TUFF: The Ultimate Flash Fiction
by Charli Mills
What if I told you that writing flash fiction will get you to where you want to be? Would you scoff, or consider the possibility? Would you think I’m handing you a magic elixir? Ah, an elixir. Let’s pause a moment and talk about the hero’s journey.
If you answered the call to participate in the Flash Fiction Rodeo this past month, you answered the same call every hero hears: the one the hero reluctantly answers. We think of heroes as Thor or Wonder Woman. Yet, the hero’s journey calls to us all. Winnie the Pooh and Frodo and Mary Tyler Moore are all heroes. It’s about the path:
- The call: the opening scene in which the hero is called out of the ordinary world.
- The test: the story develops conflict through tests, challenges, temptations, allies and enemies.
- The cave: the story leads to a crisis, the hero’s darkest hour in the abyss of ordeal.
- The transformation: survival transforms the hero who begins the journey home.
- The return: the hero returns to the ordinary world with the elixir of knowing one’s own transformation.
For many writers, the Flash Fiction Rodeo was a call to go outside one’s comfort zone. Even those writers who wanted the challenge pushed themselves to write more than one response or enter multiple contests. You were all stirred by the call. You are Heroes of the Rodeo. You faced tests, found glitches and helpers, made new writing friends, discovered stories within you.
Your crisis is personal, but I know you had one — doubt, fear, panic. Our inner critics chide, Who are you to enter a writing contest? The Black Dog rips our confidence. Even when we boldly go forth, we fumble a word, forget a rule, or worry that a form went to the bottom of the bull pen. Maybe your crisis rose from a topic that stirred a painful memory. Maybe your crisis eroded your time and forced priorities. Whatever it was, it is yours, and you overcame it.
You survived the Rodeo.
Contest #8 delivers your elixir. Yes, it’s called TUFF, a play on the acronym and the idea that it’s a tough challenge. It’s five steps, five flash fictions! Yet, it is a tool, a gift to you that you will understand because it will resonate with what writing flash fiction has already taught you.
So far in this Flash Fiction Rodeo writers have reflected back to childhood, poked at the hardness of scars, laughed when humor elicited fear, cast a magical spell with a new literary form, signed up for a twittering social platform to write publicly, braved the unknown with a bull draw, and contemplated murder despite being good people. This Rodeo was a rough ride, but you stayed in the saddle. You wrote.
Trust the surprises you made along the way. If you found yourself writing about a topic, or in a format or on a platform previously alien to you, you likely found a nugget of satisfaction. I’ll tell you something about flash fiction — it’s the constraint that shifts the gears in your mind to problem-solving speed. The 99-word format we challenge weekly at Carrot Ranch becomes satisfying because our brains recognize that we are going to solve a problem (write a story) and 99-words is the tool.
Now it’s time to challenge you to go where you want to go…as a writer, as an entrepreneur, as a creative person. TUFF is your elixir. TUFF teaches you that each flash fiction you write takes you closer to transformation. Call it creativity, an insight, an a-ha moment or a breakthrough. TUFF will return you to your ordinary world as a writer, author, educator, business professional, parent, creative with the elixir meant for you. Like your writing crisis, your writing breakthrough is personal. But it will happen.
Use this format any time you are struggling to write a scene, chapter or novel. Use it to write the various blurbs for your book synopsis. Use it to write out your goals, mission statement or vision for your blog, business or career. It’s a tool and it’s now yours. However, until November 6, it’s also the final Flash Fiction Rodeo Contest.
Using the form below, write about a hero’s transformation after facing a crisis. Each step is its own flash fiction, but it is the evolution of a single story.
- Use the form for all five steps to write about a hero’s transformation after facing a crisis.
- A hero is anyone or anything going from normal to a crisis to a transformation.
- Each step is a revision of the same tale, beginning with a free write and ending with a complete three-act story.
- In step one (free-write) time your writing to 5 minutes even if it’s incomplete.
- Enter the free-write unedited.
- You may edit steps 2-4.
- You must edit step 5.
- The final story has three acts: beginning, middle and end.
- Entries must be original (no cheating on the free-write; you’ll only cheat yourself out of the elixir).
- Entries due by 11:59 pm EST November 6. Enter each step in the form all at one time.
You have one week. Pace yourself.
CONTEST NOW CLOSED. WINNER ANNOUNCED DECEMBER 26.
CHALLENGE OPTION: Due to length, challengers are asked to use the form. Be sure to write (CHALLENGE) after your title. Weekly Flash Fiction Challenges resume November 2.
Charli will be joined by two Michigan authors over coffee, during a continuous Keweenaw snowstorm. Judges will consider the following criteria:
- The original idea expressed in the free-write.
- The process by which the writer uses steps 2-4 to work that original idea.
- The completion of the final story based on the original idea and the flash fiction process to get there.
- The unedited free-write reads like a draft.
- The final story shows insight, polish and has a beginning, middle and end.
- The interpretation of a hero (epic or common), crisis and transformation.
- The final deadline met: 11:59 pm EST November 6
Winner Announced December 26. All who stayed in the saddle and wrote for the first annual Flash Fiction Rodeo are heroes! Your journey is nearly complete. Thank you for your courage to express and share literary art with and among others.
Complete schedule of winner announcements: