Inevitable – 1st Round Entry – NYC Midnight Flash Fiction Challenge Entry

Here’s my entry for the 1st round of the NYC Midnight Flash Fiction Challenge 2014. If you’d like to read about my experience writing this story, click here! Thanks in advance for reading, and thanks for any feedback you might have.

Reminder, I had 48-hours to write a 1,000 word story based on these prompts:

Screen Shot 2014-08-18 at 8.46.08 AM

“Inevitable”

by Jenna Willett

BRIEF SYNOPSIS: While coping with the tragic death of her husband, Kate travels to Jackson Hole with her son. Along the way, they learn the true meaning of inevitable when disaster strikes.

“Ta-da! We made it!” Kate pulled the keys from the ignition and grinned over her shoulder. “See, I told you–“

Andy stared down at his lap. His pj’s were soaked. “Sorry, Mommy.”

Kate’s shoulders slumped. “Don’t be sorry, Boo. Sometimes inevitable things happen.”

He sniffed. “What’s invetable?”

“In-ev-it-able,” she pronounced for him. “It means out of our control. Sometimes bad things happen when we don’t want them to.”

“Like Daddy?”

Her heart constricted. “That wasn’t inevitable. That was an accident.” She twisted her wedding ring and squeezed the diamond against her palm. The pain felt good. Grounding. Calming. “Come on,” she coaxed. “Let’s clean up and get some food. If we don’t hurry, it’s inevitable I’m gonna eat you.”

Andy wiped his teary eyes. “You can’t eat me, Mommy. I’m a boy.”

“Yes, but you look so delicious.” She snapped her teeth.

He giggled.

Although it was past 8 p.m., Doug’s Truck Stop was bright and alive with families and truckers. Kate draped her jacket over Andy and dug fresh clothes out of his duffle bag. Hand-in-hand, they walked across the oil-stained parking lot.

“It smells weird, Mommy.”

“Weird?”

“Yeah, like–” He inhaled deeply. “Like band-aids.”

Band-aids? What do those smell like?”

“Blood.”

“Gross.”

Andy grinned. “Blood and poop!”

“Ugh!”

His triumphant smile lit up her world. She rumpled his hair and urged him through the door. Before it shut, she sniffed the air: Gasoline, trash, cigarettes, and…corrosion.

She wrinkled her nose.

Inside, the lights above her flickered. Frowning, she herded Andy to the bathroom. After he’d changed, and they’d negotiated dinner–“Snickers if you eat an apple first”–they got in line behind an old trucker.

He pointed at the candy in Andy’s hand. “Hey, that’s my favorite too!”

Andy pressed his face against Kate’s leg.

The old man chuckled. “You know, it’s a fact Snickers is the best candy in the world. If you don’t believe me, ask your mom and dad.”

“My Daddy died.”

Stricken, the old man looked at Kate. She bit her lip and caressed the diamond to fight back the tears. He mumbled his condolences and turned to checkout.

Again, the lights flickered.

“Damn things,” the cashier grumbled. “They’ve been doing that all day.”

“It’s aliens,” said the trucker. “I’m telling you. We’ve been invaded.”

“Bullshit.”

“Aliens?” Andy whispered to Kate.

She rubbed the back of his neck. “He’s kidding.”

“No, I’m not! I saw military movin’ in last night.”

“Zip it, Pete. You’re scarin’ the kid.”

A faint boom rumbled.

The lights winked off…on.

The cashier swore.

Kate tossed a ten on the counter and marched outside with Andy. The air smelled worse than before, like rotting eggs. Sulfuric acid, perhaps? Flashes of lightning sparked from afar, followed by thunder.

“Hurry,” she urged Andy. She wanted to get to Jackson Hole before the storm hit.

Once they were in the car, Andy asked, “Aliens aren’t real, right?”

“Right.” She put the keys in the ignition.

“But monsters are?”

“Of course not, silly.”

“But you told Grandma a monster killed Daddy.”

Her stomach turned. “That was a different kind of monster.” She shuddered and flipped the ignition. It’d been three months since Ryan had been killed by a drunk driver. If it hadn’t been for Andy…

“Don’t cry, Mommy.”

