Unusual Information Equals Story

book

By Liz Betz

Fiction is fiction but an intriguing fact can add authenticity and also increases the reader’s engagement as this group of stories illustrates.

Food War

I raised Cameron whole-food vegan, despite his complaints. My son, now grown and healthy, tells me ‘Marcy’ is the one; a beautiful person and, I will be pleased to know, a vegan.
She, being the one or not, is out to impress me in our first meeting with the meal she’s prepared. The décor is lovely, candles flicker as we chat. Cameron and Marcy fetch the food. Something new they say. An unusual aroma wafts from the covered platters.
Voila. Mock meat, fake cheese. It’s… junk – vegan! They exchange smiles, as I choke down a bite.
I will not be winning at their table.


Author notes- Truthfully, I didn’t set out to research the various versions of vegan, but when I discovered the extremities within the term, I sensed there could be a story. Who better to have food conflicts than a parent and child? Then my question was how could I make this disagreement even more loaded. I may dress this up and call it ‘reverse research’ but it’s nothing more than finding inspiration in my reading material. The first sentences of this flash fiction story are packed with details as the background and conflict are presented.

Love and Dogs

Stymied by my patient’s distorted view of love, after her history of bad relationships, I suggest she get herself a dog. I tell her that the companionship a dog provides might give her a different perspective. I don’t tell her that it is something sorely needed. I suggest she make notes of the experience.
First, she reports his love-bombing, (I discover she means that the dog licks her) his grandiosity (it is poorly leash trained), manipulative behavior (the dog prefers her bed to his) and mentions his silent treatment (I assume this is the dog at rest.)
Desperate I ask, are there any positives?
“Well…” She begins as I hold my breath. “I think that narcissism is different in a dog. He holds no grudges.”
Let’s start with that.

Author notes: sometimes my online time leads me to very personal information. I thought there was a delightfully twisted aspect to this forum post. The person actually thought her dog was a narcissist. To tell the story, I chose a more objective person as the point of view narrator but at the same time, the concept of a doctor/ patient relationship gives the story my desired slant.

Oh Hell

Her wedding pictures will be spoilt by my problem. Right here, I say, pointing to the area around my mouth. One, if luck permits, or a whole cluster of ugly, nasty, cold sores.
I’m her choice as bridesmaid, she insists, cold sores or not. Anyway, didn’t I see a doctor?
I’m to avoid stress. But that’s impossible, if I’m in the wedding party. Your pictures…
Can be casual. We can take them this weekend, we’ll be together, it’s perfect!
This is a fantastic plan. But it means my face and I are in a race. Which comes first – the weekend or the outbreak?
I must remain calm.

Author notes; it was a browse through a woman’s health book that inspired this story. The premise is even a simple thing can be traumatic, IF it occurs at the at the worst possible moment. But sometimes the choices are taken away from the protagonist. The title? What else does a person say in times like this?


About the author:

Liz Betz is a retired rancher who loves to write fiction. Her pastime seems to help her days go by, her brain to stay active and sometimes keeps her out of trouble. An overactive imagination is a wonderful thing to harness, but left alone…Her publication credits are many and varied as she explores the fictional world of mostly somewhat older but not necessarily mature characters.

Involving One

book

By Liz Betz

This group of flash fiction stories have ‘one’ thing in common. They are stories that mainly feature one person. Something happens to this one person and because of that a change occurs. In the first story, all it takes is a look for the protagonist to become defensive.

Change Unwanted

The librarian scans my book – a ‘Meals for One’ cookbook and I see her give me the look of sympathy. Next, she will point out the library programs. She’ll tell me that not only will I learn about genealogy or knitting, I will have an opportunity to meet people! I won’t argue, but I believe shallow socializing is highly over-rated.
Just once, I’d like someone to ask me about my secret for enjoying my own company. I know I’m different but I’m still okay.
If there were a book with that title, I’d buy it for the library.

Author notes – A prediction, based perhaps on past events and a secret wish reveals much about the character. The quite generic book title in the first sentence orients the reader to the story problem; the italics imply an ongoing conflict for the protagonist.

