Wednesday, 6 January 2016

My Favourite #FPs of 2015

I go on about this all the time: I'm a huge fan of the Twitter microfiction game run by @FridayPhrases, where the aim is to write stories on the optional theme in Twitter's 140 characters or less, using the hashtag, "#FP".

Last year, I made a list of my favourite FPs out of all the ones I'd written in 2014. I'm doing the same again this year. As per last year, it's interesting to see the common threads throughout my year's FPs.

I've used a combination of factors to choose my 2015 faves: those I really like, those which addressed the theme in an unorthodox way, those with a good reaction, and those which tickled longer story ideas to be added to my ever-growing story-box.

For some of these, I'm including a (short) commentary on what was going through my head at the time too!

2 January 2015 (Theme: Another 365)

The shark circled patiently. Another 365 human limbs & the world record was his. Old Fangy-Features in the Pacific would be so jealous!

I'd forgotten this one, and laughed myself silly when I re-read it. Take that, Fangy-Features!

"If I knew we were in for another 365 days of drought, I'd give up," the farmer said flatly. "But as it is," he shrugged, "hope."

9 January 2015 (Theme: Come Undone)

"My plot's coming undone!" The author shrieked.

"That's 'cos a darling needs killing" Her muse nodded at Mary-Sue who blanched on cue.

Her supervisor picked up a fatal flaw in her thesis argument & kept unravelling until the whole thing came undone "Start again" he said
NoNoNoNoNo! The stuff of nightmares!

He stepped into the sacred space of worship & immediately felt his knots of fear & anger come undone - in ravaging floods of tears.

16 January 2015 (Theme: On the Other Side)

From the other (dark) side of the moon, alien anthropologists took turns filming Earth for the series, They Had it All & Imploded Anyway

From the other side of the patio door, he watched his wife in a huge phone argument. She didn't say who it was & wouldn't meet his eyes
I like it when I can tell the story between the words. Doesn't always happen, so it's extra-satisfying when it does.

The boy knew to stay quiet when he heard that noise on the other side of the door- as if the leg of lamb in the fridge was being smacked
I hesitated before tweeting this. It's an unsettling image that's all the more awful knowing there are many such real-life scenarios.

We kept a vigilant eye on those on the other side of the border, certain of our superiority and yet jealous of everything they had.
Does this count as a political critique? I think it's a pretty good one actually...

23 January 2015 (Theme: What if)

What if we weren't ruled by clocks? She thought & began destroying every clock in her building. The nursing home staff got angry w/ her.

If what the soothsayer had said was true.. he trembled & hid. But the storm found him & carried him on lightning to face the Storm God.

No more what ifs, instead ofs, or if onlys. They walked away from the burning city, no possessions, few choices, but alive. & together.
Into the story-box.

What if, every time the sun shines on you, it's sending little messengers to flood you with the secrets of the universe?

30 January 2015 (Theme: In a Heartbeat)

Sink into silence
Breathe light
Slow your heart
Listen to the space
Between each beat
Where the Universe
Quivers, suspended
Re-made anew
I like this as a meditation

2 old friends talk on an empty beach. Rain falls & they run awkwardly. Breathless laughter, a touch. The world changes in a heartbeat.
For the story-box

They believed in biotechnology. When the sun began to die, they built a giant heart. It borrowed life from the earth & beat for the sun

7 February 2015 (Theme: Alone Again)

Alone again! I run thru the house, make a mess, break things & scatter useless papers. I will mew w/joy when the human's face goes red!

Alone again, Cindy dumped the mop & called the cleaners. Her dad thought the SpotlessBeauty credit charge was for her stepsisters' acne
Who knew? Cinderella had some agency and wasn't afraid to use it!

14 February 2015 (Theme: In Denial)

Queen Cleopatra bathed in the sacred river as her attendants tried to suggest that she maybe shouldn't trust Antony quite so much.
A Shakespearean pun!

She squirmed into the dress & forced up the zip. It clung tight to every curve, she breathed shallow &couldn't walk or sit.
"Still fits"

20 February 2015 (Theme: Desperate Measures)

The words flow to her throat where they are trapped & they flail & thrash until her throat aches with the effort of keeping them at bay

If she can climb to the top of the tallest tree, she can convince herself she is closer to the stars in sky than to the horrors below.

27 February 2015 (Theme: On the edge)

He touched the cool silk, on the edge of temptation. His wife away, he gave in & pulled on the dress, smiling as it caressed his body.

"The world is flat!" Jo stood on the edge of the page - where the author's words stopped & where Jo's world fell into a yawning void.
I like this one!

