Friday, March 06, 2020

The Save Me From My Reading Flash Fiction contest

I've been reading my face off this past week, some really good material!
But now, I'm in need of a burst of amazing, so it's time for a Flash Fiction Contest!

The usual rules apply:

1. Write a story using 100 words or fewer.

2. Use these words in the story:


Note: There are only four. I don't know why I did this. Clearly I'm losing what few wits I have left.

To compete for the Steve Forti Deft Use of Prompt Words prize (or if you are Steve Forti) you must also use: mise-en-scene

3. You must use the whole word, but that whole word can be part of a larger word. The letters for the prompt must appear in consecutive order. They cannot be backwards.

4. Post the entry in the comment column of THIS blog post.

5. One entry per person. If you need a mulligan (a do-over) erase your entry and post again. It helps to work out your entry first, then post.

6. International entries are allowed, but prizes may vary for international addresses.

7. Titles count as part of the word count (you don't need a title)

8. Under no circumstances should you tweet anything about your particular entry to me. Example: "Hope you like my entry about Felix Buttonweezer!" This is grounds for disqualification.

9. There are no circumstances in which it is ok to ask for feedback from ME on your contest entry. NONE. (You can however discuss your entry with the commenters in the comment trail...just leave me out of it.)

10. It's ok to tweet about the contest generally.

Example: "I just entered the flash fiction contest on Janet's blog and I didn't even get a lousy t-shirt"

11. Please do not post anything but contest entries. (Not for example "I love Felix Buttonweezer's entry!")

12. You agree that your contest entry can remain posted on the blog for the life of the blog. In other words, you can't later ask me to delete the entry and any comments about the entry at a later date.

13. The stories must be self-contained. That is: do not include links or footnotes to explain any part of the story. Those extras will not be considered part of the story.

Contest opens: Saturday March 7, 4:25am

Contest closes: Sunday, March 8, 9:00am

If you're wondering how what time it is in NYC right now, here's the clock

If you'd like to see the entries that have won previous contests, there's an .xls spread sheet here

(Thanks to Colin Smith for organizing and maintaining this!)

Questions? Tweet to me @Janet_Reid

Ready? SET?

Not yet! 
Sorry, too late.
Contest closed.


Alyssa R said...

Wait! Come back!

You stop, turn.

Don't you know not to judge a book by its cover? A plain jacket can hide an exciting plot twist.

Turn the page. I don't bite.

Your pace picks up, but you're going the wrong way. Come back! You can't leave! No! Don't leave me here. You're the first since I came here to heed me. So few people read anymore.

...I'll try again. Books are made to be read, so I'll find someone to read me. You'll see. I just need the right person to bring my tale alive again.

Steve Forti said...

“I wanna see his literary mise-en-scene, how the prompts are arranged in his word play.”

“Yeah, like, where will he start? What’s the first word on the page?”

“Ooh, it’s posted. What’s it say?”

Plot twist: He forgot to use “pace”.”


“Nah, just kidding. It’s copacetic. Bet I made Janet wistful for that momentary false hope, though.”

“That wasn’t very nice. Keep that up, you’re like to end as a messy red splotch if her temper’s up.”

“Mea culpa. Get back to the story.”

“Can’t. It’s already over.”

“Huh. Well, ain’t that anticlimactic.”

Kregger said...

My evil twin rang the stage at dress rehearsal. “Bomb on mise-en-scène.”

Pacing, the director turned the page.

“Who plotted a twist without telling me!?”

A stage “dude” strode forth, a paper-brown box-en-hand.

Actors aghast, eyebrows high, and fingertips to lips.

The actor dropped the box.


Actors shuffled back once…twice…throwing up their hands (you should try it sometime, bleech).

End act one.


Standing from afar, I watched a fireball light the low-hanging clouds.

I turned to my doppelganger as she giggled with delight.

“I told you. With your lisp, they’d never understand mezzanine.”

She turned in shock. “What lissp?”

Lisa Bodenheim said...

My legs knock a pan off the stovetop. Liquid pools the floor, splatters me, her pants.

“Why?” She dumps me into all that wetness. “There’s no food there.”

From that miserable mise-en-scene, she grabs me and forces me into the undersized crate. Again.

