Flash Fiction Challenge: A Story In Three Sentences

Last week’s challenge: Superheroes Plus!

This week’s challenge is an old favorite — one that’s easy to describe, yet difficult in execution.

I want you to write a single story in three sentences.

Not a snapshot. Not a vignette. A complete story. Beginning, middle, and end.

Three sentences.

Easy to half-ass — but challenging to execute with elegance and power.

But, life’s too short not to give it a go, so: you are challenged.

*throws down glove*

*fires starting pistol*

*Tasers you or whatever*

Ahem.

The way to do this is easy:

Go to the comments below and write your three sentence story directly into a comment. Shorter is better than longer — if your story hits 100 words, you might wanna rethink the length.

Think about plot, rhythm, character.

Contained in the small package of three sentences.

I’ll pick an unnumbered handful of ones I like, and to those I dig, I’ll toss digital codes for all my writing-related e-books (with the exception of The Kick-Ass Writer, which is not mine to automatically distribute for free).

You get one entry only. Multiple entries disqualifies you.

Some loose suggestions:

Check your spelling.

Don’t be cliche.

Read other people’s entries so you don’t replicate them.

Write it in a word processor first. Give it edits before posting.

Do not settle for mediocrity.

The story is due by next Friday, August 1st, at noon EST.

WINNERS

Okay, the winners are (correct me if I have this wrong):

Momdude!

Ellsimp!

Andrew F. Butters!

Martin Wells!

Ryan Nolte!

You folks:

Email me at terribleminds at gmail dot com. Congrats!

396 comments

  • If you want to know about Deslar, I can put it brief and beautiful for ya, foreigner.

    There’s never been a greater hero; the man fought with honor, made million-man armies piss themselves, bested dragons and orcs and spirits, saved cities, bedded the most beautiful women, fathered the realm’s greatest living men, inspired justice, and gained the love and respect of this entire kingdom.

    Then, like all heroes and common folk alike, he died.

  • It had taken Rue fifty years to tell her side of the story, but at last she’d finished it – her work was finished. It was a good thing, too, because she was very nearly out of blood. She took one last, long look at the grimy stone walls of her cell, satisfaction dripping from her smile as her gory fingers ceased writing, knowing that freedom was finally hers, and closed her eyes.

  • Moira sat on her trembling father’s lap; they’re a trigger for his PTSD, but he knew she badly wanted to see the fireworks. At the first “whoosh,” she splayed her fingers wide, laughed, and poked him to join her in playing magician, instead of just enduring the munitions display. They conjured together until his rabbit-quick heart settled, and soothed her to sleep against his chest.

  • I always thought those people who stood on street corners and smelled like ripe cheese that ranted about the end of the world were, y’know, totally bonkers. When I woke this morning to a knock at my door and Death on my doorstep I started to believe maybe they weren’t so crazy after all…or that maybe I was.
    “Come with me,” Death said as he led me by the hand to survey all that was left of everything that I, and everyone else, had ever known: nothing.

  • “There was a maiden once, full of promise, who would dance with her only love beneath that very tree,” the crone said as we approached the willow in the the town of ghosts.

    The flames of sunset reflected in her angry eyes and my heart cracked. “Burn it all to the ground,” I told the others.

  • “I can hear them pounding on the armored door, begging me to “see reason” before it’s too late. But they know my reason well – they gave it to me on the day they took her. What they don’t know is that I’ve already entered the launch codes, and they have six minutes left.”

  • She clutched the vine, her toes jammed into the steep earth, her eyes on the circle of day waiting overhead. Before he’d return with the knives and pliers and sheets of plastic and cords of rope to pull her into the nightmare of wounded flesh and sliced skin, she’d escape, freedom an arm’s length away. With a pull, the vine snapped free, her body splashing the brackish water far below, lost once again among the forgotten bits of bone and cracked skulls.

  • He hit me in the face the next time, and I remember packing on the gray bedroom carpet. I can still feel the T-shirt clinging to my back while lugging the bag to the bus station through the rain. But my memory goes blank when I try to remember what it was that I did to him when I found him there, waiting in the car.

  • I looked him in the eye for the first time ever and felt the butterflies. His smile once full of light dimmed more every day. I break down every anniversary I place flowers at his grave.

  • Three crows cawed from the winter bared branches of the oak tree startled Caitlin as she caught their frightening augury. Shivering, she drew her cloak around her as she hurried away, ignoring their crazed warnings of impending death. The winged messengers disdained, she met the starved wolf that took her down by sinking his teeth into her tender flesh.

