The journey

A Flash of Inspiration

Hello! Happy Friday!

(I have to admit, Fridays aren’t too special for me, as I work over the weekend at my teaching job, but hopefully you are all enjoying a Friday feeling.)

I’ve been thinking a bit more about where my writing inspiration comes from, following what my mind thinks of as a domino effect comment. Someone on Twitter the other day asked a question to the writing community: “Who is your favourite character, in your writing?” and for me, the answer was two-fold. I love my Main Character from my Cosy Mysteries, Jess O’Malley (you’ll meet her soon, I promise), because she is independent, fun, kind, chatty, but above all, pretty ordinary. She doesn’t care about putting on make up just to leave her house, and she loves to eat cake and slob around in comfortable clothes. She is, to be perfectly honest, a bit like me. I like her a lot and I like writing her stories. So she’s an easy answer to the question about who my favourite character is.

The other is far less obvious and walked into my thoughts unannounced to remind me I like him too. His name is Benedict. Here’s how he came into being:

I used to take part in a fun weekly contest run by the lovely people at Bath Flash Fiction, called Ad Hoc. Every week, they would post a prompt word, and the aim of the game was to write a flash fiction piece in 150 words or fewer, within a time limit of one week, that must incorporate that given word. It was fun, challenging, and a great way to keep the brain ticking over. I love flash fiction because it really makes me think, as a writer, about how to focus on the key components of a story and how to compact a whole story into a very few words. It’s not easy, and needless to say, I never won. However, I was included in the longlist of around 80-100 entries every time I entered, for a duration of about a year (with one single exception when I thought I had tried something clever and they disagreed).

On a couple of occasions, I linked my entry from that week to my story from the previous week, and this is where my second favourite character grew and developed into Other Favourite. Below is the first installment in what rolled over into five parts, before the contest stopped running and left Benedict’s story unconcluded:

I can’t post anymore of the installments here, as I still hope to finish it for a ‘Novella in Flash‘ one day in the future, but over the course of the next few weeks, Benedict hoped to see Imogen again, and his story unfolded (via an eldery aunt, missed opportunities and a tea shop) and evolved into something I really enjoyed writing each week, The prompt word for that first installment? Squash.

The prompt word for the following week was, by strange coincidence, train, and that is what gave me the inspiration to continue Benedict’s story. The following installments contained, in order, pipe, high and none. Then Ad hoc was pulled and Benedict left temporarily stranded only 5 episodes into his saga. That only made me like him more. My lovely writing group threw me a few more words, as they, too were now invested in his story, but that still only got him to about 1500 words in total. If anyone wants to help Bendict out, please comment below with a single word for me to use in the next installment, or he will be forever in limbo. (If anyone actually takes me up on this, I will work through in order, writing 150 words or fewer to incorporate each new prompt word into a separate new episode.)

Although Ad Hoc runs no more, there are similar things running on Twitter, just for fun, and to keep inspiration flowing. I find writing micro flashes very useful, even if only 280 characters, or only 150 words. Usually, these tiny, micro flashes are as far from masterpieces as my cooking is from MasterChef, but often, they inspire new characters, new ideas, and grow later in to larger pieces. It only takes one word, to grow into one sentence, to be wrapped into a paragraph, to be enclosed by more paragraphs, to make a page, to make a chapter, to make a story. We have to start somewhere. A single word is as good a place as anywhere to start.

Photo by  Simona Svalina  on  Scopio

Please, do take a second to post me a word. (Keep it clean, please.) It will be fun.

And when you’ve given me a word, why not use the word to write your own sentence, paragraph, #vss365 Tweet, or even the Next Great Novel?

Thank you for reading, thank you for commenting!

Love, Jinny

One Comment

  • Malcolm Richardson

    Hi Jinny,
    Yes a sad day when we lost the Ad Hoc competition. I loved the 150 word challenges.
    I instantly took to your characters Benedict and Imogen, partly due to my association with railways and Crewe station! Having travelled regularly up and down the West Coast Main Line, I felt sure I’d met both of them somewhere before on my travels, probably more than once!

    Anyhow, in response to your request for one or two more prompt words, how about?

    Buffet
    Newspapers
    Penrith
    iPhones
    Platform

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