I’m fairly certain the NYCM Flash Fiction genre “randomizer” algorithm is directly tied to my name. This round marks the 4th crime caper I’ve been assigned in as many years, and always in round 2. I should just expect it at this point. I still don’t. And I wasn’t happy when I saw the prompt.
When I got my Round 1 prompt (drama) I was seriously giddy with excitement. It was something meaty that I could pour myself into. And my score for the resulting story, Slow Spiral, was a solid 13 (that’s 3rd place in my heat). I was pretty happy with that, considering (based on feedback) it seemed like two of the judges only skimmed my story, rather than reading it. The story itself caused a lot of visceral emotion to tear me apart for the entire 48 hours I was writing. It was nice to be recognized officially for the pain and suffering I inflicted upon myself to write my deepest, darkest fear.
As for scores on said capers of contests past, they’ve been fairly inconsistent. I scored a 14 (if I remember correctly… maybe 13?) on Little Wolf. Lucky Three Strikes and Condor Club fared a little worse, each scoring in the single digits.
But the points and judging aren’t really my driving impetus for competing in NYCM.
These contests serve a few purposes for me.
- They get my off my ass and they make me write fiction. I write all day long at work. And while some would claim that writing marketing copy is indeed a form of fiction, it’s not really the same. (That’s a joke… just in case bosses or clients are reading. 😉 ) I know I need to make more time in my life for writing these stories that rattle through my head, but whatareyagonnado? (I know, I know… write while the kid is in hockey practice, that’s what).
- They push me so incredibly far outside my comfort zone, it’s not even funny. Seriously, when the hell would I *choose* to write a crime caper? Never, that’s when. Why would I ever decide that Joseph Stalin’s daughter is an amazing personality that requires further research, reading, and potentially an entire screenplay based on her life? And for that matter, when would I ever have taken the time to learn the art of screenwriting if I wasn’t forced on a deadline that I paid to have inflicted upon me? (The answer is “never”, in case you were wondering) We tend to find our comfort bubble as fiction writers, and we stay safely enclosed within. I’ve become a better writer *because of* these silly prompts… even the crime capers. Especially the crime capers. They make me think and stretch and grow my writing skills.
- They offer a unique opportunity for making friends who give extraordinary critique. I can’t even tell you how amazing my NYCM friends are. The exchange of beta reads over the course of 48 hours is incredible. These are people who are working on their own stories, and yet they take the time to carefully read and offer suggestions, praise and encouragement to half a dozen or more other writers. I love being a part of that community! And what’s great is, we’re still that strong writing community outside of the confines of contest weekends.
- They make me think about every. single. word. How do you fit back story, a defined arc, character development, scene and setting details, conflict, twist and resolution into 1000 words? Very carefully, that’s how. Every word matters. The plot twist here is that the same is true for longer works… writing flash makes me think of every scene as its own entity. Everything needs to be integral to the plot. Everything. There is no exception. (I’m looking at you, George. R.R. Martin).
- Deep down, I love the challenge. I might swear a little at every prompt I get, but as one of my dear friends so aptly put it this weekend: this is what I live for.
So yes, I complained at my prompt. I swore a little. I maybe insinuated that NYCM is run by a sack of wasps. Or maybe the Kraken. Possibly the devil himself. But once I got over my snit, I came up with an idea and ran with it. The end result was fun to write, and according to my betas, also fun to read. It’s definitely the most light-hearted (if not entirely fucked up) caper I’ve written.
And you’ll all get to read it in a few days when I get my confirmation.
Until then, here’s the customary title and logline:
Prompt: Crime Caper / A golf course driving range / A salmon fillet
Fire in the Hole
Dwight and Scooter thought they would just have a bit of fun on a lazy evening. Little did they know how far it would go once Dad got involved.