Halloween Prompt October 22 – October 29, 2020 – Superstition

Theme: Superstition

Your story must revolve around the end result of a superstition that’s come true. The superstition may not be implied, it must be a literal inclusion in the story.

For example, a man can’t figure out why everything’s going wrong, but then remembers he walked beneath a ladder on the way to work.

Requirements:

  • A superstition explained

Word Count: 1,200

*Note the dates – this is a 1-week contest.

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Please Note: Comments may be considered “published” regarding other contest requirements.

All stories are fall under general copyright laws. No part may be reproduced without the express consent of the respective author.

Story Submission Rules:
  1. One story per author. You may post more than one but only the first story will qualify for voting.
  2. Stories must be in English, unpublished and your own work.
  3. Stories must fit into a single comment box and must stay within the word limit set for each contest.

Voting starts and ends in one week – Thursday morning at 10:00am PDT / 1:00pm EST / 11:30pm IST / 6:00pm WET/GMT/ 5:00am AEDT (Thursday) and ends the same time on Thursday / 5:00am AEDT (Friday).

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To be included in the “writing prompt roster”, you must have submitted two stories in the last sixty days. The roster is alphabetical and can be found here.

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58 thoughts on “Halloween Prompt October 22 – October 29, 2020 – Superstition

  • October 22, 2020 at 2:49 pm
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    Read the stories here:

    (If you don’t see your story linked in this comment within a day or two, feel free to use the contact form to let us know we somehow missed it.

    Meanwhile, please be patient, moderators are not always online. We’ll get to it as soon as possible. Thank you.)

    Reply
  • October 23, 2020 at 8:43 am
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    Sounds like fun. Hoping to get back into writing.

    Reply
    • October 23, 2020 at 9:47 am
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      I’m not clear on what you are asking?

      Reply
  • October 23, 2020 at 1:25 pm
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    BIRD DROPPINGS
    by Ken Miles
    (1,200 words)

    Roberto just wanted to see Times Square at all costs. Now. Like it was a matter of urgency. On a day when we had something much more important to do.

    I’d got to know Roberto in a dedicated internet chatroom, that’s what we had for Social Media back then. Both of us had passed tough international preliminary exams for different coveted jobs at the same company, FinanzCorp of New York City. Working for such a company was like winning a lottery, and I was going to get that job no matter what. I’d studied all my life, striven hard, made all the right moves to one day get my ass on a chair in that interview room.

    When we found out that our interviews were in the morning of the same day, we agreed to meet upon our arrival in New York, support and cheer up one another. And share the scandalous costs of a hotel room, too. That also mattered. Neither of us was rich yet. Even the cheapest room at The Bronx broke our bank.

    “Let’s get the interviews out of the way first, shall we? There’ll be the rest of our lives to see Times Square, if we just snatched those jobs at FinanzCorp first!”

    He simply wouldn’t listen. I’d only traveled by train down from Boston, where I was born and bred, but Roberto had flown all the way from Italy. He was utterly dazzled by the Big Apple, nearly forgot what he’d even come there for!

    “We still have… what? An hour-and-a-half till your interview,” he reasoned, “I’m not gonna pass Times Square, knowing I’m just meters away…”

    Our interviews were in Lower Manhattan, and I’d been warned to plan early – the traffic could be absolutely clogged heading down there in the morning hours. Plus, the security clearance to get inside the building where FinanzCorp was housed could burn some twenty minutes more.

    “It’s just a damn overrated crossroads, this Times Square!” I furiously tried to dissuade Roberto, as our train pulled into Grand Central.

    “The Crossroads of the World!” he hit back at me, quoting the fuck’n cliché he must’ve picked from some tourist brochure.

    Don’t get me wrong, Roberto was great company: he was so funny, you were bound to laugh if you were with him, even when he was serious. Because you never know when he was! Just the way he strung words together. The way he pronounced them. The pauses, especially. Everything about him was comedy. But that day, the interview was too important. Even Roberto was beginning to get to me.

    We got off the train and swam along the river of people leaving Grand Central. As anyone who’s been to New York knows very well, you’re one moment standing and the very next seated in a yellow cab hopping from one red traffic-light to another.

    “Times Square!” Roberto told the driver before our pants had even touched the car’s leather.

    My blood boiled.

    “We’ll just get off there,” I told Roberto, fuming, “a Japanese stop, no more – one quick look, and we’re then straight off to FinanzCorp, presto!” I resolved to just leave him behind and proceed by myself if he bred any new ideas.

