A Flash Fiction Challenge To Create A Flash Fiction Challenge



What I mean is, hey, once in a while someone emails me with an idea — “Hey, I think this would make a neat flash fiction challenge!” — and sometimes, that actually pans out. A lot of times, I fall asleep on my keyboard and accidentally delete your email. Sorry!

So, I thought, let’s streamline this process a little.

This week, your challenge is to come up with a flash fiction challenge.

Go to the comments.

Drop in a 100-word-or-less idea for a flash fiction challenge. If I like one and end up using it in the future, I’ll toss you some kind of prize — an e-book or e-book bundle or something. (And here’s where I am shameless and remind you that with coupon code ARTHARDERMF — which is to say, Art Harder, Motherfucker, not ARTHAR DERMF — you can get 25% off my gonzo writing e-book bundle, thus dropping the total cost for eight books down to $15. That coupon expires 6/23.)

(Oh, also — don’t forget the Awkward Author Photo contest runs till Tuesday.)

So, drop in your ideas — one per person, please, if you have it — into the comments below.

You’ve got one week: due by Friday, 6/26, noon EST.

(One more shameless plug: I’ll be at Seton Hill this Saturday, 6/27, in Western PA giving a big-ass writing talk if you care to hear me “Tell It Like It Is.”)

158 responses to “A Flash Fiction Challenge To Create A Flash Fiction Challenge”

  1. Write a flash fiction story about living with a chronic medical condition. This will include medicines, doctors, going to the ER, getting tests, whether you’re going to die or not, whether the medical condition is controllable or you need an operation (which can and will change your life). And yes, some – if not all – chronic medical illnesses/conditions become diseases and you’re not allowed alcohol, to drive a car, lifestyle drugs, to go nightclubbing or – sometimes – to have sex…

    There ya go…

      • This is also my life… a lot of people who live ‘normal’ lives don’t get chronic illnesses/diseases and how they change people’s lives… so how better to show how it does than to write it?

  2. Random Main Character/Scenario Mashup

    Use your 6-sided die or a random number generator to match up the following main character with a scenario that he or she must somehow encounter within your story. Kudos for the most creative twist.

    Main Characters
    1. A chihuahua
    2. An 80s stock broker
    3. A hummingbird
    4. A girl scout
    5. A zebra colt
    6. A katydid

    1. Goes on a quest to find him/herself
    2. Learns the flamenco
    3. Goes on a killing spree
    4. Builds a microbrewery
    5. Gets in trouble in class
    6. Betrays the government

  3. Ocean’s Eleven: The Heist Flash Fiction

    You are presented with a list of skills (safe cracker, card shark, pickpocket, hypnotist, etc). Choose one to start the story.

    Week 1: Write up the first part of the story from the POV of one con artist and how they fulfill their part of the job. Also, create a dilemma for the next writer to overcome.

    Subsequent weeks: Other writers pick up the story and introduce new specialists, and how they aid in the completion of the job. Or, how they set up a little double cross. . .

  4. Flash Fiction Challenge: Fright to the Death

    The Shining, Poe’s Telltale Heart, Lovely Bones, Hamlet, A Christmas Carol, The Turn of the Screw…. Err… Pacman…? All tales featuring great spirits – and no I don’t mean that oak-aged Bourbon you’ve stashed behind the oil can in the garage.

    So this weeks’ FFC – 1500 words to write a ghost story. Scary, funny, romantic, sf, fantasy, gothic, fleshpunk, splattercore – you choose the genre, but the story must feature a ghost.

  5. Flash Fiction Challenge: Cogita Ergo Animal

    A single animal achieves full intelligence and self-awareness through any means – science, magic, unknown. What does it do? How does its life change? Is it a blessing or a curse? Comedy or Tragedy?

    You have up to 1500 words to tell this animal’s story.

  6. Once Upon A Time challenge. 1500 words. Any genre. Pick a fairy tale and retell it from the POV of a minor character. Additional challenge: add diversity. Use a fairy tale from someplace other than western Europe.

  7. Ooooh, sounds like a challenge! Lemme see *clunking noise as brain switches on*

    Okay, here’s 10 genres: 1. Gothic Horror, 2. Urban Fantasy, 3. Paranormal Romance, 4. Steampunk, 6. Sci-fi, 7. Grimdark, 8. Dystopian, 9. Alternative History, 10. Crime Thriller.

    Pick one.

    Then, for the Protagonist of your story, pick one of the following: 1. A cute, fluffy kitten, 2. A Teletubby, 3. A Unicorn, 4. A sentient Furby, 5. A My Little Pony, 6. A Disney Princess, 7. A character from The Simpsons cartoons, 8. A sentient fruit or vegetable, 9. A sentient household appliance, 10. A ‘mascot’ character from a product commercial (i.e. Ronald McDonald for McDonalds, Tony the Tiger for Kelloggs Frosties.)

    Let weirdness commence. 😉

    • …Aaaaand, I’ll add in number 5 for the genres now, seeing as I missed it first time around *blush.* 5. Action-adventure.