“I can’t help it. It’s inevitable when you’re sad and–“

A sudden harsh alarm blared through the radio.

Kate jumped.

Andy squealed and pressed his hands over his ears.

“We interrupt our programming,” a male robotic voice announced. “This is a national emergency–“

The radio snapped off and the engine died. The lights above the gas pumps went out and the convenience store fell into darkness.

“Mommy…?” Andy whimpered.

“It’s okay,” she breathed. “It’s just a power surge–“

A piercing wail silenced her. It was followed by a deep, bone jarring jolt that shook the car.

Kate gripped the steering wheel. What…What?

Someone slammed their hand against her window. She screamed.

It was Pete.

“Get inside! It’s coming!”

Kate followed his frantic gestures. Across the parking lot people ran, screamed, and clawed at each other to get into the convenience store. One girl stood frozen, her eyes fixed on the horizon.

“MOVE!” Pete yanked Kate out of the car.

The smell of rot stung her nose, making her eyes water. Howls and groans she couldn’t comprehend echoed around her. They seemed to be coming from every direction.

Pete shoved Andy into Kate’s arms. “Run, dammit!”

She hugged him to her and bolted. The sky shrieked with inhuman sounds, and the ground trembled so violently, she feared she’d tumble.

The sky went white.

Blinding, icy, horrifying white.

It was so bright and unexpected, Kate screamed and dropped to the ground to shield Andy. The wind stole her breath and the unearthly shrieks threatened to burst her eardrums.

“GET INSIDE!”

Strong hands heaved Kate off the ground and forced her into the convenience store.

“I’m scared,” Andy sobbed against her throat.

“Me too.”

“What is it?”

She scrambled for an answer. Aliens? Terrorists? A natural disaster? She shrugged. “I don’t know.”

A horrible realization dawned upon her.

They were going to die.

It was unfair and cruel, but it was inevitable. Whatever was happening outside was inescapable. She couldn’t run or hide. Just like her husband, they were in the wrong place at the wrong time.

She squeezed her ring and hugged Andy closer.

They were all together.

The earth began to convulse and heave. The building groaned and the windows burst. A cloud of ash swirled inside. The crowd screamed. Pete sobbed next to Kate.

Andy was silent in her arms.

She closed her eyes and kissed the top of his head. “Don’t be scared, Boo. It’s okay. I love you. I love–

*

A flake of ash from Yellowstone Park’s catastrophic eruption floated over Doug’s Truck Stop. It drifted down and landed on the only thing shimmering in the ruins.

A diamond.

To read more stories, visit my Jen’s Pen page.

I Made It – Round 1 – NYC Midnight Flash Fiction Challenge 2014

I made it, everyone! I survived Round 1 of the NYC Midnight Flash Fiction Challenge 2014. I was able to set aside my fatigue/laser focus with my YA manuscript, and spit out a 1,000 word story in 48-hours.

So, for those of you who don’t know how the contest works, here’s a quick overview: There are 25 heats, each with approximately 40 writers in it. Each heat is then assigned a genre (drama, comedy, fantasy, romance, horror, etc.), a location where the story must take place, and an object that must appear at least once. We then have 48-hours to write a 1,000 word story.

As usual, I refused to look at my assignment when it was emailed to me on Friday night. If I would’ve looked, I would’ve been up all night brainstorming. So I waited until Saturday morning.

I woke up at 4:30 a.m., turned on my computer, and looked at my prompts:

Screen Shot 2014-08-18 at 8.46.08 AMI can’t tell you how relieved I was. Suspense is my FAVORITE genre to write, and it’s where my mind has been with my YA manuscript, so I didn’t have to shift gears too hard. And the prompts didn’t seem difficult. A truck stop can be made creepy/dark, and a diamond ring can be thrown in all sorts of ways. Easy peasy.

I sat back, closed my eyes, and started brainstorming. Surprisingly, I came up with a concept within minutes (rare for me). I called my best/harshest/favorite writing critic, my mom, and pitched it to her.

“Oh! I like that!” she exclaimed.

So I got to work.

…And, yeah. It did not go well.