    Roberto, face gleaming, just said, “Okay, amico!” It was a dream for him to come to America. And for some silly reason, Times Square is like a first port of call to every such dreamer.

    A million traffic-lights separate Grand Central and Times Square. It’s only a short distance, but seemed like eternity. Back on our feet, Roberto couldn’t stop wowing, spinning around on his heels trying to take in the famous sights in one sweep. There is nothing too special in Times Square, of course, no particularly interesting architecture or anything aesthetically pleasant. Just the thrill of being there.

    My job-interview of a lifetime was to take place in under an hour! And there I was wasting my time, waiting for Roberto snapping away happily like a crazed tourist, running in the digital camera he’d just bought from the Arrivals at JFK. I was getting hysterical. The clock was ticking, and we absolutely needed to get going!

    I frenziedly suggested we got on the curb and hailed a cab. Or I was off without him. Seriously.

    That’s when the unthinkable happened. Something juicy spattered on my suit jacket, fell on me out of the blue sky. I heard it splash, felt it slopping down my back, felt its warmth. Then the smell.

    A pigeon overhead flew along, happy to have released its load. On me!

    “In Italy, we say bird droppings mean good luck!” Roberto said merrily. I wanted to cry.

    He took out a handkerchief to wipe it off me, setting it deeper into the fabric the harder he tried. Until he couldn’t bear with it anymore.

    “It stinks like hell! The pigeons also eat crap-food in America?”

    And he was right. The smell was revolting. There was no way I was going to present myself like that for the interview. We walked frantically out of Times Square into the first side street, spotted a department store and barged inside. It was at number thirteen. Not a good omen either, although Roberto said thirteen was a good luck number in Italy. That’s why they’re such happy folk. Everything spells good luck for them!

    It took ages to find a jacket my size that matched the rest of my outfit, and then dispose of my stinky jacket before it imparted its smell on the new one. There was no way we were going to make it on time! I felt defeated.

    I could have killed Roberto, but instead placed the blame squarely upon myself for having even succumbed so stupidly to his demands. We sat, neither of us uttering a word, in a cab stuck in impenetrable traffic, knowing I’d just blown the greatest chance of my life. Tears dried on my face and I felt such a lump in my throat I thought I was going to choke.

    “The North Tower, you said?” the driver asked again in a heavy Bangladeshi accent, just to be sure.

    “Sì, the North Tower,” Roberto confirmed to him, “can you go faster, please, Mister Driver! We are late for an important interview, we should already be inside!” I could now sense panic in Roberto’s voice for the first time. It had finally sunk in him. Too late, alas.

    The driver gave him a scornful glance, pointed at the clogged avenue and said nothing. My head was spinning. How could I ever forgive myself for what I did to myself that day!

    That very moment an incredible noise deafened me, followed by an equally deafening silence.

    The traffic never moved an inch again. People were soon running up the street towards us and then past us. Something real bad had just happened. Then, minutes later, another loud blast, like the one before it.

    A pigeon, looking as stunned as we were, alighted atop the side-mirror of our taxi, trying to figure out what was going on. It might have been the same bird that had used me as a toilet.

    The one that saved my life.

    Reply
  • October 23, 2020 at 1:33 pm
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    Excellent Ken, just excellent. I thought that his Italian roommate was going to turn out to be the the boss, undercover…
    It wasn’t until you said North Tower that I got it.
    The beginning of the story was, I believe intentionally, as annoying as Roberto. And then suddenly turns deadly serious.

    Excellent job.

    Reply
    • October 23, 2020 at 5:10 pm
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      Hi Carrie, thanks for reading and for your nice words.

      Yes, I think the story is somewhat overly front-loaded with backstory, and does take some time to get going – and then gets pretty interesting, I suppose.

      If I were to rewrite it (I wrote this a good way back), I think I’d start straight away with the pigeon fiasco, and then bring in the whos, whats, wheres and how comes in due course. I probably wanted to get the boring bits out of the way quickly, the first time!

      Roberto, the boss in hiding? Hmmm, that’s a good one for another time!

      Cheers!
      Ken

      Reply
      • October 24, 2020 at 8:11 am
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        Was Roberto, in reality, someone you know? I have a friend that is easily sidetrack from important things. Also, a timely reminder and a great story. Thanks.

        Reply
        • October 24, 2020 at 5:41 pm
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          No one in particular that I know, really, but I’m a bit like that myself, quite often, leaving things that need to be done till the last minute if there are more interesting things to do in the meantime!