      Oh, and I’d let you have 1500 words for it too.

      • George R.R. Martin-esque, really – basically anything where anyone and everyone can and does die or suffer quite horribly at roughly ten-minute intervals. Or sooner.

        (Sorry George and HBO, but you KNOW it’s the truth.)

        • Grimdark
          1. An adjective taken from the root words of grim and darkness, both of which are featured in the tagline for Warhammer 40,000: “In the grim darkness of the far future there is only war.” It is usually used to describe a setting that would equal poor living conditions and life expectancies for those actually living in it-urban dictionary

          GRRM & HBO may be the most well known at the moment, but grimdark is more than just GoT

          • JQ’s description is the more accurate one, lizaskew. Mine was the flippant version. 🙂 You’d probably be better going with the former rather than the latter.

            And my apologies for being flippant about GoT, JQ. 🙂

  8. Sometimes you can’t top real life

    Choose a news story from this week (bonus if you use one from your local news but if that makes you uncomfortable national is fine.) Then choose one of the following genres:

    1 steam/diesel/cyberpunk
    2 dystopian
    3 paranormal romance
    4 horror
    5 comic fantasy
    6 gritty grown-up fairytale

    Now use that news bit as the foundation of a 1000 word story.

    • I actually don’t like this at all. I’ve tried it several times and the stories always turn out awful. They end up coming off as me trying to make a dramatic point about reality that was better made by simply watching the news story . . . But, maybe that’s just me. Could work for someone else.

      • I remember reading an article/interview with Carl Haiisen that actually had a point similar to yours. I think he said that he draws points from the news but sometimes what happens in real life is so outrageous that even he can’t beat it. I guess sometimes the challenge is picking the right story??? Ha-ha anyway the article is a good read. I think it was in the NYT.

  9. Pick one of the following words to serve as a major part for your 1000 or less word story. This word could either be incorporated into the theme, repeated over and over, have some sort of symbolism, etc.
    1. Apple
    2. Dolphin
    3. Juice
    4. Present
    5. Cotton-ball
    6. Pop- tarts
    7. Lettuce
    8. underwear
    9. Chicken Nugget
    10. Candy

    The twist, though, is that the genre must be horror. You must take one of these (hopefully) non-scary words and stitch them into a frightening tale.

  10. a conversation piece: write out a story that revolves around a conversation between two people who were previously strangers to each other. Some examples:
    A woman and the thief who hijacks her car
    a man who can’t get the kid in front of him at the grocery store to stop talking to him
    the guy next to you on the plane holding a locked brief case

  11. You know the classic film pitch, “It’s like X meets Y”? Do that, except…remove the like. Not “It’s like Indiana Jones meets Pretty Woman.” Instead, “Indiana Jones meets Pretty Woman.” Instead of “It’s like Aliens meets The Grapes of Wrath”, the Joads are fighting off Xenomorphs…or offering them mother’s milk. Could go either way. You chose the X and the Y. Go!

  12. Post a song or music video, and the challenge is to write the story using the song in some way (lyrics, genre, artist, melody, title, music video, whatever it makes the person think/feel etc.) as inpsiration.

  13. ‘The Dialogue Challenge’
    1000-2000 words of dialogue without any descriptions. Just dialogues to complete the story. That’s the challenge. For eg.
    X: “Hey that’s a great looking diaper bag!”
    Y: “Thanks. I got it from your mom.”
    You can ignore the X’s and Y’s while counting the words, but that might get confusing so it’s really up to you.
    To make it more interesting… X and Y will be from two different genres. X might be a wizard and Y might be a detective from the 1940s.
    Have fun.

  14. Write a flash fiction piece of 1,000 words or less of horror that personifies a math problem (i.e. a man buying 46 watermelons amidst a disaster; trains barreling towards each other at different velocities).

  15. Wow, you guys are on fire! Not literally, no, but there are some really good ideas here. I had trouble coming up with something but finally had an idea this morning, when trying to find inspiration for another piece of flash for a collection. Here you go.

    Go to your Facebook wall and take the first sentence of the first post. Replace any real-person names with fictional ones and use that sentence to start your next story.

    Variation: “use that sentence in your next story.”
    Variation: “Go to your Facebook wall and use the first picture posted to your wall as inspiration for your story.”

  16. Go to your twitter feed,(if you don’t have one get one first) choose the first two tweets that catch your eye and use them in a story up to 1000 words in length.
    One tweet as your beginning sentence.
    One at the end.

  17. Hidden meanings – write a story of 1,000 words or less, where there must be some sort of hidden, secondary story within the text of the main plot. An example could be a story written as a letter to someone, while having the first words of every sentence, strung together, forming a completely different message, to get around censorship. It is your choice to reveal the means to find the hidden message in your story or let the reader figure it out themselves.

  18. Remember that first story you ever wrote? I do. Or if it wasn’t the first, then the first that made you think “oh, yeah. I can do this!” I was in fourth grade. The story grabbed me and ran away with me. And when it was returned to me by the teacher (yes, my writing obsession began with a homework assignment) the response (A++) thrilled me to my core. I want that excitement back! I want that A++!
    Rewrite your first ever story. Make it new, but stay loyal to the original idea.

