Sunday, September 18, 2022

Preliminary results for the Change It Up flash fiction contest

Here are the entries that stood out for me.

Did you like the change up?

More of these, or back to prompt words?

Timothy Lowe  

Nobody knew the bomb was about to go off. Not the nurses, not the technicians. Certainly not Tom Syzlak, who’d come to have his kidney out.


He was at the vending machine when it happened, a short pink scar wriggling wormlike across his abdomen. The nurses had told him to rest, but Tom was as stubborn as his cancer, and hospital food had never suited him. Later, when they’d begun to sort things out, he’d wonder why he had such a tough time deciding between Cheetos and Lays. But as it turned out, the indecision wound up saving his life.


I'd start with the  last phrase: Indecision saved his life.


Les Edgerton  

One day I found a volume of poetry by Robert Frost

in the prison library at Pendleton

and checked it out.

Back in my cell, I read:

Home is the place where, when you want to go there, they have to take you in.

When I made parole, I called my mom to tell her my good news.

I found out that my dad had never read Robert Frost.

At least not that poem.


This is more like a whole story. I'd cut the last line, just to make that penultimate sentence the punch line.




Marta had wanted her wedding covered by the press, but she'd been thinking of Hello. Not this.


"The body was in your hotel room when you arrived?" the officer prompted, scribbling on his pad.


Marta's hands shook. She took another pull of champagne. "No."


The officer looked up. "Well, when did you make the discovery?"


"When I was leaving - for the ceremony. The… It wasn't there before that."


"You sure?"




The stranger's face swam in her vision. Sunken. His blood slicking the carpet. She shivered. She'd been in the bathroom, inches away. Why hadn't she heard anything?




Cecilia Ortiz Luna  

For most of these second graders, it was their first time to see a lion up close.


Benjamin Sturgis boasted that he was the only one tall enough to feed the giraffe.


The school bus reeked of sweat, juice boxes and Off spray.


“Quiet!” Miss Dill yelled from her seat beside the driver.


She stood up, counted the heads.




She counted again, this time with the use of her index finger, murmuring the numbers while walking down the aisle.


Twelve girls, sixteen boys.


Oh, no.


She looked at the tiny faces one by one.


Where’s Megan Dubanowski?




I had four husbands; none of them were mine.


Who's at fault, me or them? When I was with them, I didn't know they were married. Now looking back, the signs were all there. But when you're young and in love, or lust, you don't pay attention to those details. You don't ask yourself why he couldn't spend his birthday with you, or Christmas, or other important dates. You went along with reasons that were unreasonable. Naive, stupid? Sure.


So, am I being unreasonable now if I want revenge, to destroy their lives as they did mine?




GREAT first line.



Colin Smith  

It’s one thing when your neighbor turns up dead on your doorstep; it’s quite another when he then asks for a cup of sugar.


Kate Outhwaite  

“Tell me about finding the girl.”






“I went home. I slept. I woke early and went for a walk. Ended up in the Cool Zone. Heard a noise. Found the girl in the airlock. Brought her back. The End.”


“Your chip lets you into the Cool Zone and opens airlocks?”




“Because of who you are?”




“Okay. Well, no matter who they are, no one just accidentally wanders into the Cool Zone. Plus airlock doors are 8 inches thick, vacuum-sealed and completely sound-proof. So, Sal, I have to ask again: why did you open the airlock doors?”


I''d start with the last phrase: why did you open the airlock doors?”



Madeline Mora-Summonte  

The snake that slithered under the sliding glass doors was my second unwanted visitor of the day, but was still the less slimy and more welcome of the two.



Jenn Griffin  

The first time didn't take, so I killed him again.


If a door opens, Mom grabs my little sister’s hand. I grab the other one. Not because we’re the hand-holding kind. It’s so Lark won’t take off.


Toys everywhere, but all she wants is the evergreen tree out back.


Last week she toddled into the bathroom and held out a pinecone.


Mom gasped. “Larkie, did you go outside while I was in the shower?”


She nodded.


Fun fact: My sister could fly before she could talk.


Mom said she was sad and mad because if Lark had gone over the fence like Whiskers, we might never see her again.


I'd start with:  Fun fact: My sister could fly before she could talk.



Her face is white in the dim light. She isn’t wearing shoes or a shirt, only a white bra and panties. She is crouched by the side of the building, watching the corner. I can see her breasts rise and fall as she breathes. Her face is streaked with sweat and dirt, and bruises cover her body. “Excuse me,” I start to say, but she turns and puts a finger across her lips. “Quiet,” she hisses. “If they hear you, we both die.”