6 March 2015 (Theme: Only Human)

The only humans left on earth took what the alien conquerors' history books called "the easy way out" when they surrendered. & survived

They climbed into the night sky - ascending trees, winds & clouds. Only humans, they'd been told, would fall. They hadn't fallen yet.

Frankenstein,Dracula & TheMummy glared at the Bouncer who said "Only humans." He got a philosophical lecture abt being human & a thump.
This idea tickled me enough that I wrote a flash fic based around this.

The black marketeer grinned. "Only human organs. Best quality & service. Willing donors."
The tourist nodded tightly. "I need a kidney."

13 March 2015 (Theme: Feeling Lucky)

She can't feel lucky. Superstition shivers around the edges of her thoughts like the spider she found in her ponytail earlier that day.

Apparently, people don't like spiders.

She chooses a path in the forest. Behind her, a black cat takes the other path. The girl has no idea of the wolf now following the cat.

The girl crouches to look at a bright orange-blue feather on the moss. She is out of sight when the assassin creeps by looking for her.
For the story-box.

20 March 2015 (Theme: Unbearable)

The bear sat, crying bitterly. He’d lost his ticket for the picnic & the organisers wouldn’t let him in. So Goldilocks smuggled him in.
Those mean bureaucratic organisers!

In the hospital basement, the student undid his cravat & cut into his first stolen cadaver. The unbearable thrill of medical knowledge!

This summer heat is ridiculous! Ursi grumbled. She looked around & smelt the air. All clear. She unzipped her fur & went for a swim.
Part of the extensive, anthropomorphised-animal world living in my head.

Silence stretched out unbearably between them, stony, cold. So different from the early days when silence had held frissons of promise.

27 March 2015 (Theme: From the Depths)

From the depths of the cosmos, the two Gods sang neverending songs of life and death, cradling the Universe in counterpoint & balance.

She held out a shaky hand, dropped a pebble & held her breath. Hope evaporated again when no splash emerged from the depths of the well

3 April 2015 (Theme: In Thin Air)

She flew beyond the clouds, where the air thinned, congealed & melted w/ wails of agony. Space, she realised, was full of such noise.

Pearls clutched in his fist, the boy kicked hard towards the world above, even as the ocean clawed at the thin air left in his lungs.

They scraped & prised from the outside. Inside the sarcophagus, thin air bled onto dead dust & mustiness. The Mummy inhaled & stirred. 

The fitness tycoon died & his over-indulged overweight kids had to start a strict diet; the most money would go to the thinnest heir.

10 April 2015 (Theme: Unthinkable)

After too many wines the previous night, Descartes was unable to think clearly & had a brief identity crisis abt his philosophy in life
Ha! An FP philosophy joke!

It took a lobotomy, incarceration & repeated daily injections before he believed he was what they said he was, & not who he felt he was

17 April 2015 (Theme: Never Mind)

Fire ants came in their thousands to feast on her wounds until she was again wrapped in a balm of medication, whispering "never mind"

When the Lost Boys nicked off with his supply of flying pixie dust for the day, Peter Pan was left to mind Neverland, alone and sulky.

He was old now but still as angry as he had been as a punk rocker in the 70s. He held his copy of "Never Mind the Bollocks" like a key.

24 April 2015 (Theme: Wrong Decisions)

He took the road less travelled & came to a sign saying "Dead End." He ignored it. They say those woods echo with human-like screams.

Thanks to the coaxes/encouragement/cajoling of FPers, a short story came out of this.

Every fibre of her being screamed "no". But with his parents, and hers, watching expectantly, she nodded, smiled and said "yes".

1 May 2015 (Theme: Cracks)

It was the annual plumbers convention. As little as an hour into the keynote speech, cracks were starting to show.

Loud wailing floated downstairs. Mr Shalott looked at his son who shrugged. "I cracked a hand mirror by accident & Grandma freaked out"
A few Lady of Shalott references...

8 May 2015 (Theme: Dead Set)

The film crew arrived on the isolated island to make a movie. 3 days later, they had all vanished. No trace. Just a dead film set.

The electricity died, and their shared numbness was gone. They looked at the dead TV set, away from each other & shifted uncomfortably.

It became a trend among zombies to sing a mourning song when one of them was made dead. Set in C sharp, the song got sung a lot. Badly.

The ghosts of dead settlers roamed the sands, caught between homelands far away, the angry sea & the new lands they never got to meet.

