Flash 500 – My entry

I entered Flash 500 a while back; my first ever writing competition. I was very excited. However, I logged on today to find out that I hadn’t been short-listed for it. I was upset, but it is my first competition entry so I am taking it with a pinch of salt and moving on. 

I thought it would be beneficial for me to put my submitted entry up here for you all to read. I would appreciate your feedback.

Calling the Shots
I’m standing at the usual meeting place and I still don’t quite know why I’m here.

I should learn; but I never do.

I see him approach me, weaving in between all the men and woman who are going about their evening routines, totally unaware of what we are about to do. He reaches me and, with nothing more than a nod and a curl of his lip, he grabs my hand and manoeuvres me back towards his office.

I can smell the crispness of the printing machines and the stacks of paper. It doesn’t matter how many times I’ve been here, it still invades my nose whenever I enter. The wine is taking hold now and I feel all fuzzy from head to toe. Why am I here?

And then he spins me round and pulls me close, brushing his nose with mine as he leans in for a kiss. His lips are soft and hot, and he teases mine apart, playfully slipping in his tongue as he does. I reach up and grab his hair, unable to control my urges and swinging my legs around his waist as he sits me, roughly, onto his desk. I can feel him pushing himself onto me, showing me he is ready for me. My breathing is fast and my heart rate even faster. I want him, now!

As I pull at his shirt, frantically prizing open the buttons and yanking it off his shoulders, he puts his fingers through my hair and caresses the back of my neck. It feels so good and I’m tempted to moan out, but I remember that we must be quiet. It takes everything I have to keep quiet, but I do.

But, what was that? I wasn’t sure I heard it at first, but then he snapped his head away from my chest and froze. The footsteps were getting closer and then they stopped outside the door. Suddenly the handle is being frantically worked; the person on the other side obviously suspicious to see the alarm switched off at this time of night.

We continue to stay locked in our embrace, not daring to move. The adrenaline has hit me hard and I feel a mix of terror and sheer excitement, knowing we could be caught at any time. I can feel the heat of his breath on my face as I glance around at our clothes, strewn across the floor.

Finally, the footsteps retreat and fade away. We know we haven’t got long, what if they come back with security; who do have a key.  I begin to wonder if I should stop. Why do I keep doing this to myself, letting him call the shots and ring me whenever he feels the need? I hate being walked over, being at his beck and call. I’m going to stand up to him, I am! This isn’t going to happen again.

But then he looks at me and smiles – I can’t ever resist that smile…

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10 thoughts on “Flash 500 – My entry

  1. Lucie,Don't be disappointed at not being shortlisted. It's obvious that a lot of care and thought has gone into your work.I do think though that if you're going to write in the difficult first person style, you first need to learn to deal with the word I. Without even having read the piece, they jumped off the page at me.

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  2. Blogger ate my previous post! Agh! I'll try to remember what I said.I disagree with Anonymous; if you're going to write in first person, you have to use the word "I". It's a grammatical necessity. It didn't bother me at all.However, maybe you should look at your use of the word "feel". It's a weak verb, often symptomatic of telling rather than showing. For example, when you say your narrator feels a mix of terror and excitement, perhaps you can show us that instead, to get us more in the moment—her heart pounding, her breath panting, cold sweat on her skin…I think it's a really effective piece of action; you've really got across the thrill and danger of an illicit liaison, and I sympathise with the narrator. I like how you've created the setting through sensual description. It's a good piece.One of the things with short stories, though, even flash fiction, is that ideally there should be some character change by the end—sometimes even a twist. Not much changes in this story; the narrator questions herself, but by the end she's still in thrall to this man as she was at the beginning. For me, it would be more satisfying if something were to change—she ended the affair, or even if she actively tried to and failed. Or maybe you can think of another way to show some change and development, which you prefer.You shouldn't be too disappointed that you didn't final. It's a big accomplishment to write the story and enter, and it's a good story. I hope it inspires you to go on and submit more!Hope this is helpful (and that Blogger doesn't eat it)Julie x

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  3. Hi Lucie!You have done really well to enter and all writing is gaining experience! What brilliant advice from Julie! I love flash fiction and have to echo what Julie has said. I read through all the judges comments beforehand and that provides great feedback. One of their main comments was about entries being a scene as opposed to a complete story. I think what you have here is a good scene but no outcome/change for the character therefore not giving a whole story (which is what they want.) For the next one – read through all the previous winning stories on the website. It will give you an idea of what the judges are looking for. If you get Writing Magazine they are running a competition for flash fiction (750 words) ending in mid-May. Maybe you could develop this story a little more and enter it there. Although may be a little racy for their taste but all good practice :)Catherine x

