It’s been a long time coming but at last I am pleased to announce the debut of original fiction by me here at Technicolor Lily Pond. As a writer I often struggle with my imaginative voice that eggs me on to greater heights of world building than is strictly necessary as much as the famed inner critic. I have stalled out more story drafts than I can say by going down the backstory rabbit hole and it is depressing to see the clutter of these unfinished files on my computer with so very few finished pieces shining in the mix. I’m enough of a student of animal behavior to know that it’s high time I change my writing habits with something new, something with more of a reward for the effort, something that is in short a biscuit for my brain.
Enter: flash fiction! Make an iron clad rule of 600 words or less and stick with it. There are literally no words to spend on flights of fancy into faerie. Every one has to cover the elements of narrative. Character, conflict, action, and resolution all have to make an appearance in a page worth of words which engages the reader. While brevity is difficult craft it is certainly freeing. It’s a 600 word or less story after all, if you jot off enough of them you’re bound to improve as you go even if some of them aren’t necessarily going to win any gold stars. The ideas involved don’t have to sustain a novel. You can write one story and edit it in under an hour and still have time to start another. In animal training, specifically dog training, you come across the word “motivation.” Having to find what motivates the animal you’re training, what makes them want to work (i.e. food, squeaker, belly rub), and using that as a reward is a trainer’s main initial challenge. Analyzing myself I realized that my biggest source of writing depression is unfinished work. Getting that ending, reaching that final “Fin” at the end of a story is what makes me wag my tail. Since I resolved to start this feature on my blog and started writing the content I’ve been on a roll. My word count has blossomed and not just in flash fiction. After finishing a couple of these pieces I found myself making actual narrative progress on another, longer, story project. This makes sense. Reaching an ending rewarded my brain, providing incentive to repeat the behavior of writing a story. In essence, I am training myself through positive repetition to enjoy the work of writing again. I knew all that science education would come in handy!
Anyway, before getting to the actual story, I think it is important to enumerate the pillars I am following with my flash fiction here at the pond. The guidelines set out at 365 tomorrows really helped clarify flash fiction for me. Their stories are also quite awesome.
Pillar #1: All stories will be 600 words or less.
Pillar #2: All stories will be narrative stories. Even if certain elements are only implied or alluded to they must exist.
Pillar #3: All stories will be inspired by my own photography or other crafted item I made (i.e. sculpture, collage, quilt, jewelry, etc.).
My Goal is to post a new piece of flash fiction here at least once a month. Depending on reader enthusiasm I might post more frequently.
Finally, you should know that fairy tales are a big deal with me. I read them a lot and not surprisingly I often write fairy tale inspired fantasy. Fairy tales lend themselves to the short form and it makes me happy to craft them. However, be aware that classical fairy tales, the ones I like to read, bear no relation to Disney. They feature villains, bloodshed, sacrifice, and death. They also feature heroines, magic, wonder, and laughter. You take the rose with the thorn.
Wolfe Daughter by E.A. Schneider 553 words
Zoey huddled against the base of the pine tree, craning her neck back so she could see the gaps of sky between the boughs. It was almost dark. Zoey traced the ribbon wrappings of her left hand, following the satin from wrist to a complex weave of wire and ribbon forming the ring of eternity around her third finger. Jaason had woven it on her himself; it even bore the rusty spots of his blood seal. The ring was beautiful and it made Zoey sick. Still, Zoey couldn’t stop her fingers. It was a habit, like poking a sore tooth with your tongue. It was full dark now; the moon would rise soon and Zoey would find out the truth of the legend of the Wolfe girls. The legend was old but lively, like their clan. It was told to every girl by her mother and retold amongst the womenfolk. It was theirs alone. Since her contracting to Jaason only one part mattered: should a virgin daughter of the Wolfe clan offer the Moon goddess blood of life she would be reborn in ancestral fur. The kingdom knew tonight was the night of the moon goddess. Pilgrims gathered at her shrines. Zoey waited in the pine wood with the beaten silver knife. The wood stretched many miles; it held much prey and numerous wolves. It would be a good home should the moon goddess bless her and a good grave if not. Either way she would soon be free and the trees were good company in the dark. It is funny, Zoey thought; I’ve always been a noisy weeper until today. The tears were flowing like salt rain. Even though she was here, alone, in a vast wood ready to sacrifice her blood on the faith of a legend, Zoey didn’t want to die. The knife felt cold and heavy. Sensation seemed terribly important now. Zooey ran her fingers over the thick carpet of pine needles, reveling in their smoothness and prickles as much as the sheer joy of exercising her digits, especially her thumbs. If her prayers were answered she would grip nothing except with fangs. Human things: dresses, hot water, cooking meat, sweet tarts, twirling a pen, and the elegance of ribbon would be lost to her. Ribbon. Jaason’s sneering face, coarse breath, and cold blue eyes flashed into Zoey’s mind. Zoey took a deep breath, the pine perfume filling her lungs, and raised her wet face to the moon. It was time. Standing Zoey began the moon chant, arms raised, head high. Zoey cut through the ribbon wrappings, blood spilled, and the hand went limp. Knife in her teeth, Zoey cut her right wrist. The blood ran. Like her ancestor, the heroine of ancient legend, Zoey spat the knife out and singing the moon song, she spun, arms out, drawing a welcome circle for her new self. Finally, Zoey fell down, sick and spent. The moonlight fell on her slowly blinking eyes. There couldn’t be a legend if it didn’t work. Someone had to tell the story.
Moonlight fell through pine boughs on a silver wolf. The wolf stood up, turning in the rusty circle. She bent to sniff, inhaling deeply. The smell was human. Shaking her fur, she bounded into the shadows of the wood, new, alone, and free.