Flash Fiction Challenge: The Four-Part Story (Part One)


Last week’s challenge: Sub-Genre Blender!

Together, we’re going to write a shedload of four-part stories.

And by we, I mean you.

Here’s how this works:

I want you to write 1/4 of a story — roughly, the beginning of it.

You have 1000 words.

Do not end this story. It is not a complete tale. Just its beginning.

You will post these 1000 words at your blog and link back here in the comments (<– that part is really quite essential this time) so that someone else next week can pick up where you left off in order to continue the story. And we will do this for the entire month of February. (And technically a little bit into March, too, because that’s how the calendar works.) This story is due by next Friday, 2/13, at noon EST.

Doesn’t matter what genre. You have free rein, here.

Just don’t finish the story.

Kay?

Kay.

Get to writing, and see you next week for PART TWO.


216 responses to “Flash Fiction Challenge: The Four-Part Story (Part One)”

      • So, I hate to ask this… But what was it that turned you away from this particular content? Was it the “infanticide” that occurred? Was it something else? To me, writing has always been a challenge of allowing your mind to go to places it has never been before. Allowing the mind to go where others will not follow has always been something I believe separates writers from, well, everyone else. We are here to push the boundaries of consciousness. This work, in particular, is to put the reader in the person’s mind while “things” are going on. And it is something we seem to have a great practice of NOT doing in our culture. So why not open Satan’s (not Pandora’s) Box and be the person who does these atrocious things so that we can get a “human’s” eye view of Hell? We like to think we are in a time of understanding, don’t we? Then why not push the boundaries of what that understanding is?

        • 100% agree with you. Boundaries are different for everyone based on many factors, and that’s also true and should be respected. I too only got through the first sentence but it’s nothing to do with your writing… just my boundaries and images that live in my mind that will stay there forever wouldn’t allow me to go further.

          There are a lot of stories that need to be told that I know I could never handle and someday I might write one that bumps against your boundaries, and again, that’s totally fine. Just keep doing your thing, telling your truth…

        • Damien, I think it’s not the perspective; I mean writing from the point of view of the perpetrator isn’t an entirely new thing (Agatha Christie did it and I’m sure other authors I haven’t read) or even a bad one per se but the nature of the crime here is something that’s really hard to get past.

          It’s horrible to write this down but in a way I think you’d have more of an audience if it was a teenager or an adult. Because unfortunately it’s become mainstream. That’s terrible but we’ve all seen numerous shows or movies about rape and the extent to which it can go. But this is a baby, and if there’s one thing most movies/shows try to avoid is show this type of crime. It’s a taboo.
          There’s something abhorrent about what you’re trying to address. And I don’t know that any parent or person who cares for children will be able to deal with that first paragraph.

          I’m not saying these horrible things don’t happen. In fact I’m fairly sure they do because mankind is ugly sometimes. And maybe it is necessary to address this matter in writing but, while I can’t speak for the other participants, I know that I’d have a hard time writing such a monster.
          I can’t even begin to imagine what brings someone to think about these acts and to act upon their thoughts.
          I did go to sentence #2 but I’ve just had breakfast and I’d like to keep it down so I stopped. But I thought you deserved an answer.

        • Writing from a killers POV has been done before and done well. (Geoffry Girard’s Cain’s Blood, for a more recent book) It takes a certain finesse. The author has to make the reader sympathize with the POV character in any story. That’s the goal, make us root for the character who’s head we are effectively living in and who’s life we are experiencing. By putting us in the head of a killer, the author has double—maybe triple—the work because killers, by definition of their own actions, make people hate them.

          There are ways to manipulate the reader into sympathizing with a killer (or any villain, really), but opening with the acts in this piece is just not one of those ways. It does the opposite. It shuts the reader down. Makes them hate the character and could possibly even run deeper purely based on the taboo nature of the opening. Killing an infant, in the way you did, you made sure that no parent will reader this. I certainly won’t.

