I'm a finalist in the NYC Midnight 100-word Microfiction Challenge. Eek.
I’m posting this now because when I don’t win I won’t feel so inspired to do so.
I’m a deadline and challenge addict. I thrive on pressure, time constraints, people telling me I can’t. Problems and restrictions bring out my best work. Yes, sometimes I plan things meticulously and they turn out well, but other people plan better. I suppose what I mean is, in a competitive environment, the more obstacles and fewer hours there are, the greater my chances of winning.
I found NYC Midnight when I was searching for writing competitions to enter. They run a rolling calendar of heat-based global writing challenges, all with time constraints and strict parameters. There’s a good chance you’ll get knocked out in the first heat, so the entry fees can seem more than a little exxy, but the prizes are BIG and there’s a peer review forum that offers a bit more value if you don’t make it through. Judging is documented with real feedback emailed to you – so you get claps and some constructive criticism to take away and soothe the feeling of being a total loser.
It's now starkly obvious that my personal writing style does not always translate well with a predominantly American audience. The NYC Midnight peer review forum is full of people scratching their heads at my jokes and asking what I mean, or taking me literally and being bewildered. Occasionally an Australian or someone from the UK will review my work and I can see that they instantly “get it”. That’s been a massive learning curve.
Anyway, to the point. I am in the final of the 100-word Microfiction Challenge. From an initial field of 7600 entrants I made it through two heats to the last round with 200 writers remaining.
It works like this: For each heat you are assigned a genre, a word to include and an action that must take place within the story. You then have 24 hours from midnight New York time to write and submit your piece.
I love flash fiction and short story formats, but this particular length is insanely tricky. The timing isn't always ideal either. I wrote the final submission draft in a busy brewery with a pint, then finished it on a laminate table in a cabin with a Bloody Mary before rushing off to go whale watching.
Let me know what you think and I’ll let you know when I lose.
Action: taking off shoes
“No shoes on the scanner.” The command is stern. We kick them off. “Step up.” It’s warm under our feet.
“Right. You ordered female. Hazel eyes, proficiency in tennis and percussion, kind, clever, loves dogs. Standard package, no upgrades. All rebellions, disasters, tragedies, heartbreaks, mental and physical illnesses and personality conflicts at your own risk.”
“Okay. Here she comes.” A bundle floats down and lands in your arms. Tiny fingers curl open and shut, exploring the air. “Stand by for identification scan.” The platform pulses. Our personal data flashes on a screen. “Family confirmed. Congratulations. Next please.”
Genre: Romantic Comedy
Action: sliding something under a door
I’m sliding this under your door because I don’t trust email for the topic, please don’t think I’m creepy. It’s been 99 hours since we (accidentally?) had sex at the Christmas party. I note the resulting awkward silence makes progressing our project rather difficult. Given the deadline is tomorrow, I propose we start speaking again in order to complete the work. If that goes well, perhaps I could take you ice-skating on Friday. If that goes well, we could always try your place instead of a toilet cubicle.
William L. Carmichael
Head of Destroying Professional Relationships
Action: unpacking a suitcase
Mr. Black's Preferences at The Grand Magnolia Hotel
“Slide the tissue out but keep them folded. Like this.”
“Gosh, he’s so fussy. I’m going to screw it up.”
“You’ll get it eventually. Switch up those shoes, he likes the toes pointed north.”
“Christ! Mr. Black, why’s he use that name?”
“Doesn’t want anyone to know he’s staying here I guess. Put the cases away. I’m going to inspect the rest of the suite.”
Monica bustles to the library and throws the doors open.
Fill all rooms with light prior to guest arrival.
But Mr. Black has already checked in. He’s hanging from the chandelier fitting, toes pointed north.