I'd start with:  “Quiet,” she hisses. “If they hear you, we both die.”




In a room quiet enough to hear a pin drop, the third pin fell.


John Davis Frain  

Amber Flynn pours a glass of wine, curls into the nook of her sofa, and finally takes a deep breath when her phone chirps.


Can we talk? 11 pm. My place!


It’s her friend, Cheri. The one Amber buried in the woods nineteen hours ago.



B D MacCullough  

Drowning in the desert hadn't occurred to me.


Sharyn Ekbergh  

Our mother wasn't the kind you went looking for if she was missing.



Carrie said...

These are all wonderful. I liked the changeup too, this was something new and different, and a ton of readers participated as a result.

AJ Blythe said...

I have only read the short-listed entries and they are great. Well done everyone.

Love the idea of something different. I just didn't have a moment free this weekend so had to pass on entering myself.

S.D.King said...

I liked Sharyn Ekberg - I would keep reading.

And, you had me at Julie Mao - loved The Expanse!

Lisa Bodenheim said...

These are great and so many more that I liked too. I also loved the change-up.

Kitty said...

More of these!

Claire Bobrow said...

I really enjoyed all the entries, but especially the ones from Colin and Lynn. Great work! And I loved the change-up.

Just Jan said...

So many great entries! I was especially drawn to the one-liners as they seemed to generate more suspense for me. Personally, I found that when writing more than one line it was difficult not to tell the whole story in a flash fiction type of way.

Colin Smith said...

This was a good challenge and an interesting change-up. It was nice not having to come up with a complete story, but coming up with an enticing, tension-filled premise without relying on old tropes and cliches is tough. At least for me.

Thanks, Claire! 😀

Melanie Sue Bowles said...

Good stuff...! I love the change-up, and also felt the one liners were a bit more grabby. Although JD Frain - yikes!

Mark R. David said...

Huge fun. I had plans to research agents all day Saturday, but the changeup scuppered that boat before it even left the dock.

Also, would like to add my favorite to the list of classics. From Joseph Heller's "Something Happened":

I get the willies when I see closed doors.

Steve Forti said...

I like these. A good, mysterious one liner is fun, like those "worst opening line" contests. I vote for either Brig or Sharyn. More of these alternative styles?

french sojourn said...

I loved Sharyn's.

Great job everyone, cheers!

Beth Carpenter said...

Love these! Sharyn, Colin, and Lynn's are my favorites, but they're all great.

John Davis Frain said...

OMG, how do you even pick out just one? I'd turn the page on so many of these.

Okay, I'd read faster on Sharyn's, so there's that. But wow, what a selection of openings.

I also enjoyed Les Edgerton's and I was so excited when I saw the last line crossed out because that was exactly what I was thinking when I read it.

So, I can pick out greatness ... now I just need to figure out how to write it!

Craig F said...

Even though I rolled snake eyes, I enjoyed the idea behind this contest.

Maybe it was just anticipation to read the work of all of these talented people.

Here's looking at you, especially Lyn.

LynnRodz said...

I like this new concept of opening lines. There were too many good ones to choose from, but if I had to, I would go with Sharyn's as well.

And thank you to those who gave me a mention. I was going to stop after my first line, but I couldn't resist using 100 words when given.

Her Grace, Heidi, the Duchess of Kneale said...

BOTHERATION! I was going to enter this. Even wrote up an entry and set an alarm for when the contest opened.

And then...

And then...

Life happened, I got tired, slept through my alarm, and completely forgot.

Since I did all this hard work, Imma postin' it here anyway. Enjoy.

Sheniqua opened the pill bottle. Three pills left. Only three. They could have been three bullets, for all the dread that puddled like cold water in the bottom of her gut.
Three pills left and then what? Her fingers hesitated over the first one. Should she take it now, or not?

E.M. Goldsmith said...

Colin knocked it out of the park. As did Sharyn and Jenn Griffin. And I really want to read the book that starts with Frain's opening. These are all delicious in their own way. Wish I had been conscious this weekend so I could have played. But half-life being what it. is ....

Lennon Faris said...

Loved all the entries and the finalists were amazing. Les Edgerton's entry was the one that put a fist around my heart and squeezed.

I like all of these contests. My very favorite part of any of these contests is when you (Janet) write a little editorial note. Those notes really stick with me! I remember some from years ago.