Writing for Liberty

Black Cat © Ann M. LynnFrom Liberty Hall Writers [link corrected], I’m re-learning how constraints can lead to greater freedom.

Liberty Hall Writers (LH) is an online community mostly consisting of speculative fiction writers.* Registration and navigation of LH is difficult, at best, and it isn’t friendly with the Windows Internet Explorer browser. That said, it’s a productive sort of place full of interesting and talented people.

Last week, I joined the community to compete against some of those people (and myself) in the weekly Flash Challenge. The challenge is to write and submit a story in less than 90 minutes based on a prompt. When submissions close, the competitors and other members critique the stories and vote for their favorites.

It’s amazing what people can do in a 90 minute time constraint. Really amazing. I’m amazed at what I can do in that amount of time.

Not only did I complete a draft of a story that hadn’t existed as so much as a concept before the timer started, but I realized a few things about myself.

I realized I write Literary fiction when I’m pressed for development time. I stay more in the moment when there’s no opportunity to slip away. Also, I’m better at writing setting description than I’d previously thought.

Not that my story had a chance to win Best Setting Development in the challenge. That honor went to a half-completed story that introduced readers to a believable future world–more difficult to construct than a familiar setting in the current, real world.

However, my story did win in one of the categories: Best Characterization. It also came close to tying with the winner of Best Hook.

I’m proud of what LH has helped me accomplish so far. Now let’s see if I can write a better story this week.

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*I learned from a post by  C.L. Holland that a community similar to LH, but more focused on Literary fiction, is ShowMeYourLits. Note that you may need extra courage or self-confidence to join LH’s sister, as she’s as a little more bawdy.

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Prompt Response

Within my collection of draft posts, I discovered an unpublished response to an old prompt from Three Word Wednesday. The three words on December 30 were “ambush, hideous, and meddle”.

The response is worthless in the draft list, so I might as well drag it out of hiding. Below is the response, a 99-word piece of fiction titled “Hunting Boredom”.

Prey approached. The monster held his breath and moved nothing but his eyes. The human would get no warning.

A vine of green satin draped over one shoulder, heavy, but the monster waited, counting within the shadows until the sixtieth second. Then he leapt.

Shirts flew alongside him, adding drama to his ambush. The human screamed.

“Sam! Get out of my room!” She flung a large rock, but he only roared in hideous laughter. The rock felt as light as a pillow.

From beyond the jungle, a meddler shouted. “Samuel, go to your own room. Leave your sister alone.”

I like to see what comes of writing prompts.

Jungle Plants © Ann M. Lynn

Other than word prompts, photographs of living things are my favorite type. The more life in an image, the more likely the prompt will spark a story. I’ll usually bypass images of inanimate objects, because they feel dead. Objects from prompts are tempting MacGuffins–little more than placeholders.

The one thing I dislike about writing quickly from a prompt is there’s little time to develop a speculative element. If I start considering physics or magic, my inner editor starts working again.

What do you think of writing prompts? Are they more of a help or hindrance to you?