I twist but the bars are already locked in place. I dry off paws and settle for a nap, acerbic words, plots, and pages running amok in my brain. Above me that obnoxious tick-tick-tick-tick-rinnnnnnng timer goes at it.

What’s the big deal? All I want is to get to the top of the fridge.

NLiu said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Claire Bobrow said...

Henry clutched the Oscar,
heart going rat-a-tat,
mind whizzing warp speed.
Now everyone would be chasing him.

What a twist,
like the grapefruit peel in his ridiculous cocktail.

The studio had known how to throw a victory party -
Best Picture!
And a curveball.
Charlotte, his producer, cornered him behind a potted palm,
looking potted herself.

“The plot thickens, darling. The studio wants someone else for the sequel.”

So, like any good director, Henry accelerated the pace.
“How smashing.”
WHAM! The statuette ricocheted off Charlotte’s head.

Cameras clicked. Pagers buzzed.
Recognition at last!
After all, his mise-en-scene had been perfection.

rea said...


Meet me in San Sebastian. I’m leaving the Maria Cristina for our small hotel in the twisted streets of Old Town, the one with the dark-timbered restaurant below ground. Serviceable, discreet. The mise-en-scene’s irrelevant—we’ll never leave our room.

You should know that I’m leaving my lover in the hotel suite at the Maria Cristina. An American, he’s writing a story about me, I know it. Periodically introducing plot points. But the pace is slow and I’ve grown tired—that never changes, the growing tired of men. But not you.

Meet me in San Sebastian.


S.D.King said...

“Me, too.”

Nods around the circle.

“Me, too. I was 12.”

Six inmates - Rikers Island. Tough women. Little girls robbed of trust. Of hope. Of future.

Janice stood guard as the weekly GED Study Group got off topic again. She liked these women.

“I’d plot a Lorena Bobbitt if I got my hands on the bastard.”


“Actually any raping bastard. Even Cosby or Spacey.”

“Preach it, girl.”

Janice understands- she still can’t even pee without drippage – broken beer bottle.

“You hear a famous twisted bastard’s in the men’s cellblock?”

Janice knew the cell number.

“Me, too,” she whispered.

Megan V said...

Mother always said the good ones were difficult to catch.
Doctors were best of course, but a lawyer would do.
“Make it seem natural,” she said.
Paint a pretty picture. Don’t let anyone suspect.
So I fell into his lap—twisted ankle—and we talked.
Soon it was dinner.
Kisses in the rain.
Weekends at the beach.
Wedding bells.
Then buzzing pagers; working late.
Hemp lotion.
Space in bed.
Until one night, he dropped cold.
The cops observed the mise-en-scène, but found a different scène à faire than me. (Heart attack.)
Turns out, mother gave good advice after all.

Matt Krizan said...

“The Plot Thickens!”

“Twist The Knife!”

The old friends greet each other warmly, regaling one another with stories they’ve been in. From the far end of the table, A Snail’s Pace glowers at them.

“I thought they weren’t bringing him back,” mutters Plot.

Knife shrugs. “Can’t have one of these without him.”

“I guess.”

The moderator approaches. “Anyone seen On The Same Page? No? Well, we can’t wait any longer.”

They settle in next to the moderator, who taps on her microphone, asks everyone to please take their seats. “Welcome,” she says, “to today’s panel discussion on clichés in literature…”

Jennifer Mugrage said...

Twisting with horrible slowness, I regretted signing up. My least favorite sim games – and, in fact, adventures of any kind – were set in space. But time had been running out to participate, and I hadn’t dared to browse the selections on the next page.

In mere minutes, I was adrift far from ship or planet. Clearly this was not part of the main plot.

I raised admin on my suit’s radio.

“Hey, I’ve obviously lost. Why aren’t you booting me out of the game?”

“Don’t you players ever read the waiver before you sign it? This is not a simulation.”

Lora Senf said...

Always known there’s a space.

And a door.

Between There and Here, I mean.

Momma said, “Careful, baby – what’s There’s where it belongs. Got no business Here. Not anymore.”

Did my best to mind, but turns out it’s me that’s bridging.

Plotted to open it a crack - barely enough to slip a page – to see the light poke through. Figured, There must be a whole lot brighter’n Here.

Turns out it don’t abide partway. That door flew wide and wasn’t no light There. I ‘tribute it to folks being all twisted up and mostly dark inside.

Shoulda minded Momma.

Kate Outhwaite said...

I lie awake and plot our end. I slip from bed and pace the corridors in search of clarity.

I could lift the mask and cover your face. Would you struggle? Is there enough of you left to twist and thrash as the oxygen drops? Would it trigger alerts and pagers before I was done? And what then of me?

Perhaps a razor instead? Your wrists, then mine and we ooze away in some agonising, bloody mise-en-scene?

Returning to the room I am no wiser. A coward still, my promise stays broken. I kiss your hand and beg forgiveness again.

Jenn Griffin said...

His knickers were twisted, the pain acute. The need for a pacemaker loomed.

Blame it on a torrid seduction, a languid wave towards stacked pages in desperate need of ingenuity. “Joey’s young, but follows directions well,” promised his lover.

New town. Opening night. Chaos ruled the stage, set pieces piled atop one another.

The play was doomed. He plotted several means of death—curtains down, lights out—for Enrique’s last-minute replacement.

A murmur swept through the theatre as Joey, brown lunch sack in hand, rushed in. “Here’s your miso soup!”

Note: never use jargon with a video gamer.

french sojourn said...

Her words hit him like a poleaxe to the gut.

She has the nerve to stand there in all her pageantry and look so smug. How could she mention my sickness in front of everyone? Why? I’m seeing a therapist… you money-grubbing cheese eater. Damn, now you’re bringing up my health.

But he, Walter Mitty, stood there and took it. Turn the page, be the better person.

Even more twisted, now she’s going on about my death…plotting it in front of all these people.

The minister turned, smiled, and said, “I now pronounce you, man and wife.”

Colin Smith said...

One. Two. Three paces. I set the chair down. Looks about right. And the end table goes next to the chair.

I grab a magazine from our room and turn to a page about hiking. After all, that was her favorite alibi. I fold it open and put it on the table.

The empty lime box is still on the mantle. I throw a few logs on the fireplace and kindle some embers, enough to turn cardboard to ashes.

Wipe small splotches from the poker.

A quick twist of the rug, and we’re done.

Four hours, then call missing persons.

Steph Ellis said...

The page showed his route, plotted and paced out. The aisles beckoned, his trolley was empty, his guts roiled. Speed was of the essence. The doors parted and he shot inside, the mob at his heels, twisting after him as he hurtled ahead. They all wanted the same thing. 2 ply or 4 ply, they didn’t care, they needed loo rolls and they needed them bad – and so did he. On cue, his stomach groaned, the laxative took effect and his bowels let go. Everyone backed away. Walking awkwardly, he filled his trolley and left without any trouble. Mission accomplished.

Craig F said...

We seemed to be happy when we were poor. Then the plot twisted and my business took off. The pace of our life changed as I had to spend a lot of nights away.

I thought her jealous as her acrimony turned the page on our relationship. Then I started to notice the lies. Calling her out on them caused her to lose control. She came at me with a frying pan and I kicked her legs out from under her.

“Then, officer, she hit her head on the edge of the table”

Timothy Lowe said...

Digging for Grandpa required a treasure map. Luckily, Grandma left one.

“Twisted,” said Desiree.

“That’s Grammy.” I peered at the page. “Always with a sense of humor.”

We wound through thickets, splashed through streams, shovels in hand.

“Fitting payback for a lifetime of philandering,” she said. “But how did she know it would--?”

“He had a pacemaker put in. Next week, he went missing. Here we are.”

The mise-en-scene described in Grammy’s will: a rotten garter, a set of scarlet pumps, a wisp of gauze shrouding the shallow mound.

Desiree wouldn’t stop laughing.

“What’s so funny?”

“Sex marks the plot.”

Katelyn Y. said...

They’re silent when I finish. Finally, Tolkien speaks. “It’s not bad. Just… take more space. The more words, the better.”

Odd. Heaven shouldn’t have criticism. “It’s… a short story.”

“Exactly. Short on plot and allegory.” Lewis, nodding solemnly. “Though I liked that twist with the lion on page nine.”

“There’s not…” This can’t be Hell. I didn’t do enough for that, did I? “I think you misread – ”

“Atrocious ending too,” says Christie. “I’ve no idea who murdered whom.”


