[Write On Wednesday] Time’s Up

This month’s focus is on Flash Fiction. Flash isn’t just short, it is urgent. And so is today’s prompt


The Prompt

Time’s Up


  • Stories are always better 1 when there is a ticking clock. So make sure to insert one in this story. It can be a literal ticking clock (think: bomb disposal squad, or Dustin Hoffman racing to the church in The Graduate), or more of a subtle ticking clock (think: Marty McFly has to get his mother to fall in love with his farther before she falls for “Calvin Klein”.)
  • Brainstorm a few ideas for this story, thinking about a character and something that matters to them. A story with a ticking clock is likely to have high stakes but remember that ‘high stakes’ can mean anything as long as it really-really-really matters to your character. It doesn’t have to be life and death. It could be ‘winning the cupcake baking competition because her mother always told her she was a loser, so she never took part in anything, but now she has decided to compete because she’s trying to become her own person’. In this scenario the stakes are pretty darned high, even though the action of the story is kind of silly. The stakes (staying under her mother’s thumb or becoming her own person) are hugely important.
  • Tell us why your character cares so much about the stakes at this moment. What has changed for them? It could be external (Marty is transported back in time and needs to fix things) or internal (our cupcake baker has met a new friend who treats her well and she realizes she wants to be more than her mother’s version of herself). 
  • This is flash fiction. You have 1000 words. It’s not much. Try to work all the information about stakes and ‘why it matters now’ into the story organically (perhaps in dialogue).
  • If you do include dialogue, save words by making your character’s voices distinctive, so you don’t have to add “Flo said” and “Jamie said”. 
  • Make the dialogue active, “Dammit!” is a lot more effective than “‘I’m not happy about this,’ Flo said, angrily”. Plus, it saves seven words!
  • Remember that you can speed up and slow down the pace of the story by showing or telling. 
  • If you want to rush us from one location to another, it’s fine to ‘tell’, then switch back to ‘showing’: They raced to the firehouse together. Diving out the the car Flo shouted instructions…
  • If you want to slow down the action and ratchet up the tension, use more ‘showing’: The smell of hot tarmac filled Flo’s senses as they crept along behind Sunday drivers and holiday makers in giant RVs. Jamie’s index finger drummed on the wheel. Flo craned her neck, to see the firehouse. She could have sworn it was getting further away.

If you share you story somewhere (and here’s why you might not want to) post a link here so we can come and read it.

Did you write today? How did you get on? Who did you write about? Leave a comment!

Photo credit: Dineshraj Goomany

  1. This is not true. No absolute rule ever is, when it comes to writing

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