The Apple Stand

The bag of a dozen apples only contains ten. I know I should take them back and complain. I’ve been shortchanged. Another part of me scoffs; for two apples? Who are you, the apple morality squad?
It wouldn’t be hard to do. I can turn around and walk back to their fruit stand right now. Or. I never buy from them again. Let my boycott tell them my dissatisfaction.
I bet they took one look and knew I could be fooled. Like always.
No. That’s crazy thinking.
I’ll just say that I’m short two apples. Simple.

Author notes – In this story the internal dilemma is that of a disgruntled customer. The dialogue, which I point out in the story, is between self and ‘another part of me,’ and as such requires no quotation marks. While the ending- a one-word sentence – implies a resolution but there is some ambiguity as well. The title serves as a clue to the setting and a hint to the story’s meaning.

Secret Revealed

“Congratulations, you have won a consultation.” The heavily accented voice says they’re calling from The Astrology Center of Montreal, Quebec.
“Where?”
“The Astrology Center. I will transfer you for your personalized session.”
“Thank you but I am not interested.”
I hung up as I do with these types of calls, but the incident lingered in my mind. How unusual, how bizarre. Perhaps I have just turned down a mystic message, a prediction. Then I see the phone display; the call originated in Oregon. They weren’t at all honest; just another scammer that I just know would ask for money or information.
But I wanted it to be real. That’s a newly discovered secret.

Author notes – This is one of those ‘from life’ stories. I did get this phone call, but had to put on my writer’s cap to give it story logic. ‘Heavily accented voice’ heightened the sense of strange event, as did the locations I chose, just in case the Astrological Center wasn’t odd enough. I took extra pains to not repeat words although the ideas were very similar – consultation or personalized session. Same idea behind the use of prediction, message, and secret. The occasional repeat of a word is not noticeable in longer fiction but in flash fiction, unintentional repetition shows a lack of polish.

About the author:

Liz Betz is a retired rancher who loves to write fiction. Her pastime seems to help her days go by, her brain to stay active and sometimes keeps her out of trouble. An overactive imagination is a wonderful thing to harness, but left alone…Her publication credits are many and varied as she explores the fictional world of mostly somewhat older but not necessarily mature characters.

Some of the Excuses

book

By Liz Betz

Through the years I have become well read on the topic of procrastination and have seen the benefits of my studies. This specific area of knowledge pops up in these three flash fictions.

No Weeds Pulled

On Monday she realizes it is her turn to weed in the community garden. Really this is much effort with little reward, she struggles to remember why she volunteered. Tuesday she’s told by another gardener that she must pick her weeds and dispose of them, not leave them lying on the ground. She’s been singled out for this abuse. On Wednesday she longs for a partner from the community, not that mean fellow but someone to work along beside her. They could visit. Thursday, she views the many rows and sighs. It’s too much and she’s so tired. By Friday she’s not sure she knows which are weeds, she really doesn’t know how to proceed. Saturday’s thinking centers on her fear of failure, if she’s the one that has destroyed the garden, she’ll die. Now it’s Sunday. She’d weed and do a good job of it too, but really, she is afraid of success and the position becoming permanent.

Author notes; it’s painfully obvious that the gardener in my story No Weeds Pulled, is procrastinating. The story structure form use of the days of the week provides a platform for her thinking errors but also portrays the sneaky way that procrastination works.

Smoothly

She reads about the smooth transition between mental activity and physical activity. Reading is more cerebral than action based, but in her defense, she is figuring things out. A procrastinator needs to have a plan of action. She’s working on that.
The phone rings and the caller wonders what she is doing. She can’t answer, because to say she was planning would lead to questions she might not be able to answer, so instead, she says she was reading a book.
“Good. You have time to help me clean out my garage. I’ve put it off long enough.”
She says yes, after all, this request came smoothly and she wasn’t really doing anything.
Oh. That’s so true.

