100 Flash Stories For NaNoWriMo 2012

This year I decided to give NaNoWriMo 2012 a shot by reviving an idea that I started and abandoned for NanoWriMo 2010: writing a collection of 100 500-word flash stories. (I have no evidence that I did anything for NaNoWriMo 2011.) This time I wrote down 100+ ideas on 3×5 cards. Most of which were headlines taken from the weird news section. Others are old story ideas and situations that I have noticed in daily life.

All of these ideas are worthy of being turned into a flash story. None, however, have grabbed me by the literary throat to be written immediately. I need to write 25 flash stories per week. Since I want to keep my weekends open for other writing projects, I need to write five flash stories per day from Monday through Friday to finish.

On Halloween night, I’m going to pick five 3×5 cards from the stack and take them to work the next day to think about, write notes and scribble down a rough outline. After I get home from work, I’ll write three pages for each flash story in a 70-page spiral notebook. Writing the rough draft of the flash story will be quick. Revising and polishing a flash story takes two to four hours. This is why I’m writing everything down on paper instead of using a computer.

Although I only need 100 ideas to write 100 flash stories, I want to have 150 ideas in case I have a few uninspiring stinkers from the list below, and have more than 100 flash stories written by the end of the month. Unless I overwrite a few flash stories, I may fall well short of the 50,000-word goal.

I have no intention of publishing this collection in its entirety after I revise and polish all the flash stories. A dozen are for submitting to the annual flash anthologies, some to expand into longer short stories, and most for submission to publications and/or included in original flash story collection ebooks that I’ll put in 2013.

Updated 11/04/2012: This NaNoWriMo, like all the others, had a great idea and terrible execution (i.e., it never got off the ground). This list of flash story ideas should keep me busy writing throughout 2013.