          The early bird gets the worm. But don’t be the early worm… that’s the message of the story! Sometimes it pays arriving late…

          I’m pleased you liked the story, Robt.

          Cheers!
          Ken

          Reply
          • October 25, 2020 at 10:08 pm
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            The early bird gets the worm, but the second mouse gets the cheese.

  • October 23, 2020 at 2:32 pm
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    The Hook – Deux
    by Robt. Emmett ©2020
    [1200 words]

    BULLETIN – Here I am at oh-dark-thirty, on the plains of Patagonia, and I suddenly remember how the story really ended.

    Variations of “The Hook” have been circulating since the 1950s. Accordingly, investigative journalists have speculated the legend might have its roots in real-life lovers’ lane killings such as the 1946 Texarkana Moonlight Murders.

    This story could have happened to me in my dating years. Buzz or Buzzy was the troublesome little sister to my, at the time, steady. Terry, Buzzy’s age, was the boy next door. This dynamic-duo was as inventive as they were meddlesome.
    ~*~

    “I hear tomorrow night’s gonna be perfect for trick-n-treatin, you goin, Buzzy?”
    “I want to, but mom says I’m too old, and sides, I’ve sorta outgrown the Peter Pan costume I wore last year. It’s a little tight in … ah places.”
    Snickering, “I’ve noticed.”
    “Terry! You got a dirty mind.”
    “I’m just sayin …”
    “And I’m just saying, shut your mouth. Got it?”
    “I was thinkin a wearin my Captain Hook outfit. It would be great if you could, ah, you know, go as Peter Pan. It’d be fun. Remember how we scared the crap outta the Adam’s twins? The little tykes dropped their plastic jack-o-lanterns and ran home like the devil was chasin them.”
    “Yeah. Their mom was so grateful to you for stopping and picking up their candy. She gave you a buck.”
    “Speakin bout scary and hooks. You hear bout the insane asylum near Brighten Beach?”
    “No.”
    “This nut-job who’d killed five or six teenagers in the Twin Cities escaped early this mornin. They been searchin the wooded areas around Brighten Beach since sun up.”
    “Yeah, so?”
    “You ever heard that that, ah what’dya call it. Ah, the urban legend bout the guy and his girl on lover’s lane.”
    “No, I’ve never.”
    “Seems they were smoochin in a car with the radio playin. Suddenly, a news bulletin reported that a serial killer had escaped from a nearby mental institution. The killer has a hook instead of a hand. She got upset and demanded to be taken home … like NOW. When they got to the girl’s house, they found a hook hangin on the car door handle on her side a the car.”
    “And?”
    “And according to rumor, the hook belonged to the escaped nut-job. Ya think somethin like that could happen here at Brighten Beach?”
    “Nah, never happen around here.” She held up a finger. “I got an idea. “I want you …”
    “Sharon, supper time.”
    “K, mom. I gotta go, Terry. But after supper, bring that hook from your costume over.”

    “Here’s a piece of pie to eat while I tell ya what I told my little brother. You got your hook from last year?” Tery nods his head. “Good. Boy, do I wish you’d seen me at supper. I was on a roll making up crap faster than I could spit it out.”
    “Like what?”
    “First, I told him about the car that broke down, and the man leaves for help. While waiting for him to return, the woman turns on the radio and hears the report of an escaped mental patient. She hears a thumping on the roof of the car. When she eventually exits, she sees the escaped patient sitting on the top of the car and banging the man’s severed head on it.
    “What’d your brother say?”
    “Mom told him to shut his mouth and to start eating his green beans.”
    “And?”
    “In a different version, I told about the couple driving through an unknown part of the country late at night. They stopped in the middle of a wooded area because the man had to make a nature call. The next morning, the cops found their bodies.”
    “How’d your little brother like the stories?”
    “He’s having second thoughts about going out tomorrow night. Also, mom and my sister, Becky, stop talking to each other and started listening to me. Next, I told them about the woman who left the car when her date doesn’t come back. She looked back, only to see his mutilated body on the car’s roof. In a panic, she starts to run … straight into the maniac.”
    “Yeah, and?”
    “Mom said, and I quote, ‘Stop talking nonsense and eat your supper.’”
    “So, you told those tales to frighten Becky.”
    “Yep. She and Bob are going to the movie tonight. It starts at 7:30 and is over by 9:30, but dad says she doesn’t have to be home ‘till 11:00.”
    “Yeah, so?”
    “Dummy, they go to Brighten Beach, supposedly to watch the submarine races on Lake Superior, and neck.”
    “Okay, Buzz, I think I see where you’re heading. We hang my hook on the passenger door handle. Right?” Buzz nodded. “Ain’t gonna work. She’ll see it when he picks her up at your house and gets in his car.”
    “It’ll work because when he picks sis up, he backs down our driveway. His driver’s door is towards our backdoor. She always gets in and slides over. Which means the passenger door is near the walkway between our garages. He’ll be waiting inside while she finishes getting her makeup on. So it’ll be easy-peasy for you to hang the hook on his passenger door.”
    “What bout when he brings her home?”
    “That’s when it’ll get interesting. He always drives down the driveway. The passenger door will be towards the house.”
    Terry grins, “She gets out, turns to close the door, sees the hook, goes berserk, and screams to wake the dead.”
    “That’s the plan, man!”