          Build a character the reader can sympathize with even if it makes us feel wholly disgusting for doing so because it goes against everything our moral compass says is right, and then you’ll have something. Right now, the handeling of the story is lacking any finesse to make it work.

          • My reaction was pretty instant. Distaste. Obviously, a writer wants to grab a reader in the first few sentences. I was repulsed. Just not my cup of tea. Nice prose though, for the right audience it will be a great read. Cheers Hank.

          • Totally agree with the reasoning behind why this piece doesn’t work. I will point out though, there are books out there that you are absolutely not supposed to like the POV character (Lolita and Confederacy of Dunces come to mind instantly) but the purpose you keep reading is because they are fascinating or because it’s important to you to see really bad things happen to them.

            And Damien, you might have all these things in mind when writing, but by starting it the way you did, I fear the only people who will stomach it to reach that place are people who really get off on that sort of thing. Which yay, if that’s the niche market you’re shooting for, but I don’t imagine it’s many people in this challenge… though someone might take up the challenge of creating something redeemable about the character and good luck to them and yourself.

        • Damien,
          I don’t have a problem writing (or reading) about disturbing things. My first book was about teen mass suicide shooters. But my first thought with this piece was, “Why would I want to read about such a person?” Nothing about that character made me care to read about him further. He seems like a vile person and I don’t see much of why he’s a vile person. He seemed pretty one-dimensional as a psychopath, so in that sense I had no desire to read on and find out anymore. It just seemed like you wrote the most horrid situation you could think of.

        • Whenever I buy a cd and I look through the booklet, it no longer surprises me just how vile and disgusting lyrics can be. Necropedophilia is not news to me. If your inspiration comes not from this kind of music, do not feel obligated to listen to it; the music is as grim as the lyrics. I should say that I am not an expert on anything so don’t just take my word for it. If any of this makes sense to you, that’s what you take away from this. The rest you can just ignore. Either way, here’s my two cents.

          BUILD-UP. You can’t begin a horror movie with a jump scare. Likewise, you can’t begin a gruesome story with something so intense. Even if you catch the reader’s interest, nothing will ever scare them. They already know too well what to expect. Like all good stories, consider starting in a normal world and then either gradually or suddenly migrate to derangement. In the top menu you’ll see “Holy shit, free stories”. Click “This guy” and read just the first part.

          CONTRAST. If the content is really dry (no emotion), the violent images can be quite a bit to take in. You can balance this ugly, disgusting content out with an almost beautiful, even poetic form. You don’t even need sympathy to draw the reader in if you can present your words with such delicacy, and they will wonder why they want to read more. Look up the lyrics for Hideous Miscreation – Woven In Fragments Of Putrid Disgust. It doesn’t really work as a great poem but there are a few gems in there. “Twisting the layers of mentality” is one of those. The image is still very raw and ugly but it doesn’t scare the reader away. Even a philosophical point of view can help guide the reader through your story.

          CHALLENGING. Your story should still pack a punch. Don’t wrap everything in cute, pink bubbe-wrap. Challenge your reader! Again, philosophy can be a useful tool. If done right, you can leave the reader wondering if they’re truly sick for not being more opposed to what they just read. Challenging can even be what you did not write. Let people’s fantasies run wild.

          HUMOR. Humor can be used very effectively in almost any genre, even this one. Look up Massemord – Let The World End In Fire. “Only casualties are yet to be born. We’ll breed some more.” It is not funny per se but it reaks of sarcasm which, in this exact context, only serves to make it even more disturbing. You want your reader to believe not only that you can tell an evil story but that YOU and YOUR mind knows no mercy. Don’t be too forward about it, either. The monster truck commercial voice? Too obvious. The parenthetical note about where to cut a leg to not dull the knife, that’s more like it.