Flash Story Idea List

  1. Blue ice falling from airplane passing overhead into kiddie pool.
  2. Man walks into the BART tunnel that goes underneath the San Francisco Bay Area.
  3. Large blue eyeball from sea creature washes up on beach.
  4. Mother glues daughter’s hands to wall and beat her in punishment.
  5. Flu shot makes arm sore and falls off as person turns into a zombie.
  6. Bullied girl makes video before committing suicide.
  7. Planet with four suns.
  8. Orbital skydiver.
  9. College students beheading exotic animal at casino.
  10. Zumba instructor arrested for prostitution.
  11. Sewer smell at cemetery.
  12. Nude old men sitting in front of coffeehouse.
  13. A deep secret outed by social media.
  14. Teenager steals celebrity’s sports car from showroom floor.
  15. Spacecraft going down the street.
  16. Someone pretending to be Big Foot on side of freeway.
  17. Husband cooks wife in oven.
  18. Haunted house scare pictures.
  19. Politician crashes soup kitchen for photo-op.
  20. Mysterious invitation to a tech media event.
  21. Dial day for new area code.
  22. Mother leaves young daughter at store with stolen groceries.
  23. Father shoots masked bugler who turned out to be his son.
  24. Creativity as a psychological disease.
  25. Indian Bad Habits Poster: Throwing litter into street.
  26. Indian Bad Habits Poster: Gambling.
  27. Indian Bad Habits Poster: Quarreling.
  28. Indian Bad Habits Poster: Teasing animals.
  29. Indian Bad Habits Poster: Playing with electrical wires.
  30. Indian Bad Habits Poster: Playing with tools.
  31. Indian Bad Habits Poster: Flying kite on open roof.
  32. Indian Bad Habits Poster: Damaging public property.
  33. Indian Bad Habits Poster: Eating uncovered and fried foods.
  34. Indian Bad Habits Poster: Stealing.
  35. Indian Bad Habits Poster: Playing on the road.
  36. Man robs bank for $1 USD to go to federal prison for healthcare, food and shelter.
  37. Snail rancher.
  38. Aliens at a comic convention.
  39. Talking urinal cakes (“Hey, buddy, stop pissing on me!”).
  40. Robo squirrels versus rattle snakes.
  41. Iranian hostage crisis (1979).
  42. Puppy disappears from animal shelter.
  43. Parents run strip club out of foster home.
  44. Uninvited visitor who won’t leave.
  45. Apartment blaze blamed on man cooking squirrel with propane torch.
  46. Man dies after cockroach eating contest.
  47. Plastic-wrapped truck brings out the bomb squad.
  48. A black-and-white costumed girl shot in backyard by relative who thought she was a stunk.
  49. Newspaper cancels extra Sunday subscriptions for extreme couponing enthusiast.
  50. Two naked men set their house on fire, break out car windows, slaughtered animals and assaulted police officers.
  51. Robber with fake mustache robs drug store.
  52. Man dressed as a superhero harassed by police.
  53. High school students has fantasy sex league game.
  54. Gas stations robbed of 300+ gallons of gas at night.
  55. A fireball erupts over a major city and crashes in minister’s backyard.
  56. Robber puts cash into bag but grabs bag of rolls and shoots partner in ass during a failed restaurant robbery.
  57. An abandoned green transfer mail box terrifies a little girl.
  58. A person sees blue cars everywhere.
  59. A murder at a diplomatic event.
  60. A store display cell phone stolen and plugged into computer via USB connector.
  61. Freight elevator guy with stool and newspaper: “If you don’t know where you’re going, get out.”
  62. A 3D monster that can only be seen with 3D glasses from the movies.
  63. Friends travel into country to see meteor shower on hill that forms the backside of the county dump.
  64. A little boy witness the police storming a nearby apartment at night.
  65. End of world with bear, sheep, supernatural cloud formation, computer geeks and Unix end of time (2038).
  66. Gay slurs painted on bicycle seat of bike parked in back of restaurant kitchen.
  67. After meeting each other, getting married and buying house, husband leaves as if everything was a one-night stand.
  68. Roman soldiers fighting off giant squid.
  69. Parking lot stall has cigarette butts, dental floss, jello containers and a condom wrapper.
  70. Aliens intercept Voyager spacecraft and visit Earth with Richard Nixon masks.
  71. A bus shuttle to train station stops being routine with motorcycle gangs, witches, vampires and other monsters.
  72. Two boys dress up as a 1950’s couple, with boy dressed as a bobby sox girl with balloon boobs.
  73. A human tries to help an alien escape Mars after the Alien Sedition Act passed.
  74. An unemployed person makes money in the virtual economy while growing poorer in the real world.
  75. Teenagers stumble upon a secret military base underneath a shopping mall.
  76. Man wakes up every morning with a different healed wound without knowing why.
  77. Broken window in attendant booth at gas station.
  78. Muscle man dressed as Conan the Barbarian in front of costume shop.
  79. House explodes after thieves try to steal antique stove without first disconnecting the gas line.
  80. Old man dies with $200 in the bank and $7 million USD in hidden gold inside house
  81. A food truck serving food to homeless pets.
  82. Kill what you can eat or be killed by what can eat you.
  83. Angry husband confront’s wife lover in lover’s garage and shot dead (castle defense).
  84. Police kills mountain lion at retirement community.
  85. Young girl’s dead body found in recycling dumpster.
  86. Surfer killed by shark off the Southern California coast.
  87. Invasive grass cultivated for bio-fuel program.
  88. Firefighters find dead woman in burning house.
  89. Murder-suicide at retirement community.
  90. Thieves arrested by police for tailing van with valuable silicon chips.
  91. Strip club claims tax exemption for “performing arts” by dancers.
  92. Scientists convicted in court for bad earthquake forecast.
  93. Dying man votes from his deathbed.
  94. City park gets large donation.
  95. Bodega (Spanish neighborhood store) sells something else besides soda and candy.
  96. Bayonet and horses.
  97. Big Bird.
  98. Binders full of women.
  99. Teacher fired for running porn website from school laptop.
  100. Dead guy kept on dry ice in shed.
  101. Couple eat cockroaches for world series tickets.
  102. Parents confiscate their teenager’s cell phone to post bizarre pictures of themselves on Facebook.
  103. A presumed dead man shows up for his own funeral.
  104. Coworker shows up via telepresence device (i.e., robotic or hologram).
  105. Man standing at urinal tries to high-five as world series run announced over PA system and 75 men stare back at him.
  106. A leopard shark falls on golf course after bird flies five miles inland from ocean.
  107. Cop accused of planning to kidnap, rape, torture and cook woman.
  108. Algebra teacher arrested for idling car in high school parking lot with pot and cash in the glove box.
  109. Mother comes home to find children dead in bathtub.
  110. A “frankenstorm” barrels down on the coast.
  111. Homeless man named Elvis Presley killed in accident.
  112. White teacher calls black student a slave.
  113. Black cat at animal shelter.
  114. Female karate student kicks intruder out of apartment.
  115. Political signs stolen by politician’s husband.
  116. Lynched zombie hanging from fraternity house window.
  117. A coffin-shaped outhouse leaves people dying from embarrassment.
  118. Thief steals 80,000 pounds of walnuts.
  119. Drunk woman tries to save ducks from storm.
  120. Man loses leg as cross falls on top of him.
  121. Thugs vandalizing a bus after sports game turn on people recording them.
  122. Trick-or-treaters were given cocaine instead of candy.
  123. Fairy costumed woman arrested in Halloween heist.
  124. Thief steals takeout food vehicle and delivers orders.
  125. Woman found “shot” in her car was a drunk woman wearing zombie makeup.
  126. Hacker changes freeway signs to something less informative.
  127. Goat chases the paper boy into a tree.
  128. Woman drives on sidewalk to avoid school bus unloading children.
  129. Man refuses to come off top of bus.
  130. Deers go window shopping through automatic doors.
  131. Man flashes woman, woman flashes gun.
  132. Santa Claus hangs from ceiling by his beard.
  133. Parents and little brother lost trying to save dog from surf as daughter calls 911.
  134. Photojournalist takes the picture of a man getting run over by train.
  135. Dead pet turned into diamond ring becomes curse for owner.
  136. A fish caught and return two times and kept the third time was pregnant (a father-daughter fishing story).
  137. Loss Swiss Army knife while fishing at pier.
  138. Twenty human heads found in steel drum at airport.
  139. Wife killed her husband for a second time (misleading headline).

