Friday, June 3, 2011

It's all about AUDIENCE

Compulsive... That pretty much sums it up.

Haven't kicked this contest bug yet, so I started browsing writing contests. (Chalk it up to the desire for a few more publishing credits.) I found one for WOMEN in flash fiction. Yay! I'm a woman. I write flash fiction! Not only that, I've got this great flash fiction piece my hubby loves. Done and done, right? Without a second thought I hopped on board.

Then I pulled up the fine print: Women's fiction. The audience and JUDGES are all women!


My piece was written for men.

Double shoot.

How important is audience? (Insert pause for pondering now.) You can have the greatest Science Fiction piece in the world, but if the judge/agent/publisher prefers Historical Fiction, your chances of coming off a cosmic conqueror are a whopping zero. It's like feeding dog food to penguins. Nutritious? Maybe, but not for boy-flipper.

Now I've written an entirely new piece of flash fiction, so help a girl out eh? Toss your thoughts and critiques at me on this 750 word rockin piece of WOMEN's flash fiction.

The Kiss of Death

Marian could not have imagined when she boarded the tram this morning that its derailing and subsequent explosion would result in her finding true love.

With a copy of Glamour and coffee clasped in each hand, she had stepped on, prepared for another mundane day at the office. Her greatest worry had been lipstick smears on her teeth, or embarrassing herself in front of steamy James Laughlin, again. She couldn’t wait to spend lunch proofreading the latest articles, or stealing moments with the boss to get ahead…

Each unrealized routine flashed through her mind as she stood with forty-three other disembodied souls. Their blackened and water-logged remains lay between pools of water and twisted metal, like great lumps of coal.

Firefighters cheered at having put out the flame. People crowded against the police perimeter, trying to get a closer look. Reporters blabbed their take on the “accident” to live cameras, a program she’d watch tonight, if she wasn’t dead.

Dead. Terminated. Over.

She couldn’t believe it. Who would turn off the lights she left on at the apartment? Who would feed Mister Puffkins? Who would teach her yoga class on Saturday?

A tall man pushed through the perimeter. His Valentino suit and tie were oddly out of place next to fireman’s jackets and police uniforms.

He didn’t stop to speak with the police or congratulate firemen. In fact, he didn’t acknowledge them at all, and they let him walk right through their ranks. Dark hair, longer on top, flared in a natural wave about his ears. Prominent cheeks drew notice to his perfect nose and pressed lips. His eyes pinched upward at the corners in a happy way.

He halted in front of we disembodied citizens. “All right, line up, fastest to slowest.”

They glanced about at one another in confusion.

“I see we’re dealing with the latter extreme this morning. We haven’t got all day folks.” He pulled a clipboard out of his jacket and tapped a pen to it. “And what I mean by we, is me.”

In their stunned state no one bothered to ask who he was or why they needed get in a line, just did as instructed, like dumb sheep.

Marian stood over her charred body, unwilling to move, listening as the man interviewed the first person in line.



“Roger what?”

“Roger Marcum.”

“I see. You are forthwith accepted to paradise. Enjoy the free pastries.” His palm slammed into Roger’s forehead, and Roger disappeared. “Next please?”

A woman hobbled forward.



“Edna what?” he asked impatiently.

“Edna Barrister.”

“Oh Edna, the summer of sixty-seven, really? I’m sorry, but you have earned a place in prison.”

“But, but-”

He smacked her forehead and she disappeared.

“Next?” He smiled welcomingly.

The line steadily diminished, but Marian couldn’t pull away from her corpse. She shouldn’t be here. She should be in Green Lake, Wisconsin, cheering with cheese heads and wishing her younger brother a happy fifteenth.

Regrets: she could have found work near home rather than graduating from college at twenty and taking this Chicago job. She could have left last winter, her first winter here to help Mom close up the craft store for good. She should have told Mom she loved her…


She looked up. Steely gray eyes met hers.

