The Writer’s Toolbox: Flash Fiction

While Lamont’s annual Christmas light spectacular is still causing our power meter to whirl, the discarded cardboard from toy boxes, sheets of flattened bubble wrap, and broken twist ties that seem to multiply with every pass are proof that another holiday season is coming to a close.

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Overall, Santa was kind to me. Clearly, it is not nearly as difficult to stay on the nice list as his elves would have you believe. One of the gifts I received was The Writer’s Toolbox: Creative Games and Exercises for Inspiring the ‘Write’ Side of Your Brain.

One of my resolutions in 2015 was to participate in more short story contests. I started out strong, but I have to admit I fell well short of my goal. I guess I was too focused on the final re-writes and edits of my novel. But I am now back in early draft mode. Anything can happen. Let the creative juices flow! I opened the box.

Inside there were Popsicle-type sticks with random sentences on them. The instructions say to pick up one labeled FS for First Sentence, then another one labeled NS for Non-Sequitur and finally one labeled LS for Last Straw. Last Straws are only sentence fragments.

For example, I picked up the following:

  • FS: I had this system for getting exactly what I wanted out of people.
  • NS: They were all the same, I decided.
  • LS: the time Leslie called me a leech.

Then there are cards that deal with senses. The instructions say to draw three:

  • The straggling cuticle
  • a rusty weathervane
  • the taste of lipstick

Finally, there are disks which prompt protagonist, action, obstacles, and goals.

  • Protagonist: Laurie the famous actress
  • Goals: To know God
  • Obstacle: The barista at Starbucks
  • Action: Learns to foresee the future.

I had this system for getting exactly what I wanted out of people. It wasn’t exactly difficult. I’d always been a natural actress. I mastered the art of laughing and crying on command before I was even out of diapers. I didn’t feel any guiltier manipulating the average person on the street than I did manipulating the emotions of the audience. They were all the same, I decided. I didn’t know then how wrong I could be.

It all started that day on the set. Props were still in a state of assembly. A rusty weathervane which would eventually be mounted to the box that would serve as a barn blocked stage left. As Julie handed me my costume, the fabric caught on a straggling cuticle. I made a mental note to schedule an appointment with my favorite manicurist.

Joe, the production assistant, began handing out plain white Styrofoam cups containing a steaming beverage. “Here you go, Laurie, from two blocks over, just like you asked.” He beamed like a well-trained pup. The whole crew preferred Starbucks, but I wouldn’t let them serve it. I couldn’t. The awful barista, Leslie had the nerve to call me a leech. I smiled as I sipped the beverage even though I had to admit it tasted like lipstick.

Savoring the image of Leslie’s empty tip jar, I wasn’t paying attention as I made my way off stage. I didn’t notice the length of cord stretched out along the exit until it was too late. Coffee spilled from the cup, landing in a puddle near the electrical plug. Instinctively I reached out as I fell, my palm coming in contact with the hot liquid. My hand wasn’t the only part of my body to burn as a lighting fire danced along my spine. My vision blackened as my body convulsed.

Then it was as if the pain was being experienced by someone else. I could see my body surrounded by the crew, but I floated above the chaos. Then I felt another presence and I knew I sensed God. I reached out toward its warmth, but it was as if a bubble popped. Suddenly I was hurling back to the ground as all went black.

When I opened my eyes, I was once again on the stage floor. Joe was cradling me in his arms. Julie was crying. Images danced across my vision as I took in the scene. That’s when I realized I had returned with a gift. I had seen the future, but the next time I met God I would make sure he didn’t have reason to reject me.

I may not have done the exercise exactly right but it was fun nonetheless to connect the dots and now I am thinking that I may just be able to keep my resolutions after all.

May you all have an equally promising start to 2016!