NaNoWriMo 2010 That Went Kaphooey

About a week late into NaNoWriMo, I decided to do a flash story collection that consisted of 100 flash stories of 500 words each. How hard was it to write four 500-word flash stories per day for a month? Writing was the easy part if I had the idea for a flash story already in my head. I certainly didn’t have 100 shovel-ready ideas to go in my head, and the few that I did have weren’t that great to start with. Kaphooey.

I then decided to re-start my third novel idea and wrote 1,040 words in a few days. Unfortunately, that’s all I had of my proposed third novel. I had a great opener that excited me but no actual story to hang the rest of the novel on. Double kaphooey.

My first serious attempt at NaNoWriMo was a failure.

In some ways, flash stories—especially at 500 words—are the prose equivalent to writing haiku poems. You need to master the form and let the form master you. Once you have reached that level of writing, a flash story or haiku poem is relatively easy. But it does require preparation. An idea must be in my head for a while before I can transform it into a flash story.

I tend to write four flash stories in a two-week period. I had written three in the past week and will write one more before New Year. Each one inspired by a brief news item that I could spin a story around. Each idea floats around in my head for several nights before I decide to put pen to paper. Writing the story itself takes about two hours, and another two hours to edit the story into the proper form.

Was the concept of writing 100 flash stories in a month unreasonable? Not at all.

Remember that purpose of NaNoWriMo is get everything written and worry about editing later. All I needed to do was focus on writing four 500-word flash stories every day for a month. If only I had the ideas to make that work. November and December became a dry spell where nothing came forth from the creative well.