Okay, okay. It wasn’t horrible, but during my first draft I realized I was taking way too long to get the story up and running. By the time the action/suspense began to unfold, I was already at 2,000 words.

2,000. Words!

BLERG!

I started over. I jumped ahead in my plot to get to the “good stuff” sooner. Unfortunately by doing this, I cut out all the details that made my characters likable/believable. Now they were just mannequins going through the actions.

I decided to email the story to my mom anyway. I had to. It was already past 1 p.m. 15 hours of my precious 48 were gone. I couldn’t waste anymore time on a story that was potentially useless. As I waited for her feedback, I began revising.

Write…Delete-delete-delete. Write…Delete-delete-delete…GRRR! I couldn’t get the story started. Something was off about it. I just couldn’t figure out what.

This was about the time I smacked into my standard, “I suck and I hate this story!” wall. I forced myself to take a break and walk away to clear my head.  As I ate a snack, my mom called with her thoughts. She liked it, but she had the same concern I did: the setup. It was off.

“I’m going to get DQ’d,” I muttered to her. “The story is supposed to take place at the truck stop, but most of it’s on the highway.”

“Then start it at the truck stop,” she replied. “Cut out the highway.”

Feeling kind of stupid, I made the change. And poof! Everything came together.

Within a few hours, I had a solid second draft. I liked my characters again and the suspense was there. Grateful I’d found a way to balance the two, I sent the updated version to my mom. She replied within minutes:

“I LOOOOOOVVVVEEE it!!!”

Ahhh, such sweet relief. I almost cried. Almost.

Of course, there was still a lot of work to do, and there was a major aspect of the story that bothered both of us. We brainstormed about it until we came up with a viable solution. I jotted it down and went to bed. It was almost 11 p.m., and I’d been up since dawn.

Seriously, my right eye wouldn’t stop twitching!

Yesterday was all about refining the story and chopping it down to the magical 1,000 word count. I screamed at one point, because with each revision, my word count went UP, not down: 1,300, 1,400, 1,500. I finally called my mom to come over and help me edit it. I learned from Round 3 of the Short Story Challenge that sometimes I need someone to sit with me and read my story out loud to find the flaws and unnecessary words/sentences.

After a few hours of debating, strategizing, and fine-tuning, we got the story down to 999 words. Wooooot! I sent it off to a handful of beta readers (thanks, Jess), tweaked a few things based off their feedback, and finally submitted it.

Then I collapsed!

Overall, I’m satisfied with the final outcome of my story. It’s not my favorite one, but I’m still proud of it. I promise I’ll post it for you all to read in a few days, after I receive confirmation from NYC Midnight it’s okay to share. Until then, here is the title and brief synopsis:

“Inevitable”

BRIEF SYNOPSIS: While coping with the tragic death of her husband, Kate travels to Jackson Hole with her son. Along the way, they learn the true meaning of inevitable when disaster strikes.

Did anyone else participate in this weekend’s Flash Fiction Challenge? If so, how’d it go for you?

…Okay, I’ve been debating about this all weekend, but I’m gonna do it. Remember that silly video I mentioned to you on Friday? Well, here it is. The photos I sent to my friend got lost in translation, but she used a couple of the video clips I recorded. It’s a little embarrassing, but whatever. More than anything, I wanted to show you what a wonderful/funny/weird/awesome writing community NYC Midnight has. I hope someday you can join in the fun. Enjoy!

…And, uh, feel free to laugh at me as much as you want. 😉

Photo Credits: 

http://hollygrass.blogspot.com/2014/05/hallelujah-its-friday.html

http://www.videogum.com/566121/this-week-in-gifs-60/webjunk/

http://www.india-forums.com/forum_posts.asp?TID=4014838

http://whatshadeofgreenshouldwecallme.tumblr.com/post/50511483768/me-during-noonans-class

http://glee.wikia.com/wiki/File:Duh_duh_duh.gif

http://imgur.com/gallery/wanzzxr

http://onlyfatrabbit.tumblr.com/post/58989099326/bunny-rabbit-sitting-at-a-computer-desk-then

Friday Funny with a Flash and a Big Breath

You know what that means.

