I’ve had some difficult conversations with clients (and prospective clients) over the years. People can be…resistant to constructive criticism, despite the fact they’re paying for it—all the more so if there’s an inherent issue to the writing that stains character and plot. Some of the most delicate conversations, I find, are those in which the issues of subconscious misogyny, racism or bigotry must be raised. Writing is intensely personal, after all. But look, horror fiction is my bread and butter; *context matters, so I’m here today to help parse the difference between portraying repugnant things and absorbing them into your writing.
Hello, my lovelies. Feb 20th is my birthday, so I thought I’d give you all a gift: an hour of audio entertainment, written and performed by yours truly. ‘From Tappet Woods’ was my attempt at creating a story in the vein of M.R. James—classical in tone, cosy yet unnerving, ambiguous and hopefully atmospheric. I’ll let …
Hey there, here are the entries for the latest Flashes of Inspiration contest. I’ve been joined by the lovely Tabatha Wood, who interviewed me last week. In case you weren’t aware, she has a collection of short horror fiction out, called Dark Winds Over Wellington. You can check it out here. Okay, so the words this week were Seminal, Ferocity, Pyjamas. We had 400 words to play with and we were looking to evoke a bygone age with our writing. Let’s see what we’ve got…
Hi all, and welcome back to Flashes of Inspiration, my bi-weekly flash fiction contest here at The Fine-toothed Comb. It’s been a busy week for me. Right now I’m ploughing my way through several short stories and a chunky novel, all for structural review. A convention has been announced, which I’ll be taking part in in various different panelly and workshoppy ways like some kind of pro. Oh, and I’m gradually losing the war against yoghurt. (Don’t ask.)
Anyway, enough about me. This is my forum for bringing creative people together in friendly competition. All I’m after is 400 words of imaginative prose or poetry, using the above image for inspiration. Literal interpretations are fine, as are figurative, tonal, and thematic. Whatever floats your dream-boat. I’ve been setting some specific challenges of late to try to push my own writing a bit. This week, let’s try making our narratives sound like they were written in a bygone era.
In addition, I have 3 key words that must be used in your piece in some way, shape, or form. These are:
‘Dim ond fi,’ as they say in these parts. Only me this time, but I enjoyed the challenge. It feels good to be back in the saddle, so to speak. So what have I got here? A little vignette, flinging us back to past days of glory and tragedy, swords, sandals, and beating hooves. It didn’t quite do all that I’d hoped but I’m content with it.
From next week I’ll be getting some signal-boosting assistance from my good friends at the Ginger Nuts of Horror, so hopefully we’ll start seeing a bit more company and competition around here. I’m happy to keep plugging away for my own satisfaction but the frisson of competition definitely adds something. It drives us to do better each time, and I think it sharpens the mind, makes us more aware of the power and significance of each word, each line.
Anyway, here’s my nugget of creativity for this week…
Welcome back to Flashes of Inspiration, your (ahem) bi-weekly flash fiction competition. It’s been a bit of a busy time at The Fine-toothed Comb of late – both professionally and personally – so my apologies for keeping you waiting so long. I’ve crossed countries to see a cousin get married, attended the WorldCon in Dublin, had a teensy bit of a breakdown with regards to the day-job, and recovered myself at a pretty magical music festival. I’m back in the saddle now and raring to go again, hence the ever-so-appropriate image up top to help inspire our next round of creativity.
Forgotten how this works? It’s simple. You have 400 words to play with, an image to give you a sense of meaning, tone, action (or whatever), and 3 key words that you must use in the text somewhere. (Variants of the words are acceptable, so long as the root remains.) Confused? Frazzled? It’s just a bit of fun. Don’t sweat it.
A quiet one this week, just the two of us. It’s still working though, still getting me writing regularly instead of just thinking about maybe writing something one day. I’ve just had FB memories popping up today reminding me of one of the books I’ve actually nurtured from conception to reality, so that’s a boost for me too. Proves we can actually do something if we set out with determination and follow things through all the way. Anyway, enough bunkum from me. Here are this week’s entries for Flashes of Inspiration.
Welcome once more to Flashes of Inspiration, my bi-weekly flash fiction contest. We’ve had 10 games of free-play, and it’s been loads of fun, but I think it’s time to get a little more challenging. For the next 10 contests, I’ll be pushing out of my comfort zone and hopefully dragging you lot with me. Why? Well, it’s all good exercise. Stretching different writing muscles and so on.
So, this first challenge is to find a new perspective. Flipping expectations. Same rules as ever: 400 words, 1 picture to help inspire and 3 key words to be included in some way…
Angeline Trevena: an unstoppable author
Hi folks, there’s no flash fiction contest this week, so instead let me introduce you to a good friend of mine, Angeline Trevena. She’s an author, a podcaster, and an all round good egg. If you’re at EdgeLit this weekend there’s a high chance you’ll get to meet her. Tell you what, why don’t I shut up and let her tell you why that’d be a great thing to do? Over to you, Angeline.
The lightning has struck and here we are again, caught in the flash. A few more entries this time round. Glad I pushed the boat out one more time after last week’s wee wobble. You’ll recall there’s a prize up for grabs this time round – a copy of This Twisted Earth. Well stuff it, you’re all winners. A copy of the book will be winging its way to each of our entrants this week. Thank you for joining me. I’m thinking of shaking things up a bit for the next 10 contests. Similar set-ups but with some specific targets, encouraging us to flex some different writing muscles. Until then, why not have a read of this week’s entries?