For flash story writers, writing and editing one per day would be a reasonable challenge. It’s something I could do, if I wanted to and wasn’t being a lazy writer. (Writing can hard work if the creative well is bone dry.) But, like writing haikus, they often come in sudden, unpredictable bursts. It’s not your job to force them into existence but wait for them to arrive before you start writing.

As for the third novel, I had a great opener and no preparation for anything beyond that. Alas, that great opener had the making of a prologue that would’ve been cut in revision. It described who the main character was but doesn’t really contribute to the overall storyline (if there was one). I might have done better by picking up where I left off with the second novel and running with the detailed Post-It Note outline on back of a poster board.

The one successful aspect that I did learn from NaNoWriMo was to edit on the computer. I’m something of a traditionalist with a typewriter on my desk, where I start and revise everything on paper, and using the computer only to store drafts between printed edits. Although my various plans for NaNoWriMo went kaphooey, every attempt was on the computer and became a struggle to break the revising on paper habit. I eventually started revising the current draft of my first novel on the computer, where the characters and plots are still in a state of flux. I’m looking forward to getting that revision done in the New Year.

As for NaNoWriMo next year, I might give completing the second novel a chance—if I’m prepared for it and not being a lazy writer again.

A NaNoWriMo Flash Story Collection

Last year I had planned on participating in the 2010 National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) competition by completing the remaining 50,000 words for my second novel this month, which 1/3 done at 25,000 words. I also expected revising my first novel would be done by now, but that didn’t happen since editing a novel-length manuscript is really, really hard. Abandoning the revision of my first novel to continue the second novel wouldn’t be right. Besides, I haven’t reviewed what I had previously written and outlined for the second novel. Skipping NaNoWriMo like I had in previous years was the only option I could see as I wasn’t in the mood to start a new novel to gather dust next to my second novel. Two days into the competition I had an idea: why not use NaNoWriMo to create a collection of 100 500-word flash short stories?

Here’s my “Flash In The Pan Short Story Collection” for NaNoWriMo:

This is a fantasy/horror/science fiction/supernatural collection of 100 flash short stories of 500-word each. The collection itself will never be published. Each flash short story will be edited, lengthen or shorten where needed, and submitted for individual publication in 2011.

Why are writing 100 different 500-word flash stories easier than a novel?

I have written 53 short stories of various lengths over the last five years, with 18 short stories published or slated for publication. I think I will always be a short story writer since it’s easier for me to focus on something shorter than longer. I’m also one of those people who would prefer to see a long credit list of short projects than spending years creating a long masterpiece.

Writing four 500-word short stories for 2,000 words per day will be easy to do. Each story idea will exist in my mind only long enough to write in longhand and put aside without interfering with my novel revision. The writing itself doesn’t take the most time; I can pop out a flash story in a half-hour. Editing the flash story to stay under the 500 word count while telling a good story can take up to three hours to complete. I plan to edit and submit all these flash stories for publication throughout 2011. If I get stuck on revising my novel or run out of ideas for short stories, I can pull out a flash story to finish working on.

The trick for writing 100 flash stories in one month is to make sure I don’t run out of unique ideas. One way to avoid that is to have serial characters.

The first four flash stories I wrote featured the cannibalistic restaurateur owner Charles Goodwin of The Giggling Mongoose (“Salt of The Air,” “Swine of The Earth,” “Honey of The Fire” and “Rice of The Water” published in Elements of Horror anthology). I have since written a 5,000-word short story about Mr. Goodwin and an old goat with three young things following him (“Scarlet Hearts” is still floating in the slush pile).

Writing another set of flash stories would be a good way to explore his character further before plunging into another longer piece. I had also written about two computer science students using Jewish mysticism to create a computerized golem for their class project that ended with a blue screen of death (“Golem Got The Blues” published in Daily Flash 2011: 365 Days of Flash Fiction anthology).  If you fail once with Jewish mysticism and computer technology, try again. Or is that, rinse and repeat?

Tonight I’ll do some brainstorming to line up the first set of story ideas and tomorrow I’ll start writing my flash short story collection. Perhaps the creative rush will help me finish revising my novel.