  19. Write a dream. Not the kind of dream which ends with a thinly veiled infodump or is just a metaphor for a real life situation in the dreamer’s life. That doesn’t mean the dream can’t further a story, but it should be something that really catches the non-nonsensicalness and incoherence of dreams. Heavy symbolism should be used sparingly, if at all.

  20. I realize I’m a bit late for this and it might have already been suggested but here goes.

    Write a 1000 word story in which your main character is anything but a person. I can be an inanimate object, an animal, a plant, the ground…anything. (no intelligent alien species) Your main character may or may not interact with people as long as it is not a person itself. That’s all I got.

  21. Write a slasher flash fiction with the following character archetypes in 1000 words or less. Inspired by the movie The Cabin n the Woods.

    1. The Virgin
    2. The Scholar
    3. The Whore
    4. The Fool
    5. The Athlete
    6. The Killer

  22. In the spirit of whothefuckismydndcharacter.com…

    Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to use this Random Adventure Generator (http://donjon.bin.sh/fantasy/adventure/) to create your prompt. You may use as much of it as you like, but you must at least use the Theme, the Story Hook, and the Climax. Minor modification is, of course, allowed. You have 2000 words or less.

  23. Missed Connections….

    Based on the craigslist/newspaper column around a character wanting to reconnect with a stranger they saw/met briefly. Only constraint is that it can’t be a simple “I saw you standing at the bus stop” encounter. Make it interesting. You have 1000 words.

  24. Subject: A delivery truck driver who occasionally distributes packages to the wrong addresses. However, the recipients usually don’t mind and rarely complain because they always receive what they need as opposed to what they thought they wanted.
    Challenge: Write a 1500 word story about two specific beneficiaries of the driver’s supposed ineptitude (or sixth sense–your choice) that leads to a confrontation between the three people involved.

  25. Take the characters you’ve used in a previous story, or characters you’ve been thinking about but haven’t yet set to story, and drop them into an entirely different genre. Oh, Mistress Eliza was your steampunk erotica vixen? Now she’s wearing a jumpsuit and making life-or-death calculations on a multi-generational star ship headed to the edge of the galaxy.

    The goal is to keep the same basic character personality, but see what your character/characters will do in a new situation.

  26. The Lyttle Lytton Contest runs every year over at Adam Cadre’s homepage:


    Each year, entrants compete to write an opening to an imaginary novel so hilariously bad that no reader in their right mind would continue to finish the book. Unlike the similar Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest, where entries are typically incredibly long, the focus is on brevity – each entry must be no longer than 200 characters.

    Your task is to choose an entry from those mentioned on the contest page – from any year, and in any category – and use it to start a short story.

    You have 1,500 words.

  27. The Notorious Biggie Shorts!

    What happens when I say, “Wendig, Wendig, Wendig”, in a dark room while facing a mirror at three A.M.?
    Creepy apparitions! Nothing inspires the imagination and chill factor like a local confabulation.

    From hitch–hiking departed to repeating names in front of a mirror in the dark, urban legends abound.

    The challenge:

    Find one on one of the many urban legends on the net, pick one, and write a story in first person, past or present tense.

    Inspiring minds want to know.

    Are you the legend?

  28. Write an opening chapter using this story generator: http://writingexercises.co.uk/plotgenerator.php. Do not write a conclusion; leave the story at a cliffhanger and give the reader three options on how to proceed. Authors can then pick an option and follow it through, leaving options again at the end of the 1000 words, etc, etc, thereby creating a rather marvelous choose-your-own-adventure chain.

  29. Stephen King once said that one of the challenges he enjoyed about writing the first chapter of THE GUNSLINGER was that the story was told in reverse. Roland is travelling across the desert pursuing the man in black when he meets a man named Brown at Brown’s lonely hut. Roland then proceeds to tell Brown what happened in Tull, the town he just came from. In Tull he learned about what happened before he got there, when the man in black got there first.

    We’ve seen backwards storytelling before, most notably in MEMENTO, a mind-fuck of a film if ever there was one.

    Your challenge is to write a flash fiction piece, but to tell the story in reverse. I don’t want to give you too many rules around structure, how you tell it is your call. But if you only have two scenes and you tell the second chronological scene first, yeah, I suppose that’s backwards, but it’s only two scenes, so how hard was it? Then again, if in the space of two pages you give us twenty scenes, then, well, my head might explode.

    So let’s say that your flash fiction piece has to have at least three scenes and no more than ten. And you have to tell the story backwards. And because this could be a tough one, let’s go with a 2000 words maximum.

    Have at it.

  30. One of my favorite movies (and board games) is Clue. In the spirit of that masterpiece, write a murder mystery with multiple suspects featuring a room from list A and a weapon from list B.

    A) bathroom B) toothbrush
    basement jump rope
    attic Grandma’s brooch
    pantry canned food
    office hole punch
    garage screwdriver

    You have 2000 words

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