          BELIEVABILITY. If you can manage to create a believable character you can get away with a lot of brainwashing. I’ll quote a small passage that made me feel like you were trying to create a sense of depth in your character:
          “That’s too bad for them. I was hoping they would be pleased with it. Usually I just kill those that are displeased with my work. But this night I was feeling especially giving to those more unfortunate than I.”
          This almost falls into the category of “show, don’t tell.” It didn’t work for me. I felt like you were trying to convince me that this person is evil but he comes off very shallow. All humans have feelings and emotions, even crazy people – or, rather, especially crazy people. They act out of needs which makes them very human. Perhaps you can try to play off that to create deeply twisted AND deep characters.

          I hope at least some of this was of use to you. Good luck developing your macabre style. I think it’s great that you’re trying to push the limits even if it turns out your target audience is just a handful of people on this Earth. I think that’s bold.

        • I think the scene probably came too soon in this character’s story. As a writer, you started the bargaining process with the reader by presenting a violent sexual act against an infant. What the reader gathers from this interaction is the promise for more increasingly violent acts against infants in a similar manner. The reader has to decide whether they will brave more of these acts that could potentially become more gruesome than what you’ve just opened with. Following a serial killer involves trail & error and then escalates into more horrific acts. This character has not earned the reader’s curiosity enough to push through this appalling scene. You definitely have the right to open your story in any way you see fit, but you should also understand that others have the right to select other stories to continue the flash fiction challenge.

  1. […] Note: I’ve long wanted to participate in one of Chuck Wendig’s Friday Fiction Challenge, but somehow I never seem to have the time. This week, I’m a bit ahead of myself, and I decided to give it a shot. This on the 1st “fourth” of a story — which someone else should take up next week! If you want to play and see how it works, check out the rule here. […]

  2. Well, this is an easy one. I have dozens of stories I’ve started, gotten stuck on, and never finished(or even gotten to the dreaded middle of). I’ll pick out my favorite, and post a link to it here next week. I look forward to adding my digital blathering to some of y’alls

  3. Well, I think I see what your trying to do with “pushing the envelope.” But I’m not really sure most of us are ready to go where your going with this particular material. Most will have trouble adding to it,(I know I can’t) so perhaps something a little less controversial would be better for this particular challenge. I simply can’t come up with a death scene for your protagonist that is sufficiently horrible.

    • hey richard, check out your blog. this entry didn’t open for me. said “the page you’re looking for in this blog does not exist.” repost? anybody else have issues? thought I’d let you know.

      • Thanks, have taken my entry down but can’t work out how to delete my post here. Have contacted Chuck who presumably can. Felt I couldn’t participate with possible click through to some of the content.

  4. Hi Guys – for your consideration (970 words):

    Byron fidgeted as the fine red crystals stubbornly refused to melt in the dirty kitchen spoon. He twitched. It had been nearly three months since his last hit and he was jonesing, jonesing real bad. Deliveries from Haiti had been interrupted by yet another flood or quake or some political bullshit. He considered himself a humanitarian, a man of empathy, but for fuck’s sake, this had been a real fucking emergency.

    Eighty days since his last hit. It’d been eighty days since the last time he wrote anything.

    No novels. No short stories. No plays, no poems, no limericks, not even a fucking haiku. The words had started to squirm under his skin, twisting through his brain, constantly chewing, biting, eating at him like maggots feasting on roadkill. He’d seen punctuation and grammar hiding in his rose-hued piss, fonts and italics floating in large bloody black lumps in his vomit. He’d dreamed the maggot-words wanted to escape, and if he could only peel back his skin they would leap to the air on wings of parenthesis, leaving him a husk, a void, a blank page.

    …Continued at: https://uncertaintales.wordpress.com/2015/02/08/on-a-poet-did-the-baron-ride-to-xanadu-part-one-working-title/

    • Hello Momtojuju! I’m bookmarking yours. I’m gonna run with it and see what happens. I went to your site and did a little browsing. Loved SIlk Words and the idea of interactive romance fiction. That’s pretty innovative and so reminds me of those books I read when I was younger. I’m a major nube in the romance genre and may try my hand at that when I get a better handle on writing in this genre.

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