    “I guess you guessed wrong, Buzz.”
    “I don’t understand it. He always drives down the driveway when they come home.”
    Terry sighs. “It woulda been a good prank, if …”
    “If it had worked.”
    “You see the way she slammed the car door and ran into the house?”
    “I did. I’m gonna go and listen at the kitchen window and see what I can learn. You go and get your hook off Bob’s car.”

    “Took ya long enough.”
    Shush, and let me tell you what happened. Okay?” Terry nodded. “Like I thought, they went to a movie.”
    “Which one?”
    “I don’t know, dork! Anyway, after the movie and a burger, Becky and Bob cut and ran to Brighten beach to neck. A radio bulletin about the escapee with the hook came on. The dogs had picked up his scent and tracked him to the road that runs along the lakeshore.”
    “Where they were parked and smoochin?”
    “You got it. Becky wants to leave. Bob says, no. They fight. She gets mad and threatens to get out and walk home. You imagine that? A crazed killer running loose in the neighborhood, and that stupid sister of mine is going to walk home. He’s pissed but brings her home.”
    “What are they doin in the kitchen.”
    “Same old, same old, they kissed and made up. She made some coffee and brought out a plate of mom’s chocolate chip cookies, and they are in there sipping, munching, and smooching up a storm. Oh, you go and get your hook?
    “Ah, yeah, I did.”
    “So, what’s the matter, Terry?”
    “Not my hook! It’s an arm with a hand attached.”
    — Ԙ —

    Reply
    • October 29, 2020 at 11:10 am
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      You’ve done a fantastic job of evoking the Halloween feeling, with the scares and the pranks. Also very interesting choice for the superstition.

      Reply
  • October 25, 2020 at 10:30 am
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    A couple of in thread observations.

    To Marien,
    (Think what you will,) God has spoken to me. The bible does not. It is like a two-dimensional maze/crossword puzzle hybrid. As if it was written by the devil himself, to confuse and confound. Ever read Psalms? Revelations? Of course you have. Do you really think you understand what you’ve read? (A priest would say, ‘Ask God for understanding.’ Uh-huh. Then what do I need the bible for?) In any case, your writing skills are excellent, and clearly, you have little regard for convention. This is commendable.

    To Ken Frape,
    Despite not placing your story in first place, I do believe it was the best story last week. Not to take away from any other stories, it was a subtle and clever tale, perfectly told. Much better than mine.

    Phil,
    I merely explained your story to my mother and she laughed out loud. (Literally.) So, in that regard, and because of its humor, perhaps it was the best story after all. (And boy, I don’t know about everyone else, but I can use all the freaking laughs I can get right now.)

    To all,

    Don’t know if I’ll have a story for this prompt, I was looking for something with a more distant deadline. We’ll see.

    I bought a new pc last week, and since I rarely log in to google before using it, it has no memory of me visiting this site. So I tried to find it on google, using search terms like: fiction; flash; stories; prompt; wwoz; writing. No luck. No hits. This site is buried beneath a blizzard of bullshit.

    Carrie, on the other hand, is all over the internet. Hunting, fishing, blogging, contact turkey tracing, metal music blogs; but none of her ‘google-ings’ reference fiction.wwocz. (You really are a very good-looking, and amazingly interesting and accomplished woman, Carrie. All snarking and joking aside.) So it’s not surprising that you generate as much interest as you do. (I’m not blaming you for anything, you should be congratulated for this.)

    These are just observations. Not accusations. I would simply like to see this site attain more visibility. Or at least become a little less obscure. This is something I was hoping for and assuming would happen at least two or three years ago. But that doesn’t seem to be the case. Apparently my attempts to garner more interest in this site have failed with a spectacular lack of impact. Trying to find this site without a link, as I just found out, is much harder than I would have thought after all this time.

    See you all next week I suppose.

    Ken

    Reply
    • October 25, 2020 at 11:57 am
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      Ken, first off – thank you for the kind words, I’ve worked really hard to be able to stand out as a lone female in an extremely male dominated industry (without running around in a bikini) – both hunting and metal music so your words are greatly appreciated!

      I do find it interesting that the fiction website didn’t come up in any google searches. Although I wouldn’t expect it to in conjunction with my name. Simply because I’ve been doing the outdoor stuff for over a decade and get a lot more traffic to the website, social media shares, interviews on other sites (which let’s Google know I’m a subject matter expert in my field as silly as it may be) etc from it than I do the fiction site. Plus the fiction site isn’t me specific – hell I’m lucky if I can get a story in one every third prompt. So this site gets buried under the sheer amount of content I produce for the other sites.

      I also think Google does not find any “how to” type articles on this site so it would fall below a lot of other fiction or writing prompt sites in the Google Algorithm which works harder to provide answers than anything else. We’ve talked about doing that sort of thing, but I feel like those articles might detract from the prompts/contests? Maybe not? Maybe people would like to contribute in that way? IDK – I’d certainly be open to it.

      I would VERY much like this site to attain more visibility as well.
      (The next 8 million words is not defensive – it’s just explaining in case people see holes in my tactics and have suggestions.)

      I’ve tried implementing tactics on this site that I do on the others, I set up the newsletter – we’ve got about 400 subscribers. But in an interesting comparison – my HuntFishTravel newsletter has over 6,000 subscribers…..which sounds awfully impressive until you look at the open rates. Fiction has an 88% open rate compared to my 35% open rate. Most newsletter marketers are happy with 20% so we’re killing it in that aspect.

      Alice and I both promote http://fictionwritersgroup.com/ url which redirects here to make it easier for people to get here on the podcast. I wish that was trackable.

      I share it a ton on social media, but again, my fanbase is mostly outdoor men not writers.

      We’ve tried different incentives like the starbucks gift cards but that didn’t help either.

      I really am open to new ideas. I would welcome all suggestions!!!
      My outdoor or music persona aside, I’m a writer at heart. I actually rely on these prompts to help me create content for the fiction podcast.

      Some interesting stats since 01/01/2019:
      398 subscribers to the newsletter
      286 blog subscribers
      98.1 Average Daily Page Views
      50.0 Average Daily Unique Visits
      21.9 Average Daily First Time Visits
      28.1 Average Daily Returning Visits

      And for comparison – my stat tracker overview from 1/1/19 – today:

      https://i2.wp.com/fiction.wwocz.net/blog/wp-content/uploads/2020/10/webhits-2019-thru-2020.jpg

      (If anyone is interested in a more detailed breakdown of the traffic and activity on this site let me know and I can email you a spreadsheet.)

      We’ve had 112 unique writers contribute to the site since we moved from LinkedIn to http://fiction.wwocz.net/.
      Yesterday we had 10 referrers, 9 from Facebook and 1 from Twitter, today we had 3 referrers, each from Google search (all going straight to the homepage).

      __________________________________________________________________________________________________

      And finally….sorry about the short deadline, it was a very last minute idea!!
      The Nov 4 prompt is a last line story in case you or anyone else want a head start on it: Your story must end with the line, “As night became day, he started to understand the truth.”

      Reply
      • October 25, 2020 at 3:21 pm
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        I know I’m young, and I very rarely offer stories, but I’d like to give my quick opinion.

        I found this site when I searched for writing competitions to enter. I found a website with tons and tons of competitions (ones you have to pay for, ones you have to be a certain age for, ones that only happen once a year, etc). This website was basically one of two or three I found that I myself could enter (and it was easily the best of the bunch, even out of all the ones I couldn’t enter that I researched details on)

        I understand wanting to branch out a bit for various reasons, but I just wanted to say one of my favourite things about this website (almost always the first thing I mention when I talk to people about it) is the community. I’m not saying it’s always the same people, and of course more people finding this place would be awesome, but just while we’re on the subject, it’s great to know you (we’re still technically strangers, but I think you catch my drift).