Morning all, and welcome back to The Fine-toothed Comb. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed setting these creative challenges. I hope you’re getting something out of them too. You’ll be happy to know that this isn’t taking the place of my editing work – I’ve been feverishly working on a novella for Horrific Tales, an adventure game-book for a comic-book creator’s Patreon, and a couple of novellas expanding on elements from my Twisted Earth anthology. (EDIT: No idea what that is? I’ve written a little bit about it here.) With several customers now pre-paying for books to be edited later on this year, it’s proving to be a busy one! But enough about me. Let’s get on with the contest.
Another week has flown. I almost didn’t make this one. It’s been a tricky time and I’ve been kind of overwhelmed. Back on track now. The last editing gig is almost done and the tangle of personal bits and bobs are starting to resolve themselves at last. Anyway, moving on. Just two of us taking part in the challenge, so no voting required. Not sure if the change of days has affected things or if the stars of creativity just failed to align for the folk who would usually appear. We shall have to see. In the meantime, here are the entries inspired by Jono Dry’s art.
Morning peeps, and welcome back to the Flashes of Inspiration challenge – my bi-weekly flash fiction competition thingy. I’m trying to get into the habit of writing, stirring the pot of my imagination in order to keep things fresh. I’m also giving myself the licence to experiment. Making it a shared challenge seems to hook me in more and helps me drive for quality. I hope you get something equally valuable out of it.
A reminder – the images we use each time don’t have to be taken literally and needn’t figure in your creative writing at all (though they can do so if you wish). The intention is to prick the subconscious, to prompt questions, to set a tone or evoke some feeling. Take them as you will. Your work can be in any genre, take any style or form. As usual these days, I’m looking for no more than 400 words. It seems to be a sweet spot. Oh yes, and the following three words must be used:
Time’s up. Just a couple of us this week, so no need to vote. It’s all about the exercise of writing, making inspiration a reflexive habit instead of an occasional experience. It’s funny, but my story twisted in my hands. I had thought to dive into madness and necrophilia, but those laughing eyes (and my protagonist’s wittering way) dragged things around to a different kind of darkness. And Tabby’s story? Yeah, that feels right. It’s a good ‘un. Well, why don’t I shut up and just let you read them, eh?
Evening all, I’m back from New Zealand and burning to write. Let’s get back to our Flashes of Inspiration then, shall we? A friend shared some pretty bizarre stock images on Facebook the other day, and this one grabbed me as being particularly provocative. It seems pretty clear that there’s a nasty connection between the corpse and the girl, but what’s the story behind it? Is evil looking us in the eye, does it lie in the coffin, or perhaps behind the camera? Is the body real, or is this part of an elaborate prank? There are so many possibilities whizzing through my brain. I hope you’ll join me in crafting some kind of narrative from it.
Morning all. These are strange and strained times for everyone at the moment, so it’s understandably hard to commit to anything non-essential. The lack of entrants to our little contest this week shows that people have other things on their minds, and that’s cool. It means a lot to me that people generally are taking part, engaging with the images and words, sharing their talents and growing their creativity. I’ll keep doing these contests because I want to challenge myself to keep writing as much as anything, even in these little snatches. It keeps the candle aflame and builds the muscles of the imagination.
That said, we are officially taking a month off because my family and I are heading off to New Zealand. The next contest will be posted up on Thursday 9th May. Until then, keep plugging with your own creative endeavours. Oh, and here are the entries for this week. (No voting.)
Morning all. First up, congratulations to Caroline Polley for her victory with When In Cyberia in the last contest. Her prize will be winging its way to her soon. The creativity train never stops though, so on we go to the next competition. We have another image to get the grey cells chugging but how will you take it? Will you come up with an anthropomorphic crime drama, a Planet of the Apes pastiche, some scathing satire on capitalism, or a somewhat subtler and more twisted tale? You’ve got 400 words to play with and they must include the following three…
Morning lovelies, I won’t badger you to enter this one again. It finished last night! Are you curious to see what our writers came up with? I certainly am. If you already know how this goes then slip straight on down to read them and then vote. If you’re a newcomer to the site then I’ll briefly explain. The image above was set last week as a prompt for our writers to play with. The only constraints were the word limit (just 400) and the fact that three key words had to be included in some way – Perdition, Transform, and Decorous. Up until now, we’ve always done the contest for fun. This time there’s a prize on offer: ‘A Warning About Your Future Enslavement That You Will Dismiss as a Collection of Short Fiction and Essays by Kit Power.’ Well, what are you waiting for? Read on…
Morning all, and congratulations to Jan Edwards for winning the last contest with her evocative piece, Ride, Boldly Ride. I’m going to change it up a bit this week and offer a prize to the next winner: a paperback copy of the excellent collection, ‘A Warning About Your Future Enslavement That You Will Dismiss as a Collection of Short Fiction and Essays by Kit Power.’
The bell has struck, the hour has come, and all the entries are in. Thanks again for those who have submitted to Flashes of Inspiration. I realise time is short and you all have busy lives. What’s heartening is that I seem to be getting new people every time, which gives us a good variety of styles and mindsets. Who are the authors? I hear you ask. You’ll find out next week when I declare the winner. Winner? I hear you prompt – because there may be new readers here, ya know. Oh yeah, you can vote on your two favourite pieces. Take a read of the three submissions below then pick your two favourites. I hope you enjoy them.