Cynthia is an author who has written a series of science fantasy books. She also writes short stories and is busy writing two more novels
Write What You Know
A piece of advice given to authors is ‘write what you know’. I am not sure I entirely agree with this. It is not that simple. We can create fantastical imaginary worlds with our words, write about things we have not, nor ever will experience. But that writing can only come out of our own life experience.
I have written a series of books about an immortal alien stuck in Ancient Egypt and like to pen short stories about magic and the paranormal. Not things that are a part of my daily life! So maybe better advice would be, on occasion, to write to your audience.
When I used to go to Watford Writers, I would put an entry into the monthly flash fiction competition. I found my tales of magic and mystery did not go down so well with this audience. I experimented and found what stories were well received. They were the stories written about ordinary people. Stories about the people you see every day on the street, at work or encounter at a party.
So, here are three of these flash fiction competition entries which all came first. What do you think? Do you like reading about ordinary lives or do you prefer to read of demons, myths and sorcery?
Bert came into the kitchen, a smile on his face.
‘I’ve booked you a hair appointment. Don’t worry about tea tonight I’ve got it sorted.’
I must have looked doubtful. My husband patted my hand and ushered me towards the door.
‘I’ve got a surprise for you later. Don’t think I haven’t noticed those little hints you’ve left lying around.’
I gave Bert a big hug and hurried out.
I took my time in the hairdressers. Then I dawdled around the shops looking at swimsuits, sundresses and strappy sandals.
We rarely left our small Northern town. I dreamed of travelling the world. Building a home, children followed by grandchildren, kept me caged. When the kids were small, we holidayed in a nearby caravan park and, on one notable occasion, we had a family day out in Blackpool.
I devoured travel books from the library, watched every documentary on the telly. In my mind I floated over the Serengeti in a balloon, climbed the pyramids, and lazed on icing-sugar beaches in the Maldives.
I almost skipped back home. Turning the key, I smiled. Bert would never be a champagne and roses man. When I entered the kitchen I saw the big, brown teapot set on the table. Two portions of fish and chips were warming with the plates in the oven.
‘Sit down, love,’ Bert beamed. ‘Your hair looks lovely.’
I sat down, quivering with anticipation.
‘Ready for your surprise?’ my husband asked.
When I nodded, he handed me an envelope.
‘I’ve booked us a weekend in Skegness,’ he announced. ‘I know you want to travel more. If you like it, we can go back for the pensioner’s special in January.’
The first brochure I threw hit Bert square in the face. He never could duck fast enough.
Four Under Four
The bell over the door chimed to herald new customers.
Mavis pursed her lips when she saw the pregnant young woman walk into the tearoom clutching the hand of a chubby toddler, followed by a man wrestling a double-buggy through the narrow entrance.
‘Kelly and Simon Gardiner with their brood,’ Mavis muttered to Freda who was buttering toast.
Freda looked up and smiled as she watched them find an empty table.
‘What’s the problem; they seem like a charming family to me?’
‘It’s not decent,’ Mavis snapped. ‘Three kids under four and another on the way. Haven’t they heard of contraception?’
‘Twins are hardly their fault. And not everyone wants a big gap between babies. Go take their order and try to be nice.’
Mavis picked up her pad and walked over.
As she approached she saw Kelly grab a large envelope and slide out a photograph.
‘I’ve got to show everyone. We’ve been for a scan,’ she said as Mavis arrived.
Her excitement was so infectious, Mavis wanted to look. But wouldn’t that make it look like she approved?
‘Go on, don’t be shy,’ Simon coaxed as he strapped one of the twins into a high chair.
Mavis opened her mouth. Someone had to tell them, let them know it wasn’t right.
Before she could say anything, a woman rushed in the door and ran to hug Kelly.
‘Sorry I couldn’t be there. That stupid car of mine. Is everything OK?’
‘Calm down Siobhan, your baby is fine. And it’s a girl, like you wanted.’
Siobhan squealed in delight as she placed her hand on Kelly’s tummy.
Confused, Mavis dropped her pad.
Siobhan grinned as she picked it up for her.
‘I have the best sister in the world,’ she said as she handed it back. ‘Since the cancer, Dave and I never thought we’d have kids. She doesn’t know how much this means to us.’
Mavis paled. It was only luck those hurtful, petty words had not come out of her mouth.
‘How about celebration coffee and cakes on the house?’ she asked instead.
Kevin retched as he swung his legs over the edge of the bed.
The remains of last night’s debauch were strewn over the tartan carpet. His stomach heaved at the sight of a satin camisole flung onto a half-eaten plate of haggis.
He tried to stand. His foot caught on a champagne bottle and he thumped back down.
‘Are you going somewhere?’
A grubby foot with chipped nail polish rubbed against his leg.
‘Thought I’d get a round of golf in,’ he replied.
‘Come back to bed and have some fun?’
‘Need a bit of fresh air, Chloe. Shame not to try out one of the best courses in Scotland.’
‘This is our first mini-break. I thought you’d want to be with me?’ she pouted.
‘I do. But after last night…’
‘Don’t you fancy me anymore? Chloe broke in. ‘Let me tell you Kevin Connor, if you don’t treat me right a certain little video I took last night is going on Facebook.’
Kevin’s head span. All he wanted was to be away from this hot room. To be outside with the cold, Scottish rain on his face. Or back home safe with Sarah and the kids.
‘Not as young as I used to be. Don’t think my heart could stand another Viagra so soon.’
‘Then I’m booking us in for the ‘Highland Fling Spa Experience’ instead.’
Hours later, Kevin crawled out of the jacuzzi and wrapped himself in a towel.
‘Got to make a call’, he gasped. He grabbed his mobile and stumbled out of the cubicle.
As he staggered down the corridor, he heard a familiar voice coming from one of the treatment rooms. He peered through the half-open door.
‘How do I tell you apart?’ he heard his wife giggle as two identical, gorgeous young men lifted her onto a massage table.
When his mobile rang, he struggled to answer it.
‘American Express, we have noticed unusual activity on your wife’s card…’
Kevin collapsed. A tight band of pain squeezed his heart. He tumbled into darkness. His ‘Highland Fling’ was over.
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Bucket list images - author's own
Cafe Interior Image - Robert Wade Stone Jetty Cafe Interior - Wikimedia Commons - Creative Commons Attribution - Share Alike 2.0
Scottish Highlands Image - AndrewJGallacher - Wikimedia Commons - Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported
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