        Reply
        • October 25, 2020 at 3:52 pm
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          You’re opinion definitely matters no matter what Your age and level of participation is!
          I personally don’t really want it to grow too big, this site is a lot of work for Alice and I for zero pay (Not that that’s what it’s all about but you get it), and I do all of the behind-the-scenes heavy lifting, so the workload grows exponentially when there’s more than 8 to 10 stories.
          I remember one time I believe we had like 25 stories, it took FOREVER to tally all the votes, chase people down, etc.

          And we’ve had writers who have created nothing but drama, headaches, and discussions about shutting down the website because it’s too much stress for Alice and I.

          I like seeing new people, because they bring a new flare of stories.
          But I definitely agree, the purpose of this site is to grow as writers. So having a bunch of strangers isn’t always that helpful.

          However, I would still like to grow it a bit!

          Reply
        • October 25, 2020 at 3:59 pm
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          Also the clarify in regards to my comment about a lot of work with zero pay, we don’t mind at all because you are all family, there have been times in the past, where certain writers have created incredible drama, that you have to stop work to attend to. I don’t think I’d want to do that anymore.
          That sense of close-knit community is very important in my opinion and I’m glad that you feel that way!

          Reply
          • October 26, 2020 at 2:11 pm
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            Since you mentioned it – an apology.

            I’m not sure exactly how long ago it was, but at one point you and Alice were away for a few days, meaning the stories weren’t being listed at the top. I was one of the worried few who may have complained a little bit (it wasn’t my intention to seem rude, but I look back on it, and it was unnecessary). Even if it’s in the past now, I’d like to say sorry for that.

          • October 30, 2020 at 2:29 pm
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            Thank you so much, Carrie and Alice. Let me put in my bit here. I too enjoy contributing to this site and writing stories I never thought I’d make public.
            I’ve so enjoyed all the critiques and it’s like one big family here, unbeknownst (!) to each other, except for our quirks.
            Keep them coming, I say!

            I was awfully pleased with my tale of Zara coming up on top. Never imagined that. Thanks everyone for your kind words.
            I say this site is a total Godsend during this time.

            May the imagination run ruckus, ideas keep rolling in all our heads and we spill them out as a testimony that we survive creatively.
            Best,
            Marien

  • October 25, 2020 at 8:40 pm
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    Can I just say … I Iove this site with a passion. It’s my little fortnightly rock – I always look forward to the new prompt and get a real kick out of mulling it over then writing for it, the reading of so many diffferent styles and perspectives on life, the invariably constructive comments, commenting myself (when I have time), the expectation of the scores, the high when I’m lucky. There are some great writers here, lovely people too. And I think you, Carrie, and Alice deserve medals for keeping it all going so smoothly.

    Muito obrigado!

    Reply
  • October 26, 2020 at 12:13 pm
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    Another reason why this site ought not to grow “too much” in terms of participating writers (besides killing Carrie and Alice!), is that if it were to grow beyond a certain critical point the whole thing would collapse under its own weight. Let’s say we get in a 100 stories a week (wow!) – that would be self-defeating, as few of us (if anyone) would have the time to read so many stories and then vote for them. Sure, the mechanics can then be changed, in that case (qualifying rounds, premier and rookie leagues or whatever), but that would then have a major impact on the the tightly knit community that makes up the current writers’ body.

    What I could suggest is a big annual writing competition (perhaps with a prize, if sponsored) for which the 112 past and current writers, and others, are invited to take part. Such competition may entrench itself in the annual writers’ calendar, work marvels with visibility and attract non-writing readers.

    I had conceived a writers’ site, years back, but then I realized I was “wasting my time” luring writers, instead of luring non-writing readers!

    Of the statistics given above I’m mostly impressed by the 400 newsletter subscribers, some (most?) of whom are purely readers (we can at least say with certainty that 288 of them never contributed a story; 400 minus 112). What if we treated them as readers (rather than writers), gave them intriguing email subject lines with each newsletter sent to them? (subject lines they’ve GOT TO click on, drawn from the most intriguing stories, eg. “What to do when a good wife asks you to bring her pot home… read more inside” not “A Place for Fiction Writers monthly newsletter…” -subscribers tend to develop inattentional-blindness with seemingly repetitive subject lines). With some multiplier effect (and some gimmicky incentives) the 400 will grow, and our closely knit community will also get its much desired ‘hardcore tribe’, a reader fan base!

    We need readers, not (too many) more writers!

    Reply
    • October 26, 2020 at 1:09 pm
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      Yes most read the stories, and we do get votes from people who didn’t submit a story quite often. A friend of mine who works for Nasa votes on a regular basis and I don’t think he’s ever submitted a story.

