42 is the Right Answer, Day 25

magpie sYour creative writing prompt today is:

‘Touch wood!’

Are you superstitious? Do you touch wood and salute magpies? And do always look around for a second magpie, just because of the rhyme: ‘One for sorrow, two for joy…’?

Imagine a character whose life is determined by superstition. No new shoes on the table, spilt salt thrown into the eye of the devil (always with the right hand over the left shoulder), no umbrellas opened indoors, no walking under ladders.

What if superstition gets in the way of common sense and forces your character to do something damaging to a friend or neighbour. What? Why? How? When? Where?

Set the scene by establishing how neurotic your character is about good luck, then make something happen to challenge their way of thinking.

This is going to be a story – and if you can manage a twist in the tale so the ending is a surprise for your reader, that would be great. Try 1,000 words – which in some cases is still classed as flash fiction.

But with so few words you can’t have a huge cast or long descriptions, you have to cut everything to the bone. But that’s OK. Assume your reader is smart enough to fill in any gaps. Your job is to reveal the action. You don’t need to describe what the characters look like unless it is pertinent to the story. Does it matter if your character is bald or wears braids, is a redhead or brunette? Is it important to describe the clothes they’re wearing – does this information move the story on? If not, you can leave it out. The same with the setting. You can be vague as to where the action takes place unless it is significant for the story. Your character might behave differently in a city centre setting to a country park, for example.

That’s a lot to think about. Try reading some contemporary short stories to see how its done. Think about the audience you are writing for – a woman’s magazine story will be quite different from anything they publish in the New Yorker, for example.

It is up to you which tense you use and which point of view. Try starting the same story from different points of view to see which is the most powerful, which is best to continue.

There. That should keep you busy for a while…