Archive for 28 October 2012

100 Flash Stories For NaNoWriMo 2012

NaNoWriMo 2012

This year I decided to give NaNoWriMo 2012 a shot by reviving an idea that I started and abandoned for NanoWriMo 2010: writing a collection of 100 500-word flash stories. (I have no evidence that I did anything for NaNoWriMo 2011.) This time I wrote down 100+ ideas on 3×5 cards. Most of which were headlines taken from the weird news section. Others are old story ideas and situations that I have noticed in daily life.

All of these ideas are worthy of being turned into a flash story. None, however, have grabbed me by the literary throat to be written immediately. I need to write 25 flash stories per week. Since I want to keep my weekends open for other writing projects, I need to write five flash stories per day from Monday through Friday to finish.

On Halloween night, I’m going to pick five 3×5 cards from the stack and take them to work the next day to think about, write notes and scribble down a rough outline. After I get home from work, I’ll write three pages for each flash story in a 70-page spiral notebook. Writing the rough draft of the flash story will be quick. Revising and polishing a flash story takes two to four hours. This is why I’m writing everything down on paper instead of using a computer.

Although I only need 100 ideas to write 100 flash stories, I want to have 150 ideas in case I have a few uninspiring stinkers from the list below, and have more than 100 flash stories written by the end of the month. Unless I overwrite a few flash stories, I may fall well short of the 50,000-word goal.

I have no intention of publishing this collection in its entirety after I revise and polish all the flash stories. A dozen are for submitting to the annual flash anthologies, some to expand into longer short stories, and most for submission to publications and/or included in original flash story collection ebooks that I’ll put in 2013.

Updated 11/04/2012: This NaNoWriMo, like all the others, had a great idea and terrible execution (i.e., it never got off the ground). This list of flash story ideas should keep me busy writing throughout 2013.