      He emails all the time about how But he enjoys reading the stories, because they are short and he is so busy at work, and can’t always dedicate time to an entire novel. He is a hoot!

      I like the approach of readers and not necessarily just writers.
      They like your idea of an annual competition. But we would have to figure out a way, to dissuade those people who just look for the free contest that they can enter, they dump their story, and never come back again unless they win. Maybe a panel of judges. So that we don’t have a repeat of that one gal who kept gaming the system a year or two ago, where she just would tweet go vote for my story and then a bunch of her followers would go and vote for her story without actually reading And she was winning contest after contest after contest unfairly.

      Reply
      • October 28, 2020 at 12:45 pm
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        Carrie and Alice,

        I really value this site, just as it is. So many good points have been made and I agree with most of them.

        A key point for me, as mentioned, is the sense of community. You do tend to get a bit of a handle on people when you read their words.

        The limited number of stories posted each prompt is also very important. Even with the number we have, there are times when I struggle to read and comment upon them all, or certainly not in the depth they deserve and with the quality demonstrated by the other two Kens and Roy, Andy, Phil and the others.

        Also, it is free. I have got a bit tired of the constant rounds of entering and paying to enter competitions and then my story seems to drop into a void along with my payment.

        I like things as they are and thanks to you two wonderful ladies for managing to keep it all going.

        Ken Frape.

        Reply
  • October 27, 2020 at 9:26 am
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    This the only spot I could find to sign up for this. Hopefully I will get the confirmation email, because today is going to be writing day.

    Roy

    Reply
  • October 27, 2020 at 12:06 pm
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    False Steps (by Peter Holmes, 1190 words) – I’m not super proud of this one, but I desperately wanted to finish it, not only because I liked the concept, but to see if I could. Hope you enjoy 🙂

    *A child. Singing. He hopped and skipped and jumped. Leaves crunched under his light-footed landings, yellows, reds, browns. They all met the ground eventually.*

    “You want a cup of coffee darling?”

    “Don’t want to cause any stress.”

    “Nonsense, I’m already in the kitchen.”

    Dan had a good relationship with his mother. He always had, but they’d gotten closer since his father’s death. Heart attack. Autumn now. Visiting his grave for the one-year anniversary. He buried himself into his childhood spot of the room, his back relaxing against thick cushion. She walked back in at a, eyes focused on the mug full to the brim with coffee. After placing the bouquet of roses on the table, his arm extended to take the mug.

    *A voice, rising in volume. A haunting melody drifted in the wind, hand in hand with his off-key lyrics. One.*

    Before his calloused hands could make contact, her fingers released. Coffee drenched his legs, fragments of the hot liquid staining the carpet, the heat biting him through his jeans, the mug falling almost in slow motion, his mum-. His mum. Using every curse word in the book, her retaliation gained all his attention, the coffee leaving his mind. She stumbled to the chair he was sat in seconds ago, as he crouched on the floor in front, fear creeping in.

    As she continued to pant, he tried to ask what happened. No answer, only more weighted breaths. He clenched her hand in his; she screamed. Taken aback, he retracted his hand, shuffling his body back for good measure. Nothing registered at first. Then his mind cast itself back to school first aid. Although they were both unaware, a process had begun.

    “Where does it hurt?” he asked, hoping his distress couldn’t be perceived through his voice.

    “My fingers.” she paused, a sharp inhale through gritted teeth. “And my toes.”

    Dan hurriedly stood up and ran to the kitchen. He grabbed the freezer door, eyes jolting through the drawers until salvation was found. Bags of frozen vegetables. He carried them through to the room, his mother still cursing.

    Peas on the left hand. Sweetcorn on the right.

    Broccoli on the left foot. Cauliflower on the right.

    Placing with intense care to avoid more pain, he thought the problem solved. This couldn’t be further from the truth.

    *He gained speed as an envious wind crept by like an unwelcome thought. He should be home by the time it became a storm, hasty footsteps paying less attention to the tarmac below. Two.*

    A swift shriek was let loose by his mother, and he thought he’d messed up. “It’s moving.”

    Confusion and dread came together. “What is?”

    “The pain.” she gestured to her hands and feet, seemingly aware she was making little sense. Her bones were turning to dust. Slowly. Painfully slowly. Nausea swept in, limbs loose like a corpse. Adding to the coffee stains on the floor, she vomited what looked like breakfast. Only with a lot more green. Dan fought through the stench of old porridge, using his limited knowledge to assess the situation. Once again searching the kitchen, now for the first aid box, praying his mother had material for a sling.