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  4. Hi Lucie,I agree with the previous comments. The thing is with competitions, of course, that only a few will be short-listed and only one person will win. But, it's the taking part that counts, and with the feedback that you've had, you'll be able to improve your entry for another time.Jean x

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  5. Hi LucieAll the comments offer extremely good advice. Building on that, thinking about there being a whole story, I wonder if you asked yourself some 'what if?' type questions it might give you more of a story than a scene. As a reader, I was wondering who it was who was trying the door, what if it opened? Who might the person be? What effect might it have on the girl's lover – might it show him up to be the less than perfect person he is? These are only thoughts but as a reader that intrigued me. Short fiction is incredibly difficult so well done with this.Carax

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  6. Hi Lucie. (I'm here under my other name but I'm Sheila Norton by the way!). First off, I have to congratulate you for even writing a 500 word story at all. I find this short length extremely difficult, and even when I write 1000 word stories for magazines I inevitably have to cut like crazy! So well done, and as others have said, you definitely shouldn't feel disappointed at not being short-listed. So many people enter these competitions. I'm not very good at giving critique either, but when I read the previous comments I realised that what they've said is quite right: yes, I was 'with' the narrator all the way, but I wanted something more to have happened by the end. I was actually quite disappointed that the person whose footsteps they heard didn't discover them! It might have been his wife … or jealous secretary … I'd definitely work on the story and try it somewhere else. I 100% recommend Writing Magazine's competitions. They started my career. Give it a go! x

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  7. Well done for sharing your story, Lucie. I'm afraid it's part of writing fiction and entering competitions. No matter how many short stories I've had published, there are just as many rejected or passed over in competitions (it's the same for even the most successful short story writers). I enjoyed being in the head of your main character, but I have to agree that it's a bit more like a scene than a complete story, and that's the difficult thing about flash fiction. Why not make it into a slightly longer story and (as some have suggested) have some kind of resolution at the end – it would be a shame not to develop it and send it out somewhere else.

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  8. I agree with Julie, you do a lot of "telling" rather than "showing" in the the story, and have no real personal change at the end. You also start the first 4 paragraphs with "I" – you need to vary that.At the same time it was an atmospheric and exciting piece, and there was some good stuff there. Well done for getting a story down in 500 words and for having the guts to submit. I suggest you put it aside for the moment, work on something else, and come back to it later. Distance always helps.Henriette

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  9. Hi Lucie,I'm afraid you probably won't find my comment very helpful in that I have no new advice to give which hasn't already been given. What I can say is terrifically well done for even attempting this! I find short stories the most challenging and tie myself in such knots that I end up never even writing the thing. To have done a work of flash fiction, I marvel at the skill! As for the competition – I know it's easier said than done, but try to shrug it off and look for other competitions to try your luck in. So much of it is down to judges' personal preference and not necessarily on the writers' expertise. I entered a short story competition once with a piece about Devon smugglers in the early 1900s and like you, was a little put out that it wasn't short-listed. The judge told me he thought it was 'dated' which had me scratching my head considering the content, but the winning story was a contemporary YA story, which (I was told) was no better written than mine but simply was more to the judges' tastes.So don't lose heart and try not to take it too personally. There's plenty more fish in the sea!Best,Hannah

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  10. Hi Lucie, A friend of mine has used this description of writing which I find very helpful. 'Poetry can be about the absence of words, Prose the essence of words and Flash fiction falls somewhere in the middle'Look back over your story. I feel as though you wrote it with an eye on the word count which can often make you fall short rather than anything else.It might seem like a strange thing to say but your story is too long. The lines should be more punchy and to the point.Flash Fiction is often about conveying a message to the reader. Your story – I believe – is more suited for a longer story than this particular genre.I know it might sound like a contradiction after saying the story was too long but what I mean is that it gives me the impression that you tried to cut and then extend. It happens to us all.As a first outing you should be applauded. Give the readers some credit. They would know that security would have a key for instance. Just the mention of their presence adds a little bit of tension. No need to over do it. Tighten things up. 'maneuveres me back?. No need for the word back. See what I mean?. Sorry for sounding preachy. This was advice given to me ages ago and it has served me well.Read your work aloud. Trust your ear. Especially in first person narrative the story should almost read as it would when spoken aloud. Best of luck in the future. I think you have great promise. Damian

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