Flash Story Idea List

  1. Blue ice falling from airplane passing overhead into kiddie pool.
  2. Man walks into the BART tunnel that goes underneath the San Francisco Bay Area.
  3. Large blue eyeball from sea creature washes up on beach.
  4. Mother glues daughter’s hands to wall and beat her in punishment.
  5. Flu shot makes arm sore and falls off as person turns into a zombie.
  6. Bullied girl makes video before committing suicide.
  7. Planet with four suns.
  8. Orbital skydiver.
  9. College students beheading exotic animal at casino.
  10. Zumba instructor arrested for prostitution.
  11. Sewer smell at cemetery.
  12. Nude old men sitting in front of coffeehouse.
  13. A deep secret outed by social media.
  14. Teenager steals celebrity’s sports car from showroom floor.
  15. Spacecraft going down the street.
  16. Someone pretending to be Big Foot on side of freeway.
  17. Husband cooks wife in oven.
  18. Haunted house scare pictures.
  19. Politician crashes soup kitchen for photo-op.
  20. Mysterious invitation to a tech media event.
  21. Dial day for new area code.
  22. Mother leaves young daughter at store with stolen groceries.
  23. Father shoots masked bugler who turned out to be his son.
  24. Creativity as a psychological disease.
  25. Indian Bad Habits Poster: Throwing litter into street.
  26. Indian Bad Habits Poster: Gambling.
  27. Indian Bad Habits Poster: Quarreling.
  28. Indian Bad Habits Poster: Teasing animals.
  29. Indian Bad Habits Poster: Playing with electrical wires.
  30. Indian Bad Habits Poster: Playing with tools.
  31. Indian Bad Habits Poster: Flying kite on open roof.
  32. Indian Bad Habits Poster: Damaging public property.
  33. Indian Bad Habits Poster: Eating uncovered and fried foods.
  34. Indian Bad Habits Poster: Stealing.
  35. Indian Bad Habits Poster: Playing on the road.
  36. Man robs bank for $1 USD to go to federal prison for healthcare, food and shelter.
  37. Snail rancher.
  38. Aliens at a comic convention.
  39. Talking urinal cakes (“Hey, buddy, stop pissing on me!”).
  40. Robo squirrels versus rattle snakes.
  41. Iranian hostage crisis (1979).
  42. Puppy disappears from animal shelter.
  43. Parents run strip club out of foster home.
  44. Uninvited visitor who won’t leave.
  45. Apartment blaze blamed on man cooking squirrel with propane torch.
  46. Man dies after cockroach eating contest.
  47. Plastic-wrapped truck brings out the bomb squad.
  48. A black-and-white costumed girl shot in backyard by relative who thought she was a stunk.
  49. Newspaper cancels extra Sunday subscriptions for extreme couponing enthusiast.
  50. Two naked men set their house on fire, break out car windows, slaughtered animals and assaulted police officers.
  51. Robber with fake mustache robs drug store.
  52. Man dressed as a superhero harassed by police.
  53. High school students has fantasy sex league game.
  54. Gas stations robbed of 300+ gallons of gas at night.
  55. A fireball erupts over a major city and crashes in minister’s backyard.
  56. Robber puts cash into bag but grabs bag of rolls and shoots partner in ass during a failed restaurant robbery.
  57. An abandoned green transfer mail box terrifies a little girl.
  58. A person sees blue cars everywhere.
  59. A murder at a diplomatic event.
  60. A store display cell phone stolen and plugged into computer via USB connector.
  61. Freight elevator guy with stool and newspaper: “If you don’t know where you’re going, get out.”
  62. A 3D monster that can only be seen with 3D glasses from the movies.
  63. Friends travel into country to see meteor shower on hill that forms the backside of the county dump.
  64. A little boy witness the police storming a nearby apartment at night.
  65. End of world with bear, sheep, supernatural cloud formation, computer geeks and Unix end of time (2038).
  66. Gay slurs painted on bicycle seat of bike parked in back of restaurant kitchen.
  67. After meeting each other, getting married and buying house, husband leaves as if everything was a one-night stand.
  68. Roman soldiers fighting off giant squid.
  69. Parking lot stall has cigarette butts, dental floss, jello containers and a condom wrapper.
  70. Aliens intercept Voyager spacecraft and visit Earth with Richard Nixon masks.
  71. A bus shuttle to train station stops being routine with motorcycle gangs, witches, vampires and other monsters.
  72. Two boys dress up as a 1950’s couple, with boy dressed as a bobby sox girl with balloon boobs.
  73. A human tries to help an alien escape Mars after the Alien Sedition Act passed.
  74. An unemployed person makes money in the virtual economy while growing poorer in the real world.
  75. Teenagers stumble upon a secret military base underneath a shopping mall.
  76. Man wakes up every morning with a different healed wound without knowing why.
  77. Broken window in attendant booth at gas station.
  78. Muscle man dressed as Conan the Barbarian in front of costume shop.
  79. House explodes after thieves try to steal antique stove without first disconnecting the gas line.
  80. Old man dies with $200 in the bank and $7 million USD in hidden gold inside house
  81. A food truck serving food to homeless pets.
  82. Kill what you can eat or be killed by what can eat you.
  83. Angry husband confront’s wife lover in lover’s garage and shot dead (castle defense).
  84. Police kills mountain lion at retirement community.
  85. Young girl’s dead body found in recycling dumpster.
  86. Surfer killed by shark off the Southern California coast.
  87. Invasive grass cultivated for bio-fuel program.
  88. Firefighters find dead woman in burning house.
  89. Murder-suicide at retirement community.
  90. Thieves arrested by police for tailing van with valuable silicon chips.
  91. Strip club claims tax exemption for “performing arts” by dancers.
  92. Scientists convicted in court for bad earthquake forecast.
  93. Dying man votes from his deathbed.
  94. City park gets large donation.
  95. Bodega (Spanish neighborhood store) sells something else besides soda and candy.
  96. Bayonet and horses.
  97. Big Bird.
  98. Binders full of women.
  99. Teacher fired for running porn website from school laptop.
  100. Dead guy kept on dry ice in shed.
  101. Couple eat cockroaches for world series tickets.
  102. Parents confiscate their teenager’s cell phone to post bizarre pictures of themselves on Facebook.
  103. A presumed dead man shows up for his own funeral.
  104. Coworker shows up via telepresence device (i.e., robotic or hologram).
  105. Man standing at urinal tries to high-five as world series run announced over PA system and 75 men stare back at him.
  106. A leopard shark falls on golf course after bird flies five miles inland from ocean.
  107. Cop accused of planning to kidnap, rape, torture and cook woman.
  108. Algebra teacher arrested for idling car in high school parking lot with pot and cash in the glove box.
  109. Mother comes home to find children dead in bathtub.
  110. A “frankenstorm” barrels down on the coast.
  111. Homeless man named Elvis Presley killed in accident.
  112. White teacher calls black student a slave.
  113. Black cat at animal shelter.
  114. Female karate student kicks intruder out of apartment.
  115. Political signs stolen by politician’s husband.
  116. Lynched zombie hanging from fraternity house window.
  117. A coffin-shaped outhouse leaves people dying from embarrassment.
  118. Thief steals 80,000 pounds of walnuts.
  119. Drunk woman tries to save ducks from storm.
  120. Man loses leg as cross falls on top of him.
  121. Thugs vandalizing a bus after sports game turn on people recording them.
  122. Trick-or-treaters were given cocaine instead of candy.
  123. Fairy costumed woman arrested in Halloween heist.
  124. Thief steals takeout food vehicle and delivers orders.
  125. Woman found “shot” in her car was a drunk woman wearing zombie makeup.
  126. Hacker changes freeway signs to something less informative.
  127. Goat chases the paper boy into a tree.
  128. Woman drives on sidewalk to avoid school bus unloading children.
  129. Man refuses to come off top of bus.
  130. Deers go window shopping through automatic doors.
  131. Man flashes woman, woman flashes gun.
  132. Santa Claus hangs from ceiling by his beard.
  133. Parents and little brother lost trying to save dog from surf as daughter calls 911.
  134. Photojournalist takes the picture of a man getting run over by train.
  135. Dead pet turned into diamond ring becomes curse for owner.
  136. A fish caught and return two times and kept the third time was pregnant (a father-daughter fishing story).
  137. Loss Swiss Army knife while fishing at pier.
  138. Twenty human heads found in steel drum at airport.
  139. Wife killed her husband for a second time (misleading headline).