“Exactly.” Tolkien pats my shoulder. “Just rewrite, add fifty pages, and we’ll talk tomorrow.”

Oh. Purgatory. Fair enough.

Lee Nire said...

Jack paced before the cemetery plot in the fading sunlight. The musky earth scent blended with wisteria that cascaded over a wrought iron fence.

“The final page—her suicide.” His stomach twisted in familiar dread. “How does she die?” He glanced about, suppressing a shaky laugh.

His macabre mise-en-scene of inspiration was nothing more than a serene garden of tranquility. With an empty hole.

Backing away, defeated, he didn’t hear the stray dog slaloming the graves.


Apologetic licks on his cheek woke him. Eureka! She doesn’t kill herself...she adopts a dog. Heartbreak perfectly thwarted.

“Good doggy.”

Tiggergramma said...

There, in the midst of her perfect mise-en-scene, stood the Plott Hound from Hell with a mouth full of velvet waistcoat, dripping stagnant pond water on her precious Persian. Lady Cuppage screamed with all the outrage of a wheezy old concertina and threw the pot wisteria at him. It landed miserably close to her own feet.

The hound dropped the velvet while focusing on his real prize, the carapace of a tortoise. He watched the Lady as she slowly realized where she had seen the waistcoat last.

Her son wasn't nearly as interesting as the tortoise shell.

Amanda said...

The scene hadn’t been laid in fair Verona. I’d set my own mise-en-scene in the City of Angels. I paced the floor, my brain felt more twisted than the drama planted in the plot. I scrutinized my latest passage, pen between my teeth. Vague as a cheater’s promise to be faithful. I sighed and opened to a page of Flea’s Acid For The Children. The imagery of his words snapped a Polaroid of his tumultuous life there in the ‘70s. Eureka! The glorious feeling of sudden inspiration seemed to spurt out of me like water from a fountain.

NLiu said...

"Once upon a time there was a dastardly pirate captain--"

"Daddy, what's dar-ser-dee?"

He scratches his beard. "Uh, handsome and brave."

Daisy snuggles up to him.

"And the Queen of Misery--"


"Made everyone sad."

Daisy nods. She knows.

"...Took his daughter. So he plotted to rescue her - and Page, her dog."

A furry head appears over the edge of the bunk. Daisy strokes it and smiles. This is her favourite bit.


The door bangs. "Captain! Ships ahoy!"

He rises, paces to a porthole, unfolds his telescope.

The Queen's navy.


Daisy's mother.

Always the twist in his tale.

Michael Seese said...

"I'm leaving."

Her "farewell," delivered after-the-fact—via text—confirmed what I'd long known. That in Darcy's Theater Of The Absurd, my role was little more than the mise-en-scene. Verily, Darcy had turned the page on our relationship somewhere between her byline and the (overly) dramatis personæ, with countless props from her private performances meeting shattered demises against a wall or the sidewalk below, while she recited her life from its hackneyed script.

"I need more."

"I have no space."

Of course, plotlines should wrap with a twist, though in this case, twenty.

Specifically, the lug nuts on her brand-new Porsche.

Cipher said...

My eyes rolled in time with the thud of music. Oblivious human groupies swaying behind me. Cause strobe-lights and Michael Bolton? Not exactly…going the distance.
Leaning over the bar, I cupped my mouth. “No, Paige. Like page.”
Smiling the bartender, not a merit scholarship lot, whose muscles were more suited to spandex and iron than vermouth, gave my martini over.
“No, thanks.” Gripping glass, I took my—very—needed drink. Slugging it down, I pulled my silver pistol and took aim.
Because as for the undead lead singer of this cover band?
Forever would be enough.

Sunnygoetze said...

Marcel Marceau

His face with grace would plot his pace
His silence twist the page
From stage to screen
An actor's feen
Marceau, Mise en scene!

Linda Shantz said...

Hang the painting in the shadows behind the table.

Set the props on the table like plot points on a page, twisting the eye through the composition. Vase, bottle of Merlot, newspaper.

Position one hand on the base of the wine glass, the other on the newsprint page. Smile up at him, but don’t expect a reaction.

