Twist or Stick

May 14, 2014 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that begins with a twist…


from the Textiliste’s collection of nests…

This is Charli Mills’ latest flash fiction challenge ( They are getting more difficult. How do you create real tension in a 99 word piece of flash? For any author, the skill of extracting tension from your characters is critical. Sometimes it is a struggle which seems to force you down the route of the ridiculous or the absurd. How often can you throw your hero off a  cliff or through a black hole and expect them to survive.

Eventually everything becomes a soap opera where the quotient of unplanned pregnancies, murders, incest and so on increases week on week.

For instance it took until the Textiliste and I were given the  box set of the first three series of Downton Abbey for Christmas before I watched any of this much loved series. And I was soon hooked (well, apart from the bloody bell in the opening credits that, without fail, set the Dog into  frenzy of barking; he would only be happy once he was shown the empty front step). However my love affair lasted through series one and two (and the Christmas special): the slow burn, the snarky asides, the compelling and believable plots – well done My Lord Fellows. Then Lady Thingy (the one who married the terrorist/freedom fighter) died after giving birth and we were off – East Enders in corsets.

I’ve decided there’s a Rule of Four out there which is no mini series must be allowed beyond series four (with the honourable exception of the Wire – that just got better and better and even here they ended at five: whoever came up with the brilliant murder scene in series two where McNulty and Bunk just use ‘fuck’ for about three and a half minutes to convey every feeling, every nuanced emotion, every question and every answer deserves a Congressional medal or George Bush’s W or whatever equates to an OBE across the Pond- what a script, what a word). Cleese had it with Fawlty Towers – two series – while Lord Snooty is taking Downton into series five (yawn). Friends was ten seasons and it showed; 24 went on for 8 which is taking a day to Fibonacci excess (this reminds me, tangentially, of one of the earliest jokes I can remember: it was from the Mother Goose panto in the mid 1960s at the Fairfield Halls in Croydon with Cyril Fletcher as the Goose: says one young man to said Goose ‘I hate you, I hate you, I hate you’; Goose replies: ‘three hates are twenty four; that’s a lot of hates.’ You had to be there.)

How did I get here? Oh yes, twists. Well this is mine. See what you think.

Empty Promises

The banana skin was empty. “Is this a trick? Did you do this?”’

She shrugged.

“You have to eat something.” He grabbed an orange.

She shrugged again.

He dug at the peel and met no resistance. He was angry now; he tried the mango, then the apple and the pear. Nothing. Just space inside.

“Toast?” He didn’t wait for her reply. The bread knife went through the crust and met a void. “You can’t live on air, for heaven’s sake.”

The girl lifted her t-shirt; he saw through her stomach to the fridge behind her. “It’s easy,” she said.

About TanGental

My name is Geoff Le Pard. Once I was a lawyer; now I am a writer. I've published four books - Dead Flies and Sherry Trifle, My Father and Other Liars, Salisbury Square and Buster & Moo. In addition I have published three anthologies of short stories and a memoir of my mother. More will appear soon. I will try and continue to blog regularly at about whatever takes my fancy. I hope it does yours too. These are my thoughts and no one else is to blame. If you want to nab anything I post, please acknowledge where it came from.
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7 Responses to Twist or Stick

  1. Rayray says:

    How can you be so rude about downton!?? It’s a shame but you are so right!


  2. Charli Mills says:

    You bring up valid points about tension–or what I think of as it’s overuse. Tension hooks the reader but it doesn’t have to be crack. Innately, we all want resolve but I also think readers want the elixir won in the final resolution. But when stories over-dramatize the stakes it does become absurd the more it builds. I heard 24 was a good show, but never watched it until the library in town put out the first season. If you truly want to realize how ridiculous such tension-building can be, watch 3 episodes of 24 a night–we would have quit except we wanted to know how it would all end! And in the end, there was no elixir.

    Most productions suffer if they continue too long–each season tries to outdo the one before. You can always tell the final seasons–it’s as if the writers already gave up, the producers moved on and the actors are hung out to dry. I tried to think up exceptions, but so far none come to mind. My beloved X-Files suffered its last season; MASH was exceptional up until its last season; and Lost left me, well, lost.

    I think by challenging ourselves to write brief twists, it helps us to see that not every story has to be big or outlandish to build tension.

    And then, there’s your flash, Geoff. That’s a story with a depth! The twist works, of course, the stakes rise with each piece of food. But the metaphor for emptiness, or even the lacking value of what we feed our bodies, minds and spirits come across clearly. And you did all that in 99 words. That’s brilliant writing.

    These are good conversations for writers to have. Thanks, Geoff!


  3. Annecdotist says:

    Loved this flash, Geoff. Never seen Downton Abbey and hope I never have to. Totally agree about “more of the same” – it’s like too much ice cream, makes you feel sick.


  4. TanGental says:

    Do you find, with those addictive foods, like ice cream and chocolate, that there’s never a happy place, the Goldilocks zone if you like, where you’ve had just the right amount? You get to the ‘I can squeeze in one more mouthful/truffle’ point and always always take too much. And, as you say, feel sick. We should experiment, I think, to try and define what is the exact right amount of extra that leaves you satiated and no more; there’s a PhD in it, I’d be bound..


  5. Pingback: Twisted Beginnings « Carrot Ranch Communications

  6. Sohrab says:

    Hi Geof

    99 words
    Read it in 1 minute
    Thinking about it still hours later

    The song
    I cant get no satisfaction
    comes to my mind




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