Writing Fiction

Short Story #14: Flash

Playing Ping Pong with Love

Short Story Writer’s Journal: (May contain Spoilers)

Number 14 in the repertoire is a flash fiction piece and continues my infatuation with artificial intelligence and sexbots.

God knows why.

I’m also in the middle of reading a flash fiction anthology, taking an online flash fiction course, as well as reading John Dufresne’s wonderful book, Flash - Writing the Very Short Story.

The first exercise in Prof. Dufresne’s book had me searching for a classic Greek myth to retell in a modern setting.

And this gave me an opportunity to revisit Edith Hamilton’s cracker of a book, Mythology. Haven’t finished yet but it’s a wonderful read and I settled on the tale of Echo and Narcissus.

The exercise brief called for a story in 700 words. Mine came in a 780. I’ll take it.

14 flash fiction playing ping pong with love science fiction artificial intelligence

Image source: https://scratch.mit.edu/projects/10128515/ by ScratchTeam

I tried a number of story starters to fire me up partly because I continued to make the neophyte’s mistake (yet again) of thinking my wee story to be important, worthy, requiring great attention as to how the mechanics of good flash fiction should go etc. etc. Yada yada.

Alas, initial results in the form of actual words of fiction written were disappointing (but see below). Mapping the story of Echo and Narcissus on nine index cards helped me to think about the structure of the story. And playing around with a one-line story summary got me this:

Dreamers and schemers, a white satin glove, the sound of his voice, her echoes of love.

But still no story of my own, and with the clock running down to get something written in a week or less. I know, I know. Butt-in-chair and get on with it. Funny thing is, that’s what I was doing but it seems I, or the subconscious me, likes to chew over the material before the embers glow.

This story burst into life once I committed to writing the next word and followed the write and cycle back approach that worked well with other stories in the challenge.

A win for me was that the end of the story emerged first and so I wrote back to a beginning (based on the Greek myth I was working from) that made sense as the *in_medias_res_* source.

Another cool thing was how some time spent working on the popular block-programming language, Scratch, generated a synergy or two with this classic myth I’d been doodling over.

I can certainly see some anti-parallels between that poor ball sprite, ever anxious to meet and greet the self-absorbed paddle sprite, and the hapless Echo, who only gets close enough to Narcissus to feel his biting rejection.

The creative spirit of Scratch springs from an understanding that attributed remixing is cool and good and welcome. Be inspired and tell that story ended up with one line of Pong Starter code appearing near the climax of my tale.

I am going to run this story past some experienced flash fiction writers for comments and then decide whether to include it in my own pending collection of six science fiction stories, or start submitting it to paying markets.

And that reminds me to start tracking how these submissions are doing.

On to short story #15 I go.

A summary listing of all short stories in this challenge can be found by clicking 52-in-52.

UPDATE: 2019-10-25
Flash Fiction Magazine published this story as Echoes of Love: