Monday, 2 July 2012

Caffeine and Armageddon

Well, Mr. Wendig has put forth another challenge, and I, of course, have accepted.

This week, the idea was to write a story in 100 words or less that is only 3 sentences long.

I've written, I've checked and I've rewritten this a couple of times. I still made the silly mistake of not separating the sentences into separate paragraphs (I posted the entry proper in the comments section of his site), but I'll pick that up here and say no more about it.


"Caffeine and Armageddon" [format updated]

“The End is Nigh,” read the jaunty legend on the coffee cup, parked beneath a line circumscribed half an inch up from the base of the mug. As the computer before him whirred and beeped and clicked through the boot sequence, he took a long draught, glimpsing a matching line drawn inside the cup; seeing it made him smile wryly.

A sudden blast of noise from outside caught his attention and he turned, wide-eyed, to look out of the window as the cool Vermont morning was obliterated by an onrushing fury of flames and destruction.


Lessons learned:

1) Fuck, is flash fiction difficult or what? Some people responded to the challenge with six or seven word stories, each sentence two words long. I'll admit now that I found it hard to see the point of that, not because it is not worthy, but because that much pith requires serious effort to get right and none of them had seemed to put that in. I used to write lots of renga and haiku and I developed a feeling for the difference between my dabblings and verses that were masterful; the words were doing tons and tons of work in the best poems, so much so that I found them almost hard to read, or at least hard to read fast. So, in short, the briefer the format, the more difficult it becomes.

2) I checked and rechecked those 100 words three or four times. I took me an hour to draft, redraft, correct and upload. I made changes to the uploaded text, I cut words out seconds before hitting "submit" and I changed the sounds of words to better suit the sense of the sentence. Now, novels and short stories are difference beasts, but come on, that's pretty solid stuff. I'd be retired before I finished a novel at that rate. Still not quite happy with the final result though.

3) Less is more. The final submission is shorter than the first draft. It is also, in my opinion, better. This isn't earth shattering news, but it does reinforce the advice of many sage voices.

4) Still suck at endings. Not happy with the rhythm of the last few words at the minute; suggestions appreciated.


  1. I'm only a want-to-be writer, but you gave me valuable advice today, so I'm going to attempt to pay it back.

    When I was visualizing what rushing flames and destruction looked like I thought of Independence Day when the aliens first blasted their primary weapon.

    ...obliterated by an onrushing wave of devouring flames and disintegrating debris.

    1. Thanks for sharing your thoughts Tevyn! There's nothing wrong with being a wannabe writer; I'm one too :)

      The last line is a real bugger, isn't it? I don't know about you, but I'm almost getting around to the idea that the story should be written like a one liner, or a short joke.

      The feeling I get is that the last five words need to feel *heavy*... it's the end of the world after all. Your reference to Independence Day is telling, very close to what I was aiming for, so that's positive.

      I think that, after your feedback, I may go and try a few more drafts, just to get it sounding better.

      Finally, I hope what meager advice I give is useful, if us aspirants stick together we might just end up getting there in the end!


Hey feel free to leave a comment about what you've seen or read, or just share your thoughts. It should go without saying that politeness and enjoyment are good, but we live in an imperfect world; play nice everyone!