15 May 2015 (Theme: Save It)

She caught the falling star, wanting to save its light for herself. But it dimmed needing to be free.She returned it to the sky to soar

He waded out of the swollen water, bedraggled puppy clutched in his arms. He had sworn to save it, look after it & atone for his past.

22 May 2015 (Theme: Eyes in the Dark)

He woke up & his outstretched hand was greeted by the happy wet nose of his best friend & guide; his eyes in the darkness of his world.

Eyes in the dark silently watched people as they went about their daily lives. The eyes were only there for people's safety, of course.

It was a prickling sensation on her neck. Then it moved. She turned to see spider eyes in the dark glint, then vanish under her duvet.
People really, really don't like spiders.

29 May 2015 (Theme: Flaming Skies)

Aliens often travel to earth via lightning strikes, but sometimes they ride in on meteors & flame up the skies just to make an entrance

Everyone saw it as an amazing sunset. Until clouds & sky surrendered to earth in flaming agony, bringing in the Age of Eternal Stars.

The dragons awoke in the Land of Myths & re-descended to earth, setting the skies aflame & tipping the world as we knew it upside down.

5 June 2015 (Theme: Seeing Red)

She slept under the tree
So when she woke up,
She would only see red leaves
Of sunny crimson and ruby
Fill her view of the world.

They fought furiously thru the bazaar. He was knocked into the spice stall & saw red. Paprika, not chilli. He leapt up & kept fighting.
For the story-box.

The boy knew all about the desert. But when he saw books being read & words written, he realised there was much more he wanted to learn.

She saw the sun's strength bleed red into the dawn. Desiring that power, she stole the red & knitted it into the scarf around her neck.

12 June 2015 (Theme: Last Call)

He played his gaming console rather than come to bed w/ her. It was his first & last Call of Duty game. The console never worked again.

The blackbird tried to sing the last call of dusk, but it always got interrupted by the boisterous screeches of a beady-eyed cockatoo.

The radio made the last call at 7:02pm. Citizens were told to look after themselves. Then there was only silence; waiting & not knowing

19 June 2016 (Theme: It's Time)

The chef speared potato onto his fork & opined. "Taste carefully. You can always tell when it's thyme or oregano that's out of balance.

She walks into the bedroom & shuts the door. Only now, when it's her time alone, does her mouth stop twisting as her tears stream.

I'll blow the whistle when it's time to charge, yelled the Sarge. Caked in a trench of mud, filth & fear, the soldier hoped for the end

26 June 2016 (Theme: One Thousand Screams)

They say in space, no-one can hear you scream. Not true. Space is filled with the solid echoes of screams from a thousand dying stars.

The cut was swift, clean. Even her nerves, poised on the edge of a thousand screams, were silent, numb as the shark swam away w/ her leg
Good thing my FPs aren't responsible for promoting tourism in Oz...

3 July 2015 (Theme: Playing with Fire)

Her kite was made of fire & she played with it the whole day under the stormy, wind-lashed sky, until lightning called her fire away.

The goddess lived underground & loved to play w/ molten lava. One day she threw it to the sky, ruptured the ocean & an island was born.

10 July 2015 (Theme: Slow Motion)

A car roars thru the dark country road. As soon as it passes, transparent ghosts of animals arise from the grasses & resume grazing.

Spring kisses, teases in warm caress as winter ice yields & softens in slow sweet motion; holding on until that first drop falls fast.

It's her favourite summer game to duck underwater, then try & run as fast as she can. She runs in frustrating & satisfying slow motion.
This has inspired a longer story, which is slowly being dragged out of my head.

"Sign this guy up!" The film director yelled. "He's the best slow mo stunt guy ever!" The tortoise said thank you & smirked at the hare

17 July 2015 (Theme: Trash)

"Refuse. Detritus. Garbage."
Cheeks flaming, Mick pulled his alien friend, Hj^thwal~k, aside. "Dude! That's not how you trash talk!"
I nearly deleted this, I was so unsure about it. Yet, it got a pretty good reception (which tells me I should just write and not second-guess myself!)

She savagely tore up all her dreams&hopes into tiny pieces & threw them at the trash. Why hang onto stuff that was no longer relevant?

24 July 2015 (Theme: In Between)

She paused in between earth & sky. Below, glowing souls begged her to stay. Above, starlight & wisdom beckoned her home. She chose home

31 July 2015 (Theme: Baggage)

The cat curled up sleepily in the half-unpacked baggage. It was warmer there than on the bed where the human was growing cold&congealed

The elephant's boxes&trunks were packed, ready for annual migration. But first. She phoned her ex to talk things thru. One. Last. Time.
Tee hee! Two kinds of baggage for the elephant - physical, but also, long memories and emotional baggage!