“Seems you are the only one who couldn’t find her way to the line.” The man smiled.

Sure enough, the others were gone.

She looked up into his face, worried.

“Oh Marian, what am I to do with you?” His smile had taken a more tender quality, the lines around his eyes squeezing in agony.

“Have we met?”

“You never do remember.” He stared at his feet. “Tragic, but fair I suppose.”

“No, I would remember you,” she protested.

He frowned. “So, shall we start the cycle again?”

“I’m afraid I don’t…”

“A handshake will send you on. A kiss will send you back, but either way I cannot keep you. Which shall it be?”

“You kissed me before?” she asked, surprised.

“Actually, you kissed me.”

She blushed.

“Several times, and we both very much enjoyed it.” He leaned closer. “In point of fact, I made sure you got on that tram. I had to see you again.”

Hopeless romantic and the guardian of life’s door? She was in love.

“Neither,” she whispered.

“Beg pardon?”

“No handshake. No kiss.”

His grin widened. “I dare say that is the best answer yet.”

P.S. Did you notice the cheese reference? =)
P.S.S. If you are having problems with commenting on blogger (as there's been a lot of that lately), please feel free to e-mail me your thoughts: crystal (at) immortalthemusical (dot) com


  1. I think it's great, Crystal! And I did notice the cheese reference - masterfully done. I have NO experience with flash fiction, so I don't know what's supposed to make it great, but I think your piece is a winner!

  2. Hi Crystal! We must have been been channeling each other's thoughts today when we blogged - given that both of us ended up focusing on audience in some form. Nice to meet you!

  3. I like this! "His eyes pinched upward at the corners in a happy way." - neat! Her regrets made me care for her... okay forgive me for meddling, but how about she regretted never falling in love but then, wait a minute - she can't quite remember - then he says "Ahem"

  4. Crystal! I loved your piece! I totally want you to win! So, I, um, critiqued your work . . . but I can't get it into the comment while maintaining the formatting :( I'd love to email it to you, to see if it will help you . . . otherwise, no worries! ali at alicross dot com

    Good luck!

  5. Love this! The only pick I might have (and it's minor) is the transition from alive to dead was a bit abrupt (though I daresay the accident was too!) You could steal some additional wording for this bit by cutting your first para and placing everything in the same tense with no loss to the set up at all. Also the tram had changed to a bus by the end.

    Like I said, very minor - and of course only one person's opinion.

    Like I also said: I love it!

  6. Susanna, thanks for the vote of confidence.

    Lindsay, I almost said as much in my comment on your blog! Funny. Wonder if we'll post on the same subject next time. =)

    Margo, I LOVE your suggestion.

    Ali, thank you! You totally rock.

    Dorothy, yes, I spent last night thinking about how my train becomes a bus... Oops. Fixed now. =)

  7. Blogger's not allowing me to comment - trying again - I loved your FF. Think you have a winner! But, like Dorothy, I got confused when the tram changed to a bus. And, a typo, alright is all right.

  8. I agree with Dorothy and the other thing I struggled with was "With a copy of Glamour and coffee clasped in each hand" as I pictured her balancing both in each hand. Just minor but if fixed will add a lot!

    Submit it!! And don't stress about the audience so much. I completely understand the nerves and trying to curve your writing to the judges taste but that's impossible! It's like controlling the quality of the other submissions.

  9. I loved this! I noted what Sarah did about the Glamour and coffee in each hand. LOVED the cheese reference. I might need to go get some now. Good luck in the contest!

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  11. Liked this piece, and loved how you ended it!

  12. Hello, Crystal. I would suggest cutting the first two paragraphs, and even part of the third, so the story would begin, "Marian stood with"
    This more abrupt start might catch the eye better.
    The line "the summer of sixty-seven, really?" is hysterical.

  13. This is a truly wonderful story. It will go well with those female judges ;)

    (Note to self: read more of your stories in the near future.)


Hit me with your cheese!