Remember in Searching for Bobby Fischer where Ben Kingsley’s character, a Wise Sage archetype, was trying to convince the parents of the young, genius protagonist that to base his training solely by engaging in speed chess with street hustlers over in Washington Square Park would do more harm than good and that it would be in their best interest if the boy was trained properly by him, only to find him later on in the movie that his dirty little secret is hustling those same hustlers in some back alley chess match?
Of course you don’t. Put your hand down. Nobody remembers that movie.
Other than bragging that I used to own this movie on VHS, and that it seems to be one of the many “Secret Handshakes” amongst movie geeks of a certain age, the kind of handshake where if you start a conversation with a group of strangers and you say “Potser” at least once and someone gives you that look of, “Searching for Bobby Fischer, right?”, then you know you’ve found your tribe. That kind of handshake. Other than that, the real reason I brought this up is that I can relate to Ben Kingsley’s character and his secret, naughty little habit of playing speed chess, when it comes to how I regard Flash Fiction invites.
Since May of this year, I started following iAuthor on Google+. They are a user focused online community that makes the gap between reader and author just a little bit smaller. It’s like a playground for bookworms. As a part of their interaction on their social media platforms, they post writing challenges on a daily basis. Their only stipulations being that whatever you contribute, it must be the opening lines to a story that you would write, and it has to be in direct relation to the picture that they’re posting along with it. Like an open chess table in a park, it calls people, it dares people to take on the challenge.
“Ssoooo… whatcha doin?”
I’m writing the first draft of my current project. Why?
“Ooooh good… Good for you.”
You’re doing that thing with your voice. What’s going on?
“Oh, it’s nothing. NOTHIIING. Keep doing what you’re doing. You’re busy.”
[sigh] What did you find?
“Now, I know how you feel about these, and I can understand if you don’t want to do this but…”
You found another Flash Fiction contest, didn’t you?
“…Yyyyees. Well, sort of. It’s…”
Look, I’m not interested. I’ve got a whole stack of projects I need to get to, and most of those were started from Flash Fiction contests. The last thing I need right now is another excuse to keep me away from finishing the things I start. Now, if you’ll excuse me…
“This one’s different.”
“This one doesn’t have a word count.”
“It’s Flash Fiction based on a random picture.”
Still not interested.
“In fact, the only requirement on this seems to be to write the first lines of a story based on the picture.”
“Did…did you hear what I said?”
…Alright, let me look at it.
And that’s all it takes. Just a whiff. Just a taste. A humble invitation to something so simple and innocent. I sit and I look at the picture until all the moves on the board become clear, every possibility presents itself. Then, I would pluck one out of several thousand stories that could be divined from it, and follow it through to the end of the first beat. Watch your Knight. Checkmate.
Why I try to limit myself on how many Flash Fiction challenges I do these days, is because of my tendency to pick up the ball and run with something, given the opportunity to do so. I mean, the purpose of these challenges is to squeeze out a quick story in one sitting, right?
That sounded kind of gross. Let me start again…
Kind of like a round of speed chess; you know the game, you know the rules, now let’s see how fast you can move, player! I start many of these challenges with full intention of making something no longer than two pages and moving on. What ends up happening is that I allow the idea to grow and mutate into something bigger than what it was supposed to be. It’s comforting to acknowledge my own well of imagination may never run dry, and I have enough ideas to keep my busy for a while. But, that’s how it starts. First, it’ll be all “Oh, I can take care of this in a week. No problem.” Eight months later, I start obsessing like Danny Ocean. “30 Chapters is good, right? It’s enough. I don’t need another one…We don’t need another one, right?…You think we need another one?…We need another one…Okay, we’ll make another one.”
I don’t know when to stop with most challenges I engage in. With theirs, I do. Write the beginning of a story. That’s it. See how far you can carry this to the first beat. See how far you can write before it stops being the beginning of a story. Writing in this way helps me to not necessarily find my boundaries, but to respect them. I must admit, it’s kinda fun. It’s good exercise, and it does wonders for finding my voice.
For a while now, I’ve been wanting to share. If for anything, to build up this website just a little bit more, and make a portfolio (side note: I’ve also noticed recently that some of the contributors have been copyrighting their own work. It’s not necessary to do so, but these days, it’s probably a good idea). Well, here I am with a author’s blog, and not a lot of authoring going on. I have a few of these…I guess I’ll refer to them as “First Lines Projects”, and I’ve been looking for a good home for them.
So, as I notice my word count on the corner of the page spill over past the 1000 word mark, it’ll probably be a good idea to postpone the first offering, and just refer to this post as “an announcement”. I’ll be posting my first project from back in May later on today, and posting the rest in the coming days. The more I do, the more I’ll post. I’ve been making visuals for it to try and make it look prettyprettypretty for the past day or so. Also, finding the right title is always key.
Anyway, thanks for reading.
Watch this space…