The suitcases sat dusty&forgotten, as their owners built new lives, held tight & the children let go of the old language & expectations

7 August 2015 (Theme: The Paradox)

It is only when you are rendered in/visible by your skin colour, do you realise the stories inscribed upon it.

My fears were always at their strongest & loudest at night; but night was also when my dreams shone at their brightest.

14 August 2015 (Theme: Killing Time)

Time was his master; his fuel&fear. Until he killed it & walked into a new world. Of circadian rhythms & the heartbeat of his own drum.
I'm proud of this one.

21 August 2015 (Theme: Destiny)

So, is it fate or fortune that has you standing at the edge of the abyss, ready to jump? & do you jump to your destiny or your dreams?

She knew if she could run up the setting sun's rays, the world was hers. Until the day she stopped trying & her sun never shone again.

In the worlds of my imagination, I am always the chosen one, and my destiny is always at my fingertips.

28 August 2015 (Theme: Back in my Day)

"Back in my day there were fresh humans everywhere." The old zombie chewed at some rancid intestine under its fingernails. "Good times"

Still makes me laugh.

Back in my daytime persona, I'm quiet, meek. No-one would guess I'm the nightly cause of the anti-govt art appearing all over the city.
Str-r-e-e-e-e-tch that theme as much as I can!

In the city garden, I lay on my back. In my daydreams, I'm in a sunny meadow where butterflies send their shadows to dance over my face
I like this. A lot.

4 September 2015 (Epitaph + picture theme of girl approaching cloaked figure at an archway)

"This isn't hell" laughed the cloaked figure. "Thru the arches gets you to hell. Btw sign the guestbook? We can use it as your epitaph"

"I used to work under different arches," reminisced the Guardian. "They were gold-coloured, 2 of 'em side-by-side & I wore a red wig."

She peered thru the archway as the suitcase behind her shuddered. 'Is this the way to the Land of Dreams?'
The Dream Reaper nodded once

She looked innocent as she neared the portal. Hurry through before he smelt her victims' blood in her suitcase, & cheat Death once more

18 September 2015 (Theme: Once in a Lifetime)

The chefs gathered in awe & reverence. Gathered in remote mountains, thru swamps & gorges, before them now sat the once-in-a-life-thyme
If memory serves, apparently no-one else used this pun. If a pun can be squelched out of a word, I'll be there, squelching away. I'm sick, I tell you, sick!

With a roar & a sigh, the old star died. Millions of light years away, humans watched the once-in-a-lifetime display light up the skies

This is a once-in-a-lifetime shot! The reporter ran into the storm but was lifted, twisted & torn apart by manic fingers of wind&water.

25 September 2015 (Theme: Pause)

On her command there was a pause &the bags under her eyes opened; spiders ran out to sit along her eyelashes & add lush fullness&length
With apologies to arachnophobes. I think this is kinda cute.

The incantation was whispered. After the longest pause, cinnamon-coloured stars appeared on the lake waters; knowledge & power waited.

Every night he paused his heartbeat&breath & visited the spirit world thru his dreams. He kept exploring until 1 night he didn't return 

2 October 2015 (Theme: Once and for All)

The activist yelled. "No more excuses. No more us & them! It's 'one sand for all'!" The crowd cheered&ran to reclaim the private beach.
Let the pun times roll.

The cat scowled at the human. Really? 'I do nothing all day'?! I self-clean! One’s end fur always takes the most time. You ignoramus!

For sale: old sandcastle-in-the-air. Crumbling turrets, gets only wan sun. For almost no money, it's yours. I don't need it anymore.
More puns!

She stared at her to-do list & nodded. Once & for all, she was dumping her day job & following her dreams.

9 October 2015 (Theme: The Path Unknown)

She faced the path unknown,
Dusty, unkempt, overgrown.
The path bursting at the seams,
Holding all her dreams.
Yes. I'm proud of this. Very proud, actually. It rhymed and everything.

Needing new pants, she goes down the path unknown into the new fashionable jeans shop; very cool 20-somethings stare@her. She retreats.
Urban horror at its finest.

16 October 2015 (Theme: Behind the Smile)

Behind the awkward smile was a tongue scarred by stutters, and which hid behind the fists used to doing all the talking.
I like, like, like this one! Almost literary, I think.

The ghost liked to time his flights out of the sky, so that all his victims saw were a sudden apparition with a sickle moon for a smile
Hehehehee! Boo!