Yup! It’s FRIDAY!

…Go ahead and cheer. I know you want to 😉

So, my week wasn’t quite as productive as I would’ve liked it to be on the writing front. I had to take some time out of my regular scheduled programming to apply for a substitute teaching license. I wasn’t planning on doing this, but…

Okay, so long story short: My sister tried to convince me to apply for a teaching post in the Marketing Department at a local high school. For a few days, I seriously considered it. Then I realized teaching isn’t a job change. It’s a career change, and I’m not looking for a new career. I have one as a writer and a pursuer of full-time authorship.

I explained all of this to my sister and she completely understood. But she still urged me to apply for a substitute license, just in case I needed some extra cash or suddenly found myself without a job. I agreed and decided to go through the nitpicky application process.

Yeah, that was a blast. But, I’m glad I did it. It’s always nice to have some kind of cushion in case things fall apart unexpectedly.

 Another thing that stole some precious manuscript time this week was on the sillier side. As most of you know, I’m an avid participant in the NYC Midnight writing challenges. Tonight at midnight, the Flash Fiction Challenge kicks off.

To celebrate, one of my friends/fellow competitors decided to make a funny “Flash” themed video to post on the competition’s forum. It’s mostly a fun way to get writers pumped up and excited for the challenge, and to create a sense of community. A few days ago, my friend emailed me and asked if I’d like to contribute some silly/beautiful/clean “Flash” type photos and videos.

Being the “Yes Girl” that I am, I said, “Sure! No problem.”

Yet, as I began taking photos, I realized something: I STINK at making come-hither eyes and sultry expressions and anything else of the sort. Worse, I kept bursting out laughing at myself, so most of my shots were useless.

After a solid hour of trying and failing, I finally gave up and sent my friend what I had. Most of them were of me puckering, trying to look alluring (haha!), and cringing at myself. Yeah, I’m awesome.

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IMG_2566Go and laugh. It’s cool. I’m still laughing at myself.

Anyway, as I mentioned, tonight the Flash Fiction Challenge 2014 kicks off. At midnight, I’ll be assigned a genre, location, and object, and then I’ll have 48-hours to write a 1,000 word story.

*BIG, DEEP BREATH*

To be honest, I’m not sure how I’ll fair. My brain is so wrapped up in my manuscript right now, I’m afraid I won’t be able to snap out of that story and jump into another. If I receive a difficult genre like political satire, comedy, or–God forbid–romance, I might just curl up and surrender…Okay, that’s a lie. I never surrender without putting up some kind of fight. I guess I’ll just cross my fingers and pray to God for the best. Of course, your positive vibes will be much appreciated too.

So, in honor of my terrible fear of writer’s block striking this weekend, here is today’s Friday Funny. Enjoy!

MjAxMy00NjI4MWVhZjgxMmNlMDM4How was your week? Is anyone else participating in the NYC Midnight Flash Fiction Challenge? Let me know! We can cheer each other on 🙂

Jen’s Weekly Roundup

In case you missed my posts from earlier this week, here you go!

Music Monday – You Give Love A Bad Name – Bon Jovi

One Year Blogiversary – How My Blog Saved Me

Sympathy for a Good Villain

Photo credits: 

http://rebloggy.com/post/my-gif-gif-funny-glamour-party-humor-new-years-retro-nostalgia-1920s-classic-fil/71786318384

http://mrwgifs.com/jack-black-salutes-with-passion-in-school-of-rock-movie-gif/

http://gifstumblr.com/cool/get-outta-my-way-1250

http://www.someecards.com/usercards/viewcard/MjAxMy02YmNiNDFhY2MwM2Q0MDQ4

http://www.theredheadbaker.com/pizza-ground-lamb-leeks-rosemary/

Friday Funny and a Return to the Daily Grind

Well, as you’ve likely noticed by now, I’m back. Yayyyy!!!

…No, that wasn’t sarcasm at all! 😉 But, come on! Who loves returning to reality after a week off in la-la land? And that’s what my “staycation” basically was. For six blissful days, I lived the life I wish I could live if I didn’t have a full-time job. I woke up when I wanted to, got my workout out of the way, ate a hearty breakfast, and then wrote ALL DAY LONG! Then I had time to actually do stuff in the evenings (hang out with family and friends, read, watch TV, etc.). Better yet, I could stay up as late as I wanted. There was no clock glaring at me like, “Dude, you know you need to be up at 5 a.m., right?”

