This week, I’m re-posting my entry for last Friday’s Flash! Friday contest. It didn’t win, and garnered only a couple of comments, but I liked it. So here it is!
The challenge: Write a piece of flash fiction (no more than 160 words) using this picture as inspiration:
My response (exactly 160 words):
The gentle hum of electricity seeped into Darren’s skin. His bones vibrated as every muscle, tendon, and nerve ending soaked up the waves of power from the box.
No-one else on the sidewalk could feel it. But Darren drunk it in like parched soil takes in water.
Three blocks ahead, stop lights flickered.
Two blocks behind, cars screeched to a halt as the lights suddenly flashed red. Darren heard the crunch of bumpers. He didn’t turn. He just smiled.
On the horizon he saw a plume of smoke. His fingers told him the stop lights had gone out completely on East Fifth.
Cars trundled to a stop on the street in front of him; drivers vented frustration with their horns.
Satisfied, Darren let go of the metal box. It would take about ten minutes for the electronics to right themselves. In the meantime, he could cross the road safely.
The same road that claimed his mother’s life a month ago.
Can I say a few words about rejection?
One of the biggest fears writers have to overcome is the fear of rejection. Indeed, fear of rejection is one of the biggest fears most people face in life, period, whether it’s rejection by publishers, agents, peers, a love interest, a prospective employer, and so on. For writers, this fear can be particularly debilitating since writers write to be read. As much satisfaction as the writer derives from putting words on a page, that joy is made complete knowing someone else is getting pleasure from his or her work. But this will never happen until the writer actually publishes his or her work in some way (online or in print). That means the writer must risk rejection. Bad reviews. People not liking his/her work. And one of the pitfalls of working in the Arts is that there will be people who don’t like your work. In fact, there will be people who hate your work. That’s not a possibility. That’s a guarantee. Just examine yourself. Do you like every form of music? Every band/artist you’ve ever heard? Every novel you’ve ever read? Every picture or movie you’ve ever seen? No. Some you love, some you like, some you’re dispassionate about, some you don’t like, and some you can’t stand. The power of Art is that it stirs emotions and evokes passion. That can be both a positive and negative thing, and Art doesn’t discriminate. It allows for both positive and negative reactions.
So rejection isn’t something a writer needs to avoid. It’s something a writer needs to learn to deal with. And you do that by sucking up your pride and letting people read your work. Such online flash fiction contests as Flash! Friday, or Janet Reid’s contests (like the one she announced today), are a good way to do that. Because the work is judged by people, they are subject to the whims of the judges. If you write sci-fi and the judges don’t like sci-fi, the chances are you won’t win. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t enter. There may well be a number of people reading the entries that do like sci-fi, and appreciate your work. Hopefully they’ll write you some encouraging comments. But ultimately, you will learn from the discipline of writing flash fiction, and you will become more comfortable with putting your writing in the hands of strangers.
I’ve entered the Flash! Fiction contest a few times now, and haven’t even been selected for a runner up category. While I’ve been a finalist or winner in Janet’s contests a few times, there are many I’ve entered where my entry didn’t even get a “special mention.” That’s okay. The writing practice, the experience gained, and the skin-thickening that results is almost as good as winning. Almost.
Thoughts or comments–about the story, and/or rejection?