Three paces back, frame the mise-en-scène with the viewfinder. Click. Shake out the polaroid, admiring it while it develops. A souvenir.

His hand slips. Clunk. He never should have fired you.

Mallory Love said...

“Let travel through space and time.
Plot our way through the universe.”
The young guy sang my lyrics to me.
“You’re a legend. Can I get an autograph?” He ripped a page from his notebook.
It’s rare nowadays to be recognized as a geriatric rock star.
Rarer still to get an album sale. Tours? Forget about it.
“How about a picture instead?” I suggested.
To most kids his age, I’d just be another old man on the street.
I’m flattered he noticed me.
The twisted thing was he’d never suspect me when he later realized his wallet was missing.

John Davis Frain said...

Frain, creature of habit, hit the jukebox for Friday night inspiration. The Jackson 4 record dropped. Jammed. He shook and twisted the machine. No music. No inspiration.

He’d try again Saturday.

When he woke, none of his four senses seemed to function. He flushed his flash.

Sunday arrived with the same result. He stared into space.

“Hey, V.” He showed his wife his entry, nary a splotch on the page. “I plead the fourth. Nothing’s working.”

“She gave you fewer constraints, yet it’s harder?”

“Nobody understands writers.”

V gave him a high-four, pinky lost years earlier in a motorcycle accident.

C. Dan Castro said...

The promoter smiled. Feral. “And then?”

“Our hero flees with the Speck. But...plot twist! Monkeys steal the Speck. Give it to an eagle which loses the Speck in a clover field. Hero finds it, but other animals pounce. Tie him up. Threaten to destroy the Speck.”

“Then he gets them to hear a what?”

“A who.”

Feral laughs. “Feels like Abbott and Costello.”

“It’s a page turner. For a children’s book.”

“Yeah, fast paced. Ted, it’s ‘54. Commies everywhere. Make the eagle a vulture, giv’im a Ruskie name like Vlad, and I’ll see citizens hear about Horton hearing his Who.”

Johnell said...

Bartelby paced the tunnel floor, a mise-en-scene for many failed take-overs. A familiar sound squelched up the corridor. Agatha’s signature decoupaged Wellingtons hit the torchlight first. The Guy Fawkes image shellacked across her toe brazenly signaled who she was.
“This is twisted, Agatha! Don’t do it.”
“Oh, Barty. Always the Marplot.”
Agatha dropped her cargo. “Would you prefer I use dynamite?”
“No, but stockpiling the world’s TP, at a time like this?
“Genius isn’t it. She who controls the toilet paper controls the world. I wish I’d thought of it sooner.”
Agatha’s laugh echoed down the corridor.

Casual-T said...

Fog oozed across the pier like an ocean of milk suffering from severe personality disorder.

"It'd help lots if you'd dispose of the body," said Vanderbilt, peering at the semi-seen scene with a twisted, uncertain grin.

"What I'm s'posed to do 'bout it?"

"Listen, it's a pretty hip age we're living in, but not hip enough for blatant murder."

"He should'na had that crap ace up his sleeve."

"And you shouldn't have had that knife up yours."

"Alright, I'll handle it—Vanderbilt?"


"Where's the body?"

"Rien ne va plus," said the fog. "Guess it isn't your lucky night after all."

Just Jan said...

She plopped down beside Norman and gave him a wink. “Whiskey, with a twist.”

“What brings you in?” I asked.

“Finally finished my first novel.” She lowered her voice. “I understand there’s a famous literary agent who hangs out here.”

Definitely a plotter. “What’s it about?”

“It’s fast-paced,” she assured me, launching into a log line so convoluted it made me dizzy.

“Sounds like a real page turner.”

Norman stood, threw down a few bucks, and walked out.

“Was that him? Do you think he liked it?”

I sighed. “If I were you, I wouldn’t wait for a response.”

Marie McKay said...

He bit into the flesh of the book like it was a chicken leg and the plot twisted so Shakespeare's verse was muffled by his profanities. Portia's pithy words caught between his pointed teeth. Antonio's melancholy stuck to his pink pitted tonsils. Stringy saliva gathered at the corners of his mouth as he softened the pages at a pace.
This is how it is now. Dawn raids. Book eaters. No burning, no banning just teeth sharpened to points that blunt us.