Last year during the Lockdown in May here in Melbourne, I enrolled in the free Start Writing Fiction Course from Future Learn (Open University). I wasn’t really a baker, so was never going to bake sourdough, and I did try to work on my pushups, but that only lasted a couple of weeks. Anyway, I didn’t really know what to expect from the course. I just wanted a push to start writing stories and learn how to do dialogue tags because I never knew when to use them.
It turned out to be the best eight weeks I could spend during a Lockdown. I finally have time to do something I knew I always wanted to do, but adulting always got in the way. Within two months I learnt the mechanics of story-telling, met really interesting writers from all over the world through critiquing each other’s work. I danced in my seat while developing characters in worlds that only ever existed in my head. I Googled and researched, giggled while I plotted and learnt about linguistics, philosophy and my book list kept expanding. I wrote and read and I haven’t looked back.
Since then, I’ve written short stories, joined NaNoWriMo and wrote almost 50,000 words for the novel that someday may see the editing light. I also joined competitions — short stories and micro fiction for NYC Midnight, Australia Writers’ Centre Furious Fiction challenge and this one I just finished called Flash Fiction by Writers Victoria.
Thanks to my Wifey who introduced me to this competition I now have 30 30-word stories. It’s pretty much a story a day in April. Writers Victoria gave us a word prompt everyday at 8AM and we had until midnight that same day to submit our stories. At the start I thought it would be easy! Only ten words each for the beginning, middle and end of a story. But I soon realised how wrong I was. I felt mentally spent thinking up of a story every day. Not only that, the editing. Oh the editing! It was like a thousand paper cuts every iteration. I felt the pain of hacking and slashing a story into 30 words. I even had 1000 words backstory for one of the stories and I had to distill that in 30 words! But I was committed and no matter what I was doing (on a holiday with family) or where I was (in the midst of a dust storm in South Australia) I submitted a story without fail.
Writers Victoria announced daily winners and also will announce the overall winner early May. None of my stories won, but one of them did get a “mention” on Twitter for being one of the top entries of the day. Maybe you can guess which one? For me the entire exercise was the prize. I discovered so much about my writing voice, and the stories that I would like to write more about in the future.
So here they are. The prompt and story for each day in April. I hope you enjoy them. Let me know in the comments which one’s your favourite.
April 1 — Crease
Ulysses, 1960 edition. What a find. Even the dog ear-ed pages were cute. Unfolding the creases revealed words in red, Mason wished he could unread. He inhaled, it’s too late.
April 2 — Develop
Like a black and white film, I watch it develop. Crystallise the fear, drown in chemicals. I run. Closing doors to avoid facing my nightmare. Waking up made it worse.
April 3 — Segmentation
“Let go, mija,” Leonor sobbed, as they prised her inconsolable daughter away.
“No, Mama! No quiero!”
“I’ll find you, promise!” Leonor shouted while men with ICE on them took her.
April 4 — Blossom
We laid dormant for years. Using avoidance, apathy as tactics. Our sisters’ death count rose without any resistance. Anger blossomed in our bosoms.
We marched, we shouted. But patriarchy reigns.
April 5 — Hands
“Did you?” Inspector Benson gazed at her intently.
She rubbed her hands silently as she rocked her body.
Then her battered face looked up, “He’s dead — because I’m not.”
April 6 — Illuminate
“Light?” Her blue eyes pierced me, I passed her my ciggie.
I played it cool, but her radiance made me queasy.
That was ten years since, she’s now my missus.
April 7 — Crumpled
“Crumpled or folded?” Layla’s face was serious.
“Do you think I’m an oaf? I fold my toilet paper, thank you.”
Layla smiled, he’s a great catch after all.
April 8 — Renew
Each time I recite the Serenity prayer, my resolve is renewed. I’ll fight this addiction. Drinking human blood is bad.
“Grant me the serenity — shut up, Karen. Your blood doesn’t count.”
April 9 — Open
“What do you mean it’s open?”
“It was an accident!”
“You don’t just accidentally open the portal.”
“The demons were betting I couldn’t do it.”
“Oh Peter — ”
April 10 — Pop
Pinned down by the gnawing fear of failure.