It was a perfect week. And I did NOT want to return to my unglamorous go-go-go, sleep-work-write daily grind. But alas, I had to.

Thankfully, my transition back to reality hasn’t been too horrible. My job has resumed its nice, slow pace, and life in general has been calm. So my return has felt more like jumping into a lukewarm bathtub, not an icy pool–or a really deep puddle.

As for my progress with my manuscript, lets see…I wrote three and half chapters last week during my time off, and I’ve almost completed another two this week. So things are moving along much faster and smoother than before my staycation. Woo-hoo! And if I maintain my steady pace, I should hit the halfway point by the end of July. Woo-hoo x 2!

So, in honor of my return to reality and my not so glamorous daily grind, here is today’s Friday Funny. Enjoy!

22d5c5842666cdfe0aa2055ecc0deef5P.S. I’d like to wish my brother a very happy birthday today. He is one of my best friends and has always–ALWAYS–supported my dream of being a writer. So, happy birthday, Max! Hope you have a fantastical, most wonderful, best ever kind of day!

261409_10100111344481753_8147938_nJen’s Weekly Roundup

In case you missed my posts from earlier this week, here go:

My First Draft of My First Story Ever

My Writing: The What, How, and Why

The Flash Fiction Challenge 2014 Early Entry Deadline is Tomorrow!

He Said, She Said: Dialogue Tags and Saidisms

Photo credits: 

http://wifflegif.com/gifs/222500-sarcastic-such-fun-gif

Coffee – To Drink or Not to Drink?

http://news.distractify.com/fun/fails/x-misleading-puddles-ready-to-be-the-reason-for-your-trust-issues/

The Flash Fiction Challenge 2014 Early Entry Deadline is Tomorrow!

reminder4Don’t forget! The early entry deadline for the NYC Midnight Flash Fiction Challenge is tomorrow.  If you’re still debating whether or not you should enter this fun, challenging, and whirlwind of a writing contest, here’s why I think you should:

Why You Should Enter the NYC Midnight Flash Fiction Challenge 2014

Hope to see you all there!

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Friday Funny with a Reminder: Dreams Don’t Work Unless You Do

Ahhh, it’s Friday. Friday, Friday, Friday!

In a nutshell, my week was similar to the last few: calm and productive. I’ve continued traipsing through the revisions for my YA manuscript, and despite my ongoing sluggish pace, I feel good about them. As planned, I sent my beta reader the first five chapters of my story, and she gave them the thumbs up.

Hallelujah!

When I received her positive feedback, I did a little happy dance. I was so delighted! And astonished. And relieved. She isn’t an easy critic to please (hence the reason she’s my beta reader). But she genuinely enjoyed my first five chapters. Here were a few of her comments:

I read the chapters and all I can say is other than some typos and descriptions–like you said just read for the content–well I could not stop reading it. I mean really. I never wanted to stop and you kept me guessing

I chuckled off and on throughout and felt the story’s lightness–not too deep and dark–yet. Your character development was perfect

I am anxiously awaiting the next set.

I will be sending the next two chapters to her tomorrow. I’m not as happy with them–something just feels off…Hopefully my beta reader will be able pinpoint what the problem is. Or maybe I’m just over thinking things and need to carry on. Which I will, as always. 🙂

Unfortunately, my 9-5 job has picked up its pace and workload, so I won’t have as much free time to devote to my manuscript. Blerg! Fingers crossed I’m able to deal with it and just keep writing, especially since I’ve made it an official goal to have a solid draft completed by August 15th. That’s when the first round of the NYC Midnight Flash Fiction Challenge 2014 kicks off.

So, basically, I won’t have a life the rest of summer. Adios world. See ya later.

Oh well. As the saying goes, “Dreams don’t work unless you do”, right?

