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VERTICALLY CHALLENGED STORIES

Short shots to distract you from reality for a little while

Vertically Challenged Stories: Work
Bridge over a City
Image by Silas Baisch

ACCELERATION

Two years after arriving back in Australia after a two-year stint in London, I was still feeling listless and displaced. So I went back to uni in 2014 to do a Journalism Masters, to learn more about writing and maybe get a job afterwards. I took a course called Writing The Short Story. Acceleration was 1 of 2 stories I wrote over the semester, and the first story I ever finished. My lecturer said it was a couple word changes away from a 7 (out of 7) so I changed them.  Raw and flawed as it may be, it was my first, so will always hold a special place in my heart.

WAVE

Wave was longlisted from 1500+ submission in Australian Writers' Centre June 2021 Furious Fiction. You get 48 hours over a weekend to write a 500-word story with a certain criteria. Inevitably, the bulk of rewriting and last-minute tweaks occurs on Sunday night after procrastinating most of the weekend. Submission criteria:
Your story must include (word for word) the following SEVEN descriptions at any point in your story body (i.e. not in the title): THICK AS HONEY, SILENT AND STILL, GOLDEN GLOW, HEART-SHAPED, DELICATE PERFUME, SOFT AND DOUGHY, RAZOR-SHARP.

Image by Artyom Kulikov
Image by Drew Tilk

ORCHARD LANE

Orchard Lane was shortlisted for the Fleur 'Apple Tree' Flash Fiction competition in late April 2020. I'm typically averse to popularity contest voting methods, but I got enough votes to take out third place.


The prompt was an image of an apple tree and a haiku about apple trees I don’t really need to include here. 500 words or less. This continued a pattern of stories with a dark edge I can never seem to escape from, so embrace instead.

Side note: I finished this story a couple of days before I was made redundant during the pandemic.

JUSTIN

Justin, a 1500ish word story, was submitted to Genrecon’s Short Story Competition - Poltergeists and Petticoats on the 31st October 2019. This was my first competition placing (third), so another story that holds a special place. Actually, I'm not fussed on the title, but too late for that.


The brief:

Supernatural beings, a classic romance tale or a mix of both? Just be sure to include an element related to either a poltergeist or a petticoat (or both) in your story to be eligible for entry. Simply submit a 1500-word story relating to our ‘Poltergeists and Petticoats’ theme for your chance to win!

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Image by Matthew Smith

A LIFE SENTENCE

While working on novels, I went on a bit of a short story bender to try and win some competitions and get some clout for submitting my manuscripts. But aside from that, there’s something satisfying about writing and competition a work over a few days or weeks compared with the longer slog of novel writing.


Criteria: 500 words, your story must include;

- a COUNTDOWN of some kind 

- a character who SHARES A SECRET

- the word  SERENDIPITY.

THE LIFE CYCLE OF A CITY

Didn't get longlisted, but it's probably good for character.
Rules for the 2020 Contest: City in a wild garden.
Write a short story (“flash fiction”, up to 750 words), set in the present or future (near or far) and inspired by the phrase “City in a wild garden”. You do not have to literally use this phrase in your story. You may interpret liberally any of the words in the phrase: city, wild, and garden. Plot elements must include cities, nature, and people. It has to be fiction (that is, a story, not an essay)—any genre, from science fiction to magical realism—and can be about anything: climate change; food security; utopias; wild nature; a love story; … anything.

Image by Ben Sweet
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ONLY THE DEAD...

A dialogue only short story. This was another competition submission, and a challenging one. It didn't go anywhere, but it's all beneficial right?

Only the dead is about two criminals in a bank vault mid-heist, one of them gravely injured. I was really smashing out these short stories in early 2020, which reminds me to get back into them. 1683 words, not much more to say about it, which is kind of ironic when it’s so heavily focused on dialogue.

THE LETTER

Another entry in my 2020 short story run. Also just before I was made redundant during the pandemic. This was part of the Booksie 2020 Flash Fiction Writing Contest. Another story I felt good about that didn't go anywhere.

Criteria:

Take a look at the picture above. 
In 500 words or less, write a story about the image. The challenge of flash fiction is to create a thought-provoking story within the tight word constraints of the writing form. 

Image by Fernando Meloni
Image by Antonio Caverzan

DOGGONE

I’ve started the past few years of by entering a short story competition. This is another one for the Australian Writer’s Centre Flash Fiction competition. Submitted, nothing happened, but another story for a collection one day. No real insight or strong feelings, but here it is.


Criteria: 500 words, your story must begin at sunrise, you must use the following words somewhere in your story: SIGNATURE, PATIENT, BICYCLE. Must include a character who has to make a CHOICE.

SHOOT THE MOON

I liked this reimagining of the night before a historical event, and thought this was actually pretty good. The judges however...

Another 500 word Furious Fiction entry where you get a weekend. 

Criteria:

1. Your story must include someone PACKING A SUITCASE.

2. Your story must include the phrase “ACROSS A CROWDED ROOM” (as dialogue or narrative).

3. Your story must include the words CHARM, CRUSH and FAINT.

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Image by Craig Bradford

LOCHED AND LOADED

Terrible title pun. Another story based on criteria. I thought it was ok.

Your story must include this setting pictured (above) at some point.

2. Just because it’s March, your story must include the following “MAR-” words: MARKET, MARBLE, MARVELLOUS, MARSHMALLOW.

3. Your story’s final sentence must contain dialogue – i.e. someone speaking.

Feel free to interpret the criteria in any creative way you like. Your story must be 500 words or fewer.

THE MOUNTAIN

Another 500 word short story for a Furious Fiction comp. I think I gravitate towards these because 500 words is a very achievable word count over a couple of days and it’s nice completing something while working on larger projects. Still have to win one of these babies.


These were the April criteria:

  • Your story must begin in some kind of queue.

  • Your story must include the words CROSS, DROP and LUCKY.

  • Your story must include a map.

Image by Fruit Basket Agency
Image by Thomas Park

THE ORANGE

The Orange was written for the 2022 Sydney Hammond Memorial Short Story Competition. 

Maximum 1,000 words 

Theme: Water Under the Bridge

ON THE COUCH

After my lecturer’s glowing feedback for my first short story, Acceleration, I made the mistake of thinking I was a pretty good writer. This second 2000ish word story I wrote at uni for a short story subject is a bit clumsy, relying too much on crass, semi-offensive themes, and a poor attempt at trying to write like Chuck Palahniuk. I learnt from this though. It has potential, but needs work, and I’ll revisit when I do a short story collection in the future. The main thing I learnt is to not be too confident in my abilities.

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6-ball

TIME TO BURN

A helpful handover document for an incoming staff member at a student accommodation company.

SIX WORD SHORT STORIES

The most famous version of this 6 word story concept is attributed to Ernest Hemingway, who deservedly won a bet with this gem. Tragedy, sorrow encapsulated in 6 words.


For sale: baby shoes. Never worn.


Obviously this is impossible to beat as it’s the yardstick all others are measured against, but I can try for fun. Again, they veer towards the macabre and depressing.

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