Before it died, the Cheshire Cat wrote down the secret of its smile: Cheshire Mousse. But the Cheshire Cat was also a lousy speller.
A whimsical one which had a good reception (which surprised me, to be honest).

23 October 2015 (Theme: Déjà Vu)

She sinks into the water & I wait. The layers are the same. Fear, baffled déjà vu, anger. Then she remembers me hidden within & we talk
I wrote a 200WordTuesday story out of this. It stays in the story-box, though; there's more to play with in this idea.

30 October 2015 (Theme: Footsteps)

I study the overgrown land of my ancestors. I see their bare feet stepping, steeped in volcanic earth; tired bodies to toil & cultivate
True to life.

She awoke to the clicks of her dog's footsteps sounding different.She got up. Her dog was reading a book &sipping a cuppa "Oh. Rumbled"

She didn't so much walk into his life as she strutted in, with footsteps as stiletto-sharp as her eyes & a kick as glossy as her smile.
Accompanied by a Brian Setzer soundtrack

6 November 2015 (Theme: Stars and Hearts)

"If the heart is bleeding hope, don't look to the stars for help," the stranger said. "Look to the dark, light & grey matter within."

Get it? The 'grey matter' = the head! To help guide between hope and fear.

The cow jumped over the moon, leapt onto a passing asteroid & went to visit the Milky Way, getting to the heart of the universe.
Another whimsical one with a good reaction which surprised me.

Her newborn made no cries & she wept to the skies. Two shooting stars arced thru night; the baby inhaled & cried. Its heart beat strong

I had stars in my eyes as you carried me at night.Then you put hearts in my eyes. Chunks of my heart that you carefully shaped like a ♡
Creepy, creepy, sick, creepy! What was I thinking?!!

13 November 2015 (Theme: A Touch of Magic)

She placed her kiss in the noon sun to grill. When it was smoking & fiery, she gave the kiss to him. drizzled with a touch of magic.

 I like this one a lot!

A touchy magician accused his colleague of being touchy-feely. The colleague smiled, gave him a sparkling hug & said, "touché".
Tee hee hee. Did I mention I love puns?!

Fairy Godsters observe the sobbing mid-life crisis case.
“A touch won't do”
They run forward, glitter in their wake.
I love the idea of Fairy God-Beings (couldn't say 'God-Beings' because of the character constraints) dumping magic/granting wishes on people with physical blows. For the story-box.

20 November 2015 (Theme: Tainted)

Fear as a constant
Of many a slur or taint
Living with constraint
Asking for consent
To be carefully content
No-one should have to live like this.

Waves sweet & serene
Washed at the shore
But the wind cried
tainted & haunted
tinted & daunted
By souls killed there
The night before.

27 November 2015 (Theme: Mercy)

After humans discovered mermaids were real, there was a truce, then a war. Humans were soundly defeated in the mer/sea killings of 2053

Mercy trickled down her face in a single bead of sweat; it splashed on her trigger finger & fell to the dirt, lost, just as she fired.

5 December 2015 (Theme: Limitless)

"How deep is my creative rut?" She cried.
"Very," said her muse, bored w/ the same cry again. "Limitless, really. Here's a pen. Write!"

In the seconds before impact, Life loomed large, limitless, vital, and she cursed herself a fool for having been so scared of it.

The spaceship zooms into unknown, limitless space. A pause, then it careens back as tho flicked by angry fingers. Border control rules.
I like the ironic double-play of 'border control rules'.

12 December 2015 (Theme: Warning)

All thru the sombre night, shadows watched as the train moved along its predestined path, its whistle a mournful warning to deaf ears.
I'm proud of this one.

Deep beneath his learning, science & rationality, something in his gut, primordial, instinctive, reactive, screamed its warning to run.

18 December 2015 (Theme: Sketch)

The sun and the sea sing teasing songs to each other, as the sea captures little threads of sun in endless sketches of dancing light. 

The director sprays ketchup artistically across the set of his western movie & tells the gunslingers, "draw!"  
I'm not sure if the 'sketch' theme is too subtle here, but I like the 's_ketch' and 'draw' play on words.  

The unplanned sketches that she made in the margins of her books&papers - at the edges of her world - were the ones that meant the most.


And there you have it: a year of my FPs in review! It's been a lovely exercise because I've re-discovered some FPs which had slipped my mind (such as "Old Fangy-Features in the Pacific"!), plus I've got a refresher of all the ones that have gone into my to-be-developed story-box.

Here's to 2016, to FPs not yet written, to writing, to inspiration, joy and fun!

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