*big breath*

In honor of the slightly overwhelming amount of work I have ahead of me, here is today’s Friday Funny:

a-ha-ha-wr-be-a-writer-funny1How was your week? Are you feeling stressed? Or you are kicking back and enjoying some fun in the sun? I won’t resent you if you are…Okay, okay. I might resent you a little 😉

Jen’s Weekly Roundup
In case you missed my posts from earlier this week, here go:

Music Monday – Good Girl – Carrie Underwood

Why You Should Enter the NYC Midnight Flash Fiction Challenge 2014

The First 250 Words of Your Manuscript

Why You Should Enter the NYC Midnight Flash Fiction Challenge 2014

I know many people don’t want to take the time or spend the money on entering writing contests. I was in the same boat up until a year ago. Then I took the plunge and entered the NYC Midnight Flash Fiction Challenge 2013 last fall, and then the NYC Midnight Short Story Challenge 2014 this past spring. And whoa! My entire attitude changed.

Before I entered these contests, I assumed my writing skills were at their best…WRONG! In just two measly challenges, my abilities have grown exponentially. I’m actually kind of embarrassed by what I considered my “best”. I won’t even let my friends or colleagues look at my old work.

So, what has writing flash fiction/short stories taught me, exactly? Well, I’ll tell you:

  • Write a complete story. To make a story truly shine, all facets of it must be developed and balanced equally. Plot, characters, scenery, etc. If you miss or lax on one, it stands out to readers.
  • Characters count. Characters carry a large portion of a story’s weight. Making them as 3D and likable as possible is a must. Also, too many of them tend to be confusing/burdensome for a reader. So, make each one count, and make each one memorable.
  • Keep it simple! Chop, chop, chop. Do you really need that character? Do you really need to talk about that fact?  Short stories force you to take a step back and consider what’s vital to a plot. If it’s not pushing it forward or making it deeper, get rid of it.
  • Take the road less traveled. Go outside the box. Be creative! Ask yourself, “Is this different? Will it make me stand out?” Example: In round one of the Short Story Challenge 2014, I received these prompts: Suspense, wedding, chef. My first impulse? Write a story about a bride and groom who are trying to off each other, and in the end the bride poisons the groom with the help of the chef. I immediately tossed it out and forced myself to dig deeper and think beyond the obvious. And I’m glad I did. Most of my competitors wrote stories about poisoned food and vindictive brides and grooms. Mine, “Chasing Monsters,” as nothing of the sort. And–mostly–because of that, I landed myself a 2nd place finish.

Those are just a few things I’ve learned while participating in these challenges. To list all of them would take a decade. I will, however, point out some specific benefits of participating in an NYC Midnight Challenge.

The main one is their forum. NYC Midnight offers competitors a location to interact and share their stories with each other. And I love it! The forum helps you:

  • Overcome your fear of sharing your work with others.
  • Discover what you do well. Positive feedback is always nice to hear, right?
  • Learn to open yourself up to constructive criticism. If you’re planning to enter the Harsh Land of Publishing, you will need to know how to do this. Trust me.
  • Meet other writers! While doing these challenges, I have gained a lot of friends and colleagues. I’ve also found a few trustworthy beta readers to help me with my future work.

So, with all of that said, registration has officially opened for the NYC Midnight Flash Fiction Challenge 2014. I strongly–strongly–encourage you to consider entering it. Yes, it costs some money, and yes, the actual challenge is, well, a challenge. But I promise, if you go into it with the right attitude and participate on the forum, every penny and every stressful second will be worth it. Plus, the manuscript you’re working on now, or will be in the future, will thank you for doing this. I know the one I’m working on is thanking me (as are my beta readers–ha!).

20140618-CaptureIt-PictureOf course, the NYC Midnight writing challenges aren’t the only ones out there. If you aren’t ready to take the plunge, or aren’t in a position to spend the moola, then I still encourage you to look into a blog or website that hosts free weekly challenges. My favorite is Chuck Wendig’s, terribleminds.

 You have until July 17th to take advantage of the early entry fee. There’s also a Twitter discount, so be sure to use that to lower the cost even more.

Hope to see you all on the forum!

To learn more about the NYC Midnight Flash Fiction Challenge 2014, click here!