Author notes; when she says ‘all cerebral and no action.’ the story’s point is made. The starting sentence orients the reader to a specific idea about procrastination and the rest of the story expands on this.
Then there is the right plan, and the right help and nothing should stop you now but there are always…

Complications

It’s best that I not criticize or complain but my so-called friend complicated things. The idea was to make my business run smoother and help me get things done efficiently. That’s where I needed help. This friend shows me a routine for accounting; he sets up a spread sheet, creates a billing system. Then because he believes that nothing should be a single-use item, he shows me some option concerning online marketing. Afterwards he shows me several games I could ‘chill’ with.
Incredible. I’ve become more efficient, all right. I work my way through the game, I can’t stop. I’m at level eleven!

Author notes; this flash story form is one I use often – best laid plans gone astray. The objective of the protagonist is plainly stated at the story start and the results are similarly ‘named’ for the sake of clarity. The protagonist has discovered that getting sidetracked is procrastinating at full speed.

About Liz Betz

Liz Betz is a retired rancher who loves to write fiction. Her pastime seems to help her days go by, her brain to stay active and sometimes keeps her out of trouble. An overactive imagination is a wonderful thing to harness, but left alone…Her publication credits are many and varied as she explores the fictional world of mostly somewhat older but not necessarily mature characters.

Story Talk

book

By Liz Betz

It is inspirational to me when I learn of a story’s background. What was the story seed? How were the challenges met? These three flash fiction stories include my author notes which allow a peek into my process, inspiration and decisions.

Learning

They say, when you stop learning you start dying. I’ve declined the golf lessons my wife wants me to take but I’m still not dead.
Miriam says I am. She says; Oscar you’re dead. You do nothing but sit in front of the television.
It’s the finals! I want to watch them.
She says I’m driving her out of her mind.
I’ve worked hard, given us a good living. We’ve been able to retire. I’ve earned the right to relax and unlike her, I’m not interested in lessons or classes.
Maybe she can learn something there, if she wants.

*Author Notes – The subject of retirement is one that my peer group tosses around often, and communication between spouses is a rich source for story conflict. The story opens with quote from the infamous ‘they’ and runs with it to the slightly twisted end. This story gives a flavor of the little bickers that can arise between long-married. Technical note; while there seems to be dialogue, I did not use quotations. The story is a narration from Oscar, a sort of gossipy rendition of his situation.

Property Lines

The police deliver an ultimatum. Either mediation or being charged with theft. They give me a ride, detour past the police station, to show me they mean business.
The mediator has a workbook filled with discussion suggestions. Inside there should be the proverb about how it’s better to beg forgiveness than to seek permission. Maybe it offers some assistance about brothers who have the wrong impression; because my brother is on a mission to scare me straight. I borrowed his truck; he knows perfectly well I wasn’t stealing it.
I’m not heading toward a life of crime and deception. Not me.

*Author’s notes – This story is of brothers who have different standards and values. It seems the ‘borrowing’ brother is disrespectful of the ‘owning’ brother who is losing patience but still trying to help. However, nobody can rescue someone who doesn’t see the need; the story offers the reader a glimpse of the denial involved. The entire story is expressed with phrasing that reflects the problem brother’s world view. The use of mediation and then mediator is a transitional method I used to overcome the change of location within the story.

Ouch

The end of our friendship comes by text. I read it twice. Your flaws are too many. You are too much work.
What about her? You… before I reply, I put the phone down. I make tea instead of pouring a drink. My countless flaws? I’m weak. If only I had been more courageous. I’m evasive; I could have said what she wanted to hear. She’s texted the truth. Her case is solid.
The bitter reality? I’m on her side. (But she’s not on mine.) I’d be at her side. (She doesn’t want that.) Respond to the message? There’s no rebuttal.

Author’s Notes – One of the unfortunate facts of these times is that people do end relationships via text. This character might not be extremely self-aware but when things are pointed out, they are willing to consider the evidence. All but the first paragraph is meant to be a dialogue between self and self. The method I chose to convey this is via parenthesis, but italics would have been equally effective.

About Liz Betz

Liz Betz is a retired rancher who loves to write fiction. Her pastime seems to help her days go by, her brain to stay active and sometimes keeps her out of trouble. An overactive imagination is a wonderful thing to harness, but left alone…Her publication credits are many and varied as she explores the fictional world of mostly somewhat older but not necessarily mature characters.

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