The holidays can be a trying time for many reasons. Harsh weather, cheap secret santas, forced family gatherings, awkward office parties, and one-sided conversations all make the cut, year after year. The good news? We can turn all of those into stories. The flash fiction world is practically begging for it. More good news? Once you write it all, you have about seven months to polish those stories before you start shopping them around for Christmas-themed publications.
Flash fiction, with its agreeable length and style, lends itself to us as a mechanism that makes all of our worst experiences worth something. Other people have the same holiday issues you lament every year, and misery really does company. We can all laugh together, cry together, and shake our heads at our weird uncles together with flash fiction. It’s an art, it’s an outlet, and it is therapy.
Flash Fiction Holiday Challenge
Your challenge during the holiday season is to turn every awkward, uncomfortable, potentially explosive situation into a story. Allow yourself to transcend the moment, and identify the main character and develop the plot. Be sure to allow room for experimentation. The backstory may be more interesting than the one you find yourself starring in.
To get the story value of every experience you have this holiday season, ask yourself these five questions:
- Who, in this scenario, has the most interesting perspective?
- What is the worst thing I could say or do in response to this absurdity?
- Who would be the worst person to walk in on this conversation at this moment?
- How can I make this funny, or tear-worthy?
- Who would best relate to this? What do they read?
By thinking this way, you will be able to pull yourself out of the scene, and start building a new one for the page. You can look at it more critically, and see your weird relatives as interesting characters rather than annoyances or results of reckless romance.
Last year, I struggled to make my way through the holidays and a breakup at the same time. We had already made commitments, and neither of us is the type to flake, so we followed through, attending event after event together, post-breakup. Here is a flash fiction piece I wrote about one of those gatherings.
“This is Anna,” she said.
Usually, Anna was her friend, girlfriend, or fiance. Being just Anna should have been natural to her, but it made her feel naked. She’d been stripped of layers of her identity.
Who am I now? Just Anna?
Casey’s good, Christian family welcomed Anna into their home, offering her food and drinks, not take no for an answer.
Would we be here if Casey had tried half as hard?
“So, how you doin’?” Chris cocked his head to the side and pointed his chin at Anna. He held the pose steady, as if Cupid’s arrow would cut through the space between them at any moment.
Anna moved the car key from her lap to the table, just to break his gaze.
“I’m fine, thanks. And you?” She spun the key ring around on the table with my index finger.
“Getting better.” She could hear his smile.
Casey and Anna exchanged glances. They knew what was going on, but had no idea how to stop it.
Just Anna, she told herself. You’re Just Anna.
“You want a drink?” He raised his bottle, suggesting a beer.
“No, I don’t drink.”
“No, thanks. I’m fine.”
“I know that’s right.”
Anna sighed. After a long New Year’s Eve of officially breaking up, pretending to be happy for a party until 2am, and packing her things, her energy was so low it was negative. This guy reeked of tired. His lines exhausted her.
Chris looked at Casey accusingly.
She put her hands up and shook her head. She couldn’t be bothered any more. It wasn’t her job anyway.
It didn’t surprise Anna when she left the room, or when Chris took her seat.
“Listen, I’m actually not into men.”
His eyebrows knotted, revealing his confusion as he leaned back, trying to play it cool. “I feel you.”
She felt the tension leave her body, but before she could revel in sweet relief, Casey came back.
“Hey, cous’!” Chris sat up, raising his beer to Casey.
She walked over and stood squarely in front of him, her back to Anna. “Can you chill?”
He scooted his chair back and got up. He looked from her to Anna, and back again.
Realization struck him.
“Oh,” he said. “It’s cool.”
“Yeah,” she said, arms folded.
Anna shrugged, feigning indifference.
I’m Just Anna.
She couldn’t let myself forget. Casey’s moment of weakness could not become hers too.
As he left the room, Casey slid the car key toward Anna. “You ready?”
Anna studied her face, searching for regret. Only finding pain, she nodded. Their time had come. They needed to leave.
A savior and a damsel desperately needed her to be Just Anna. She grabbed the key as Casey reached for her hand. Together, they disappeared into the dark.
Alicia Audrey is a writer, editor, blogger and social and political commentator living and working in Nassau, Bahamas. She enjoys writing flash fiction, and is currently working on a women’s fiction novel entitled The Whispering Willow. She prides herself on keeping the local post office open by sending far too many penpal letters and packages to friends and strangers alike on a weekly basis. Her favourite things include journals, tea, cupcakes, sarcasm, challenges, and autumn. She tweets her musings to everyone, but no one in particular, as @_AliciaAudrey.