Flash Fiction Challenge—Steps 0 and 1.
Comic Book School wants your flash fiction, not the flash you’ve already written, but the flash you’re about to write. Unlike most calls for submission, which ask you submit a finished story or piece of art (which the publisher will either accept or reject, usually without providing feedback), the Comic Book School Flash Fiction challenge asks you to engage in a process of community, composition, and criticism, that will guide you toward the creating of a finished, published piece of illuminated flash fiction.
The challenge begins now and runs through June 29th. Check out the challenge calendar (bottom of this post) to see the full schedule of steps and check in dates.
Questions? Contact our editor A.A. Rubin on the Flash Fiction Forum.
What is Illuminated Flash Fiction?
Flash fiction is another way of describing a very short prose story, usually one that is less than 1000 words. For this challenge, you will be writing (or working with a writer who will write) either a 300-500 word story or a 750-1000 word story. For more information about flash fiction, including links to published examples, check out the landing page from last year’s challenge.
“Illuminated” means that these stories will be illustrated. Each story will be accompanied by either one or two full-page illustrations, depending on its length. Writers and artists will meet and form teams on the Comic Book School message boards.
Remember that you will not be submitting a finished story, rather you will be following the steps of creation, critique, and revision delineated in the challenge schedule. Along the way, you’ll be supported by the Comic Book School community, and mentored by professionals who are part of the Comic Book School network.
Unfortunately, we cannot pay you for your work, but if you complete the challenge, you will have a published piece in an award-winning anthology series. You also get access to Comic Book School’s free education and community resources.
How to join and participate in the challenge:
First, if you haven’t already done so, join the Comic Book School community by going to our prompt page. Like the 8-Page Comics Challenge, the prompt for the flash fiction challenge is “The Time Inn.”
You may interpret the prompt however you wish—and the phrase “The Time Inn” does not actually have to appear in the story, but the piece must address the prompt in some way. Start thinking about the prompt, but don’t worry, you have until May 11th to brainstorm story ideas.
Next, get on the message boards and introduce yourself. You are going to want to post a little bit about who you are, the type of work that you do (art, writing, or both), your preferences in terms of genre and style, and, if you have them, some links to your portfolio or previously published work. Networking is a huge component of the Comic Book School experience, and the people you will meet within our community will not only become your teammates for the challenge, but your critique group, professional colleagues, and, hopefully, friends as well.
Over the next couple of weeks, brainstorm ideas for your story and/or illustration, and pitch those ideas to the community on the forums. Teams may begin with a writer pitching an idea seeking an artist to illustrate their story, or with an artist with an idea for image who needs a writer to write prose inspired by the image. You may also do both the writing and art yourself, but even though you won’t need to find a partner for the challenge in that case, we still ask that you post your progress on the boards and solicit community feedback.
How To Propose Flash Fiction Ideas
Last year, I (A.A. Rubin) posted four different ideas for the flash fiction challenge. Mike Ponce, a wonderful artist in our community, liked one of them and volunteered to illustrate it. We ended up working together, and created “The Duel,” which was published in Panel 1, our first 8-Page Challenge anthology.
Here are examples of my initial story idea posts.
This is a horror story based on a short twitter story I wrote. The original story is about 50 words, so I would have to expand it, but it gives an excellent outline for the story. I’ve received a lot of positive reaction to the story. It was read on a podcast for flash fiction. I think it would work nicely with an illustration that borders on classic horror and fairytale.
“A forest so verdant it must be enchanted; an old well so deep she could not see the bottom; a wish made in haste; a coin thrown in anger. Later, from the comfort of home, she hoped it wouldn’t come true, but, deep down, she knew it was too late.”
Idea # 2:
The story starts with two wizards facing each other across a dusty road, in the classic, spaghetti-western gunfighters stance. “This town ain’t big enough for the two of us. It follows the classic tropes: tumbleweed across the road, squinty-eyed stare-down, the townsfolk battening down the hatches, etc. At noon, the clock strikes noon. At the 12th chime, they draw their staffs, and shoot. The magic from one hits the other, with all the pulpy description one would expect, and then–and here’s the twist, the wizards, still connected by the magic, start moving away from each other as everything in the town doubles–two saloons, too general stores, two post offices, two sheriff’s offices, etc–until the town is double the size. Now, the town IS big enough for both of them.
The Devil’s biggest regret is giving his music to Robert Johnson down at the crossroads. Life in Hell is hard, and the guitar used to be his escape. Now, Lucifer has the blues, but he can no longer play them.
I have a number of narrative poems, and I’m considering two of them for this project. Now, the word-count would have to be smaller, since poetry takes up more space on the page, and if we want to restrict this to just flash fiction, I could do one of the previous three ideas. I’m not going to post a complete poem here, since it would count as being published and I therefore would not be able to submit them elsewhere if i decide to go with another idea, but I’ll post the first stanza of two different poems.
Poem 1–Classic Scifi
The sentinels protect us
From danger from above
They have no sense of duty
They have no sense of love
But their programming’s infallible
We know, our leaders said
It better be, ‘cause if they fail
We will all be dead.
Poem 2- Weird horror
The monster lives inside of me
Deep inside my heart
You think I’m being figurative
But, really, I am not
Poem 3- Scifi
We live in peace and harmony
‘neath our alien overlords.
Life is pretty grand here
(Hail the Zords!)
Next, It’s Your Turn!
As you can see, they are brief and informal. The idea is to pitch your story ideas to the community as the first step toward forming your creative teams. I was lucky that Mike liked one of my ideas enough to volunteer, but I also believe that by posting multiple, diverse ideas, I increased the chances that someone would be interested in teaming up for one of them. Brainstorming and presented three to five ideas will not only increase your chances of finding a creative partner, but it will make you a better creator as well. Save those “extra” ideas. You may end up using them for other projects.
In the event that you do not attract an immediate volunteer, go back through the introduction posts, review portfolios, and try to find an artist or writer who suits your proposed story. Pitching is a skill you will need as a creative professional, and this challenge—within a safe and supportive community—is an excellent way for you to practice.
While we encourage you to form your own creative teams, we will attempt (but cannot guarantee) to pair writers and artists who are having trouble finding a partner.
Once you have formed your team and announced it on the forum, you will be ready to begin drafting. Look for more information and advice on the drafting and feedback processes as we approach Step 2 of the Flash Fiction challenge.
Until then, register for the challenge, review the creative prompt, and start brainstorming on the boards.
We hope you will take on the flash fiction challenge. We’ll see you on the boards…and in The Time Inn.
Questions? Contact our editor A.A. Rubin on the Flash Fiction Forum.