  • Ran-Ran huffed at being forced to participate in the Tall People’s ritual, but obeyed, lest they grow angry.

    Departing tearful Sally and her Dalmatian, Ran-Ran journeyed past the City of Color Block Skyscrapers, through the fields where Farmer MacDonald’s cows chewed cud, pausing once to handle the urgent task of burping Dolly, before arriving in the Chamber of the White Throne.

    After performing the silly ritual commanded by the Tall People, Ran-Ran pulled up her pull-up and announced “Done gone potty!” before toddling away to attend important matters.

  • Duke Styewalker journeyed for months with his friends, through asteroid fields, swamps, and frozen wastelands, to meet his father, Stark Naker. When finally they sat together at the Starrybucks for Sabrechinos, Stark came right out and shouted, “Duke, according to Maury, you are NOT my son!” Duke stormed away, covering his face with his hands, and so began the reign of Darth Bastard.

  • He lived both a thousand miles and twenty-three years away. That he was dying at thirty-eight without the courtesy of surprise and in the torture of degeneration completed her helplessness. Outside her window the rain fell, chilling the porch set she’d chosen with her husband to the temperature of regret.

  • “To keep this Roc you must stay pure of heart,” he said, “but you must also feed it the blood of someone you love, and it already ate your best friend.” The mystical bird was special beyond words, and I yearned to soar once again through the sky on its back.
    I sighed and shed a tear, then went to bid farewell to my son.

  • // Shimizu //

    They sent me here, into the woods to die, an old woman’s life for an extra portion of rice, ‘For the survival of the village’ they say. So easily they discard the past and forget, I hunted these slopes for a lifetime before marriage and children, before war and famine… they imagine me dead already, but my back is strong, my eyes sharp, my mind still quick, or quick enough. I remember my snares, and I still haven’t forgotten where the stream has its source, that fragile thread, lifeline for all men, and all women… let us see who will starve, and who survive.

  • I always thought I would never want to outlive our only son. Muscles straining, holding the knife bare inches from penetrating, I want nothing more than to do just that. The blade slides into his chest, and his mother’s screams tease of things to come.

  • The minty lavender scent of her essential oils wafts into my office five minutes before she does, rendering me helpless.
    “My wife smelled you on my shirt and kicked me out,” I say.
    She kisses me hard and says, “Then I’ve won.”

  • The angel stood, wingless, behind the safety rail of the bridge.
    George said, “I told you it’d be better this way,” and then jumped once again.
    The angel watched George fall into the frothy black water churning between the bridge’s footers, and this time, he didn’t follow.

  • Music never stood at the railing and wondered how it would feel to jump, she thought. It never fought until the neighbors called the cops—never cried or knitted sweaters in the summer to hide the bruises. If only she could hide in those mysterious symphonies she played at night and walk away instead of creeping further out…

  • July 25, 2014 at 10:05 PM // Reply

    The sun was setting as I climbed to the edge of the cliff; a breeze was picking at my clothes so I lifted my arms and let it pull me. My weight tipped forward, I fell. The wind caught me and filled my wings, I flew.

  • My burglary of the ramshackle deserted Victorian ended when the gazebo roof collapsed and tumbled me into the agony of a hanging cradle of snowy roses.

    Insects swarmed – mosquitoes, flies, maggots, ants – and at sundown on the second day, the crows arrived.

    ‘This sale is in the bag,’ the realtor thought as she trailed her clients up the drive, listening to their chatter and watching the wife coo over the incredible red roses.

  • The Apocalypse had come.

    Bounty Hunters were going from house to house killing anyone with the mark or the brand on their hand of what was known as ‘The Lord’s Symbol’ on them.

    Leonie looked down at her hand as it appeared on her hand and they started bashing down her door… her time had come to either let them kill her or die trying to survive them.

  • He had taken it as a personal and very literal challenge of sorts when she had told him to go fuck himself. It took him years of practice, of course, and a bit of trial and error as well as some rather embarrassing missteps along the way.

    But, goddammit, did it feel good when he finally had the opportunity to prove that he really had listened to her all those years ago.

    • Waitasec. I was all about ready to piss on this whole challenge thing ’cause I ain’t ready to envision any more trenchcoat wearing, bullshit, thousand yard stare, angels, fake heroes/heroins, and or crappy comic opera protaganists that are sooooooooo totally overused (yes, I mean your main character), when I read this f……ing post. Give. Me. More.

      • Seriously, if the words, ‘Bounty Hunter’, ‘Assassin’, ‘Secret Agent’, ‘Special Operative’, ‘Super-Powered’, ‘Survivor’, ‘Average Guy/Girl’, or especially ‘Vampire/Zombie Killer’ in any way, shape or form describe your protagonist then stop everything you’re doing and start the fuck over. If you have never once actually seen combat then you have no clue what the term ‘thousand yard stare’, ‘PTSD’, or even what the hell it means to shit yourself scared, much less take the life of another human being then please do not try to write about it. It’s no BS offensive, okay? Write what you know and if you are Billy/Mandy in the suburbs, who just loves vamps and Green Berets/SEALS and can’t wait to tell the awesome story of your childhood creation then you don’t fucking know. Please stop.

        • Laramie who is your comment above aimed at? Me? If so, well, you know, something? Piss off… I write and have been writing for over 20 years. Chuck said a 3-line story.

          So, I’m not good at doing 3-line stories…. it doesn’t give you grounds to piss on my parade nor does it give you grounds to tell me to fuck off.

          So, fuck you buddy and you can cram it with walnuts.

          • July 26, 2014 at 3:27 AM //

            Nope. Didn’t even read your post so maybe you have to ask yourself why you became so defensive. Just how, exactly, does one ‘cram it with walnuts’? Never heard that one before but I may use it.

    • I love the dramatic impact of the simplicity of the sentences, but I think I would have liked to see just a little more meat on the bone. Perhaps something that described the contrast in the way their crying differed? Just my humble opinion.

  • Maury entered the alley, clenching five twenties stolen from his mother’s purse.
    As he traded the money for ten tabs of Valium, he winced at the jab from the rib fractured by his father, courtesy of Jim Beam.
    When Dad imbibed tonight, he’d be dead drunk—permanently.

  • There is life and death, beginning and end, salvation and destruction, and they can all, on occasion, align and blur on the whim of chance. The two greatest people in history never met, but they did, on such a whim, unwittingly share in existence as he gasped and wheezed in his final hour and she wailed and cried out in her first. Though it cannot be disputed that one saved the world and that the other destroyed it, it is far from clear who played which role.

  • July 26, 2014 at 2:36 AM // Reply

    Breath in; Breath out. “The sky, so large, so inescapable, afire with hues is a thing of its own, yet a thing that changes is not a thing at all.” With an all-to-familiar lack of self-observation, he flippantly picked up a passing flower and began tearing at its pedals, lips wet and snarling, then looked around the street in a manic manner, she avoided those thoughts behind his tearing eyes;
    Racing, running, walking, sitting, lying, crying, dying….his thoughts quickly dripped from his mind until he was gone; “not a thing at all”.

  • I saw my younger brother coming down the stairs at an unreasonable hour for nine years old.
    “What are you doing down here?”
    He reached for the kindle fire on the dining table, ascend the stairs to his bed; then I also went to sleep.

  • Tens of thousands of children disappear without a trace in the U.S. each year, and Shea is one of them. In pursuit of her sister, Farrah stumbles upon a nexus where the lost are taken: The Nowhere – a void between spaces that feeds endlessly on the memories of humans. Enlisting the aid of a keeper of The Nowhere, Farrah rescues Shea and unravels the seams of the nexus, releasing the lost from their eternal prison.

  • I knew a guy who would spend hours upon hours forging the perfect playlist for every situation. Then his little girl died. Now he sets it to shuffle and lets it play.

  • “Happy Father’s Day” I said, quivering. Maybe if he hadn’t of mistaken me for mum again yesterday, I would have spared him. Instead, I clicked the trigger.

  • Alien Breakfast.

    The aliens landed and ate the humans for breakfast, ha,
    they should have waited until lunch, by which time the poison would’ve worn off.

    After the attack, the dead sat unburied outside, all day, all night – as the undead moved in the shadows, waiting for annihilation.

    Then the bomb dropped; war was declared and twenty million died, but before the dust had settled peace broke out, and the newspapers to rattled out the same old lies: “THE WAR TO END ALL WARS – “some hope”, I said to ma, “what’s for dinner?”

  • They were deaf and blind, but that didn’t dim their desire for each other. As they lay on their lawn, making love, she giggled. She had no way of knowing that the “refreshing breeze” she felt was, in fact, the precursor to a Grade-4 tornado minutes away from them.

