Involving One

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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.

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

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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.

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

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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.

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.

How to Create a Great Writer’s Blog Post

We all want our blog posts to generate traffic, engagement and sales. Here are some tips on how to accomplish that. Before you start writing, ask yourself these questions:

  •  Why would someone keep reading the entire blog post?
  • What makes your audience come back for more?
  • What do they want to know about?
  • What will resonate with them?

Without interesting content, the post will be skimmed or even ignored. You need to catch the reader’s attention.

Rules to Remember

Take time to plan and research your content. Think about what this specific blog post will be about. Focus on one main topic or theme, don’t over complicate the post, keep it focused.

Write like you talk, the more natural the text sounds the more engaging it will be.

Make a plan so the blog post coincides with an event, a holiday, a news report, a TV show or movie, a book launch, a give-away – anything that makes readers click on the post. Reference, in some way to the content of your book(s). I use reincarnation stories and research to link one of my novels and folklore for others.

Schedule your posts so that they will automatically publish. This ensures you don’t forget a post and are left scrabbling to hit the ‘publish’ button. Once followers know your schedule, they will anticipate the timing. I announce my yearly schedule in an annual post at the end of each year. This keeps me accountable and focused. Do some research so you can publish at the optimum time for your specific genre or content type – this can be found with an internet search or you can use your blog analytics, if your blog has been live for some time. I have found content for readers or writers are most common between 10 am and noon MST, but if your content is on a specific genre, search for other blogs with similar content and see when they post.

Create a magnetic, attention-grabbing headline to entice readers. You can use humor or a question. Use strong adjectives and verbs. Try out several headline structures to see which one catches the eye. Make your reader curious.

Look at your topic and see if you can add a unique perspective, experience, or twist to it, or indeed the content of your story’s narrative. Something readers aren’t expecting or are excited to find out about.

Most domain sites have media royalty free content you can search for use in your blog post.

Look for linking opportunities on your previous posts (two if possible). Match a phrase to the previous url.

End with a call to action. These include sign up for a newsletter, leave a comment, share the post on their social media, or buy a product. (Do not use all of them in one post though)

Don’t forget your SEO – include high volume focused keywords. These are words common to your overall topic of your blog. For example, I use – writing, manuscript, books, writer, author, book review, book titles etc. Use them in your title, subheadings and throughout the content.

You can use an internet search to find keywords. Put the topic in the engine and click – and a list will appear of related key words and also searches related to it. Utilize the list in your content and categories when creating your post.

Always proofread and edit your post prior to posting it live. Read them out loud – this will aid with sentence length, tone and grammar.

Get your blog featured in snippets by using such titles as: How to, Best of, Who is, What is & Why is – these have great success within search engines.

Ensure your blog is mobile optimized. If the content is muddled or unformatted, lacking images or is a stream of text it will be bypassed.

Utilize The Six Most Common Blog Posts Titles:

These ensure the search engine puts your blog post near the front page, if not top of the page in the search field.

  • The “How-To” Post
  • The List-Based Post
  • The “What Is” Post
  • The Pillar Page Post
  • The Newsjacking Post
  • The Infographic Post

Examples for these:

List post       

These are usually 10 – 25 bite-sized tips. The title states a benefit and the number of tips. The introduction states a ‘problem’ your reader has and the benefit of the tips. Add an overview of what the tips are and a clear benefit (use subheadings and images). At the end finish with a conclusion / call to action.

Step by Step post

These posts guide your reader with easy to use steps for a certain subject. Create a ‘how to’ title. Start with an intro – include how you understand the ‘problem’, present the solution briefly, and demonstrate your experience. Use numbered steps under subheadings in more detail. Summarize at the end.

Mandy Eve-Barnett

Mandy Eve-Barnett is a multi-genre author writing children’s, YA, and adult books. Her passion for writing emerged later in life and she is making up for lost time. With nine books published since 2011, she indulges her Muse in creative fiction as well as freelance writing. Read more…

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