Flash Fiction Challenge

As if having a 12 week old, teething, biting, super curious, super sweet, quite devious puppy taking up most my time wasn’t hard enough, I decided it would also be super smart to enter a flash fiction contest run by NYC Midnight.

Writers are put into groups, given a genre, location, and item, all of which must be written into a story of no more than 1000 words. Oh, and that story must be completed and submitted 48 hours after receiving the assignment. Super easy, right? Even under normal circumstances, I’d struggle with something so structured. Add to that some severe sleep deprivation and I was in for a rough weekend.

Still, I was excited to get the email, find out what sort of story I was going to be writing. At 10:59 PM Friday night, my path was revealed-Romantic comedy, a tropical island, a brick.

What? People actually write romantic comedy flash fiction? Visions of Love Actually and a half dozen Adam Sandler, Drew Berrymore movies instantly came to my head. This genre was definitely not in my wheelhouse or toolbox. I would rather have had romance, a soviet era gulag, a french fry.

My first attempt on Saturday Morning was a disaster. I had a couple, a clever way for them to meet, but that moment itself took 400 words. Scratch that. Delete. Try again.

A second idea had more promise, but also took up too many valuable words without getting me anything resembling a story.

Then the tiredness took over. I couldn’t concentrate, spell, type, do much of anything but stare at the screen. Also, the puppy needed attention, and the puppy comes first right now.

A few hours later, I tried again, this time with some more success. I had several awkward encounters, silly moments, and the outline of a story. An ending still eluded. I had Sheryl read what I’d written so far and while she liked it, she agreed it wasn’t quite right.

Sunday could not have been a more awful day. I didn’t rest well, and a very intense wave of puppy depression hit me early that morning. I felt overwhelmed and hopeless. Writing was impossible. The contest was out of my mind completely.

I did some heavy soul searching that day, spent a lot of time talking with my amazing wife. I am so grateful for her advice, patience, love. She is my best friend and perfect companion.

With less than 3 hours until I had to submit the story, I had no draft, no ending, and very few ideas, but I was determined. I sat at the computer and hammered out three very sloppy endings, picking one to flush out and use. I read through, edited, read through again, edited, then asked Sheryl for her opinion.

“It’s okay, but the ending lacks pop. It’s too sweet. Something needs to happen that puts them at odds again.”

I was crushed, out of ideas, ready for defeat.

“Something like…” and she said it. The exact ending. And I loved it. With forty minutes to go, I rewrote the ending, not worrying about word count. When it was finished, I was at 1020 words, but the ending was just what this brief romantic comedy needed.

I spent the remaining time cutting words (easier than I thought) until I was at 997. One more read and edit, just to make sure, and it was time to submit. My first romantic comedy was complete. I’m not sure it will get me enough points to move out of the second round (two rounds are guaranteed each writer), but that is fine with me.

I’ll keep you posted.

Wish me good sleeps. I still need them.

And dogs are awesome.


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About Ryan Carty

There are some who call me, Tim?

7 responses to “Flash Fiction Challenge”

  1. jmh says :

    Wow, I am so proud of you! Way to keep going, no matter what obstacles were in your path. And Sheryl sounds amazing. Every writer should be so lucky as to have that kind of support system.

    I have to ask, though…what is “puppy depression”? Are you missing your other dogs?

  2. aploplexy says :

    That is serious powering through! As a special treat to your readers, will we get to read this flashy fiction? Was it a brick with a face painted on it like a sort of castaway sitch? Inquiring minds want to know!

    I totally understand the puppy depression. Its exhaustive, 24 hour surveillance full of so many simultaneous joys and frustrations. I think being the “at home” partner is sometimes isolating in the sense that our world and purpose is a little more narrow and our frustrations dominate our thoughts.

    Hang in there!

    • fenster says :

      I’m doing much better this week, though I’m still pretty tired and worn. I’m not sure on the rules as to when I can share the post, but yeah, if you want to read it (in all its strange imperfection) then sure.

  3. Liesbet says :

    Dogs are awesome. And, supporting spouses are as well! (I envy you just a bit there.. ) Congratulations to you both – to the team work, the dedication and the priorities made. If you put your butt in the chair and decide to focus, you really get there each time, Ryan, despite the necessary distractions and breaks. I am in awe! Well done. I”m looking forward to reading the story one day. Having such a short deadline is good and bad – you’ll get it done in that time, because of the pressure, or you quit, because inspiration just doesn’t cooperate with the deadline.

  4. kavita devi Fights says :

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