  • My hands held the rich, dark, loam; the soil that was my salvation, providing sustenance after the reckoning. Here in my far North mountain home, I forged a new life, away from the chaos and violence; with like-minded people, I started anew. Bright flashes over the horizon, like the sun at daybreak, foretold a new darkening; the ash fell like snow, choking the sky and all beneath.

  • The Capital of Australia

    I am alone, spinning slowly in space, the ship a speck of light vanishing among the stars.
    But he was wrong.
    Everybody knows Sydney is not the capital of Australia.

  • He thought he had seen it all. Then she roundhoused him, swinging her left foot up and out like a huge axe, and between her smooth-as-silk legs he caught a glimpse of red pincers snapping at him as if he’d become a ravenous crustacean’s last supper. He walked away, hoping he’d never get an upskirt shot again.

  • Dementia had made her husband a cruel dichotomy: a child-man wearing only his navy blue windbreaker and socks.

    “You ate my goddamned chocolate-covered cherries, you fat pig,” he screamed and shoved her against the countertop.

    Dolores reached into the cupboard and retrieved the full box of confections, each lovingly stuffed with three oxycodone the night before.

  • It was time. John railed against the inevitable saying, “Look, he still wags his tail when he sees me.” But it was time, and they both knew it.

  • He wasn’t a bounty hunter, or an assassin, or even a super-powered suburban zombie killer, but goodgodamighty nobody KNEW, nobody could even IMAGINE, how he had managed to bring the power and pestilence of the internet all the way out here, to this wretched thatched hut at the end of the world. He inhaled deeply, eyes watering from the stench of crushed walnuts and kerosene, as he watched the cursor blink onscreen, timing itself in mocking harmony with the twisted, pulsing vein above his right eye. “Please stop,” he whispered, lighting a match and setting the computer aflame.

  • It was late and she was tired, but Kim had decided now that it was done, sort-of, she thought so, kind of, she would have to let go and release her creation to the betas. They would rip and tear and shred and cut but her darling dear child would be better, tougher…stronger for the beating.

    Breathing sacred life back into the entity once more, Kim would send it off again to the purveyors of written words, hoping that she had crafted it well enough to find a good home; yes, I, Kim Olgren, keeper of the mod pen monkey-ess tattoo, have just finished my first novel!

  • In that brief moment when her soul connected with the fragile body her mother had fought so hard to keep nourished and safe these past nine months, she felt thousands of years of knowledge fill her consciousness. She felt it fill her with a warm rush of familiarity as if she had witnessed this scene many times in life gone before. She struggled to hold on to the wisdom of ages but it slipped from her grasp as her first breath became her last.

  • Through the sweat, he could see them grinning at him, wicked and spiteful, knowing what was to befall him. Dread had him riveted in place afront the altar and, try as he might, his legs had not the strength nor the courage to carry him to freedom. Their leader walked towards him slowly, teasingly, and with ancient relics in hand he began: “We are gathered here today to witness one of life’s greatest moments…”

  • July 26, 2014 at 12:59 PM // Reply

    The tick of the mantle clock—tick___tick___tick—was what I noticed. It kept time with the tempo of my heart, with the rise and fall of his chest, with the blinks of his eyes as he stared. Blood coating the knife in my hand seeped to the floor next to him—drip, drip, drip—landing swifter than the sound of the ticks.

  • The pen was in his hand, he was ready to write. Disjointed thoughts clouded his mind, any semblance of a cohesive story fluttering away. He understood, now, that ‘writer’ was not another word for ‘slacker’.

  • It could be a loud-ticking clock somewhere, but this late at night, in the quiet, my house has a heartbeat. Well, when I first moved in, I told myself it could be- must be- a clock, before the walls started to scrape with crawling things that hum like glass over viola strings. Now the tha-thump tha-thump is in the wall next to my bed, and the shadows are starting to flare along my curling, tissue paper skin, and my bones have tuned themselves to be strummed, because, anyway, the house would never have let me leave.

  • She tightened her fingers in his hair, the silky strands strong against her touch, his head weighty in her hands. Looking into his wide blue-and-gold flecked eyes, she said:
    “So beautiful, I can almost see heaven in your eyes!”
    “Oh Christ Alice, did you have to behead the bastard – we’ll never get this blood off the carpet!” said her mother.

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