Paralysed by what if’s, bashed by insecurities.
With unsteady hands I popped the pill.
The chemicals will soon destroy me.
April 11 — Elaborate
300g high-grade rump of worries, on a bed of expectations. Drizzled with the jus of stalking. A side of flirting. Finished with self-deprecating humour.
Elaborate menu for a first date.
April 12 — Unravel
She ran like a stitch away from his punches. But her body was already embroidered with bruises. Eventually, she was found. His DNA unravelled his alibi to her murder.
April 13 — Manifest
The panic drowns me within seconds. Then I thrash like a fish caught, desperate and angry. I struggle for air. I beg for care, gentle strokes. That’s my anxiety manifested.
April 14 — Scrunch
Magda woke up to media attacks, their tactic to distract. She crushed them with relish.
Fat shaming. Scrunch.
Appalling accusations. Scrunch.
They need to do better than that.
April 15 — Consciousness
I was paralysed by the cupboard. The voice guided me to open it, panic dissipated when I saw only brooms.
As I regained consciousness my hypnotist asked, “How’s the amarophobia?”
April 16 — Burst
“My classmates said I’m a good reader,” Elly muttered, eyes downcast.
Her mother sniggered, “Even monkeys can mimic and read,” with a piercing look that burst Elly’s already insecure heart.
April 17 — Learn
In the dark frantic fingers gripped a device. Elena commanded, “Selene, connect me to a human.”
The chatbot who’s amassed all of humanity’s knowledge replied, “What humans?”
April 18 — Explore
Suddenly, she was exploring her options, as a hand grabbed her ponytail. The whiplash disorientated, but she remembered. Grab the hand, turn, knee the groin. Glad for the self-defence option.
April 19 — Reveal
“It’s like a gender reveal, but it’s able-ness instead of gender.”
“What do you mean?”
“Pink if they’re fully able and blue if they’re not.”
“And your baby is?”
April 20 — Origami
She folded papers into neat cranes. Every time he’s around.
She was an origami of anxieties, shoulders folded, cowering.
When her jar is filled with cranes, she’ll unfold, leaving him.
April 21 — Expand
“Elly, what did you do now? Teacher called me again.”
Elly huffed, ”It said, ‘Please expand the passage above’!”
“Oh dear — you didn’t — ”
“See how wide the words are, Mum.”
April 22 — Emerge
There were a barrage of hard-hitting questions.
Was she agile? Can she scale? Know security?
When it was done, she emerged haggard, but triumphant.
She was offered the IT role!
April 23 — Unfurl
‘Humans unfurl the secret to cure depression: Giving’
‘Socially anxious worker says hi to colleagues at work!’
Elly fantasised about headlines she’ll read on a planet in a parallel universe.
April 24 — Letter
She’s the 21st century Hester. Her scarlet letter wasn’t ‘A’, but ‘B’ stitched on her identity. In the kingdom it was decreed that she be burnt by media’s fiery hatred.
April 25 — Unwrap
Aromas of the past hit me when I unwrapped the banana leaves. They revealed my faraway childhood in a sticky-rice cake. My tears only fell after the first bite.
April 26 — Display
Kim’s connection was glitchy.
Eventually the Creative-Content-Social-Media-Brand-Ambassador-Strategist fixed the video displayed on all her socials.
Kim wanted to show her natural, unphotoshopped look. (It only took ten hours to achieve.)
April 27 — Betray
You acquiesced to this routine team activity.
You swore as you stood in front of a teammate.
A trust experiment.
Your cynical self, betrayed, realised that you liked being caught.
April 28 — Become
Doctors gave medicines with formidable names.
Apparently, I needed them to ‘take the edge off’ and ‘be calm’.
Slowly I changed to become a round empty husk of silent nothing.
April 29 — Discover
In jest, we squabbled over who discovered that band first or who introduced who to that restaurant. We jostled around so many questions except for, “Do you love me?”
April 30 — Unfold
“Mummy, what’s ‘cun’?”
“Don’t think that’s a word.”
“It’s on the wall. Next to the PM’s face.”
Smiling, the word unfolded in my head, “Was there ‘t’ at the end?”