Creativity As A Psychological Disease For Writers

Creative Ideas

According to a recent BBC report, creative people are suffering from a psychological disease: “Writers had a higher risk of anxiety and bipolar disorders, schizophrenia, unipolar depression, and substance abuse, the Swedish researchers at the Karolinska Institute found. They were almost twice as likely as the general population to kill themselves.”

For most writers, this isn’t news. If you’re going to put pen to blank paper, you are crazy enough to see and describe what doesn’t exit. I wouldn’t be writer if I haven’t gone to the funny farm as a child and an adult.

After being misdiagnosed as mentally retarded due to an undetected hearing loss as a young child, the school system put me into special ed classes at different schools around the county. Despite blowing out the evaluation tests at the genius level, the teachers treated me like a well-behaved idiot and I learned next to nothing. The teenage years were not kind for overweight geniuses in the special ed classes. I subsequently dropped out of high school in the ninth grade, stayed home for the remaining high school years, and taught myself from library books.

I suffered bouts of depression during that time. Writing in a journal often relieved the emotions I was going through. That sometimes became a head banging exercise in itself as I struggled with the limitations of my fifth-grade English skills. (My reading comprehension was well beyond college level.) After several years of working with my father in construction and despite not going back to high school, I entered San Jose City College as an adult student. My English writing skills got better and writing in my journal became less of a struggle.

And then I became a Christian in the campus ministry.

The writing journal became a “quiet time” notebook for writing down what I learned in my bible studies. Shortly after moving into the brothers’ household in downtown San Jose, the notebook mysteriously disappeared. I started a new notebook. A bible talk leader “found” my old notebook a month later, asking me pointed questions that were relevant only if he had read my notebook (which he denied doing). I already had trust issues coming into the church—this didn’t help. I discovered years later that “missing” notebooks being read by others in the church weren’t an uncommon practice.

I started self-censoring what I wrote and destroying my notebooks after I got done with them. The doubts—the voices—plagued my mind for the next 13 years, being a writer without a creative outlet. This torment ended when even the leadership thought I was too crazy as a Christian, kicking me out of the church and insisting that I get counseling.

A year of counseling liberated me from my emotional struggles. I was able to give myself permission to do what I always wanted to do as a child: be a creative individual. Painting and pottery consumed me for the next few years until I answered the siren call of being a professional writer. I started submitting my short stories in 2006, and, after 300+ snail mail rejection slips, publishing regularly a few years after that.

The voices are gone. The doubts still remain. I’m a writer, a nut job in progress.

Being Unable To Write In The Dark

A Blackout City

A spate of rainstorms interrupted the autumn heat in Silicon Valley this week, bringing gray clouds and cool rain. Perfect writing weather—and then the power went off. Back in the snail mail submission days, I would have lit a candle, grabbed the latest work-in-progress manuscript and picked up pen to continue writing. Not anymore. My MacBook didn’t have enough juice for an extended blackout.

With email submissions over the last three years, and writing 500 word or less blog posts for nearly every day for the last six months, I have finally embraced the mythical paperless office (more or less). I have gotten so comfortable with creating and editing everything on the computer screen that I haven’t printed out any manuscripts in a long time.

When the lights went out in Silicon Valley—okay, just my little neighborhood in the San Jose City College area—I had nothing to work on under candlelight. I have folders of unfinished manuscripts waiting for my undivided attention, but nothing I wanted to pick up in the dark. As for a blank page and a pen, my mind drew a blank as to what to write. For the first time in years, I wasn’t prepared to write anything.

A disconcerting feeling, being unable to write.

Power goes out, can’t work anymore. Light a candle, still can’t write. Nothing to do but to wait, read an ebook on the iPad, and watch the battery meter tick down from 49% to nothing.

And then the power comes back on. The computer and the Internet return. Everything goes back to normal again. The writing that I was doing before the power went out resumes as if nothing had happened. Weird.

The Passing Of An Influential College English Instructor

SJCC Logo

If you’re a longtime resident of the San Jose City College neighborhood, it’s not hard to wonder at what sporting event was being held at the stadium. The bright lights illuminates the overcast night, the loud speakers reverberates the cold air. A quick Internet search often reveals what’s going on. But it sometimes doesn’t. While browsing the campus newspaper, City College Times, I learned that an influential English instructor had passed away earlier this year.

After dropping out of high school in the ninth grade and working with my father in construction for several years after I turned eighteen, I went back to school to avoid being a construction worker for the rest of my life. The adult program at the local high school refused to take me as a student. With my college-level reading skill and everything else at the fifth grade level, it would take five years to get a high school diploma. They sent me to the Adult Re-Entry Program at SJCC, where I got my two-year associate degree without a high school diploma in four years.

Ms. Kathleen Colligan was my instructor for English 092, “Introduction to English,” in Fall 1992, which was my first full semester after taking a Saturday class each semester for the previous school year. Like everyone else in that class, English wasn’t my strong suit and I sucked at grammar. Less than two weeks into the semester, she offered extra help on grammar for anyone interested in coming in on a Saturday morning.

Four of us showed up that morning. Ms. Colligan wrote a sentence on the blackboard and asked us why we thought the sentence was grammatically correct. I raised my hand with hesitation, and, when she pointed to me, I said: “It felt right.”

For most English instructors, writing by instinct is pure heresy. You need to know the rules of grammar, be able to dissect a sentence into discrete components, and correctly identify each of those components by name. In short, you had to be a grammar Nazi. If you didn’t know your grammar, you couldn’t be a writer. This frustrated me to no end over the years. A dark art that would prevent me from ever becoming a successful writer.

Ms. Colligan asked me why I felt the sentence was correct. I explained that I have read extensively—about 800 books during my teenage years—to know that the sentence “felt” correct even though I didn’t know “why” it was correct. From there she guided us into learning why the sentence was grammatically correct without penalizing us for not knowing.

That became the first of many lessons I learned that particular semester. Twenty years later I have 30+ short stories in print, wrote numerous blog posts and published my own ebooks. I’m still feeling my way through grammar, but I know enough to know when the grammar checker in Microsoft Word is being wrong and sometimes inconsistent.

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