lateritious stone pathway up to the front door that reminded her of dried blood.
Beaming, Jane led them through the front door and into the foyer. “You’ll notice the dim lighting and the blackout curtains in the living room,” she chirped.
Dan nodded encouragingly. Holly felt like she was on Candid Camera, or maybe she was just losing her mind. Pregnancy hormones, you know. She chose to say nothing as the three continued through the house.
“No one has ever cooked garlic in this kitchen!” Jane said proudly.
“Wonderful,” said Dan.
What an extremely odd thing to say, thought Holly. Does the smell of garlic linger that much?
After they went through the whole downstairs and upstairs with similar bizzare commentary, Jane clasped her hands together and said, “I’ve saved the best for last!”
The best part of the house turned out to be the basement, which was musty, decomposing, and had clearly suffered water damage.
“You can fit several coffins down here if need be,” said Jane as she raised her hand in show, as if she were displaying a new car they just won. “Safely, discreetly away from guests. In fact, we might have some in the back room here if you’re in need.”
Holly’s head snapped towards her husband in horror.
Dan smiled, allowing two distinct fangs to peak out. “But do you have one for an infant?”
Background info: I kept picturing a lateritious pathway in a creepy, bad omen kind of way, particularly if someone were trying to buy a house for the first time, and especially if they were expecting their first baby and wanted everything perfect. From there it’s probably pretty clear I was channeling Rosemary’s Baby.
The Word: Ferly
Ferly: something unusual, strange, or causing wonder or terror
Answering a Call
Bob sighed as he heard the call come in from the Ouija board. Kids who had been watching Stranger Things, no doubt. Before then, it was The Craft.
Bob had been dead for over 10 years, and had answered calls for his presence at least twice as many times. The first time he crossed into the parallel universe between the ghost world and the human world it was right after he died, when his wife had lit a candle for him at church.
He had felt it was happening, not in his bones, so to speak, as that was impossible, but simply through a deep intuition. Bob had stood to the right of Emma as she lit the small white candle, and she had turned just so slightly towards him before walking away.
It was important for ghosts and other ferly beings to occasionally make their presence known to the living ones. Otherwise, the opening between the two worlds – that state of purgatory and possibilities – would close forever. But, there was always a risk of getting trapped there, or even in the human world.
Which was why Bob was reluctant to travel there again. He’d been lucky too many times; it just seemed more and more risky with each appearance.
“Oh go ahead,” Jerry said, reading his mind. The two were companions here, but hadn’t known each other in the real world. Jerry loved visiting kids the most. In a way it was easier to get there, because they were the most open, their minds malleable. Adults – even willing ones – inadvertently put up barriers with negative thoughts and underlying disbelief.
“What if I don’t come back?”
“You just have to believe you will, just like they believe in you.”
Bob nodded, agreeing. As he leaned into it, preparing for the transportation, he learned that he was being called to this specific gathering because one of the kids was his wife’s new stepson. That meant he’d be near Emma. He might get to see her, or some of her things.
Maybe I’ll just stay anyway, Bob thought.
Ferly Brainstorming Notes
This was stream of consciousness, just jotting down what came to mind for me:
- Ferly – something unusual, strange, or causing wonder or terror
- Makes me think of Stranger Things
- What would be unusual and potentially terrifying?
- Derivative from fear
- A ghost could be a ferly – ghosts could be good or bad, are definitely unusual and strange
- Maybe something with a Ouija board, a bunch of kids could be using it or even adults, but I’m thinking kids
- Some tweens are using it, summon what they believe is a spirit
- Maybe they’re even doing this after seeing Stranger Things, it’s like when my generation would do things like this after seeing The Craft.
- Is the ghost real or not? Does the reader know if it’s real?
- What could the dilemma be?
- What if it was told from the ghost’s point of view, almost in a comical way, and he’s the one who makes the comparison to The Craft.
- It could be kids in Vermont, not too much going on, if the location even matters
- What’s the dilemma? If the ghost shows up then he gives the kids a thrill and keeps the excitement of the Other World alive. If he doesn’t go, he’ll just keep doing whatever it is that ghosts do on the other side.
- Or maybe, whenever ghosts answer these calls, they run the risk of getting caught in the parallel universe between the ghost world and the human world.
A couple of things to note here:
One is that the story went in a different direction than I expected, but I was still pleased with the results. I was imagining a more comical story, picturing these two ghosts together having a conversation about how annoying it is to get dragged to these stupid Oujia board seances that kids do. But it ended up a bit more serious/sad.
The second thing you’ll notice is that I knew the seance was taking place in Vermont and this was never mentioned in the story, but that’s okay. I believe it was Alan Watt in The 90-Day Novel who said we should be able to answer any questions about our characters, even if they don’t actually come up in the story.
Fun fact: I still have my Ouija board. Maybe it will spark further ideas for fiction fun!