    There was nothing. Plan B.

    Summoning all his strength, he hoisted his mother up off the chair, subsequently laying her down on the floor. As each part of her bones grew weaker, fading like a flame against breath, her face became paler. “Mum.” he choked through tears, almost a question in the way he said it. “Mum.”

    Abandoning his attempts to communicate with her, he stretched his arms, desperately trying to grasp the phone. As his trembling hands struggled to hold the phone, his fingers pushed the numbers.

    Nine. Behind him, his mother lay limp.

    Nine. Ringing in his ears, the scream persisted.

    Nine. The calm voice on the other end startled him, a stark contrast to the fear that hung over him.

    Stuttering while he gave the address, Dan hoped the ambulance got here soon. Hope was useless. Unable to move, his mother let out an incoherent grunt to call her distressed son over. Hoarse words forced through chokes.

    “I love you.”

    *He needed to get home before the storm swelled. He’d stopped singing, stopped playing. But the game continued. Three.*

    A guttural sound from his mother followed like thunder follows lightning. There was something primal in the way she was screaming now. Inhuman. “MUM!” he was begging now. There was nothing he could do. It had already begun, the curse crawling inwards: first the ends of the body, then the limbs. Converging in the middle, her collarbone and pelvis started to break off. If everything were quiet, you’d hear the prolonged whisper of her bones disappearing. A dearth of structure of her flesh made itself apparent, her innards now relying on very little. There was something sick and twisted in the way this happened, with Dan looking on in horror. He had no idea what was happening to his poor mother, but he had to watch. He had to watch a vicious cycle of screaming, vomiting, choking. He could tell it was getting worse.

    Over the multitude of sounds exuding from his mother, he heard another. Something new. Tyres screeched outside his home, an ambulance arriving at the house. Three figures rushed in, tears blurring them, and they knelt down to examine the nearly lifeless body. Despite the chaos, she lost consciousness and her eyelids closed, possibly for the last time.

    *One more mistake. Rain plummeted, streets pregnant with streams. His shoes submerged in the water spewing past him, his footsteps a mystery. Four.*

    An audible crack. Different to before. Instead of a gradual defeat, the bones in her back cracked all at once. Shattered and splintered like a mirror striking a surface. Everyone stopped what they were doing, interrupted by the worryingly loud crack. Internal bleeding commenced, her breaths became thinner, her life a mere few seconds away from its demise.

    Dan had run out of tears. He wanted to cry, to sob until he was ready to say goodbye. But nothing. He felt guilty. He wasn’t sure why, but the grave of his mother’s was his to dig. The blurry figures murmured something, and that was the last thing Dan remembered before he fainted.

    The next few weeks were a blur. Condolences chucked pitifully, curt nods passed on the street. Frowns and flowers everywhere he looked. Quite the turnout at the funeral – his mum’s kindness was town wide. As the service was conducted, Dan heard a voice. A girl, skipping past the cemetery fence. Her voice was stitched to the wind, slithering overhead.

    “Step on a crack, break your mother’s back. Step on a crack, break your mother’s back. Step on a crack, break your mother’s back.”

    The guilt he’d felt those few weeks earlier grew stronger now, as his mother’s death gained reason. Her murderer became known. Only to him, but the knowledge was enough to break him. They said it was old age, maybe something inherited. But he knew now. That stupid game. All those years ago. It never left him.

    Reply
    • October 29, 2020 at 8:04 am
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      Great read. The short sentences drive the reader forward. I was thinking of writing the on the exact same rhyme. Glad I left it for you.

      Reply
      • October 29, 2020 at 11:03 am
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        Much appreciated. I started writing it during one of my college free times, and that rhyme was the only superstition that came to mind (since I wanted to go for something darker).

        Reply
  • October 29, 2020 at 12:03 pm
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    Hey writers!!

    You know the drill… It’s time to vote!

    Remember you MUST vote for your story to count, you can only vote once, and you may NOT vote for yourself.

    http://fictionwritersgroup.com/voting-for-2020-superstition/

    You officially have 24 HOURS from the timestamp of this comment to read through the stories vote.

    Good luck!

    Reply
    • October 29, 2020 at 1:01 pm
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      I don’t know if I’m missing something here, but since we have three votes each, and there’s only three stories, do the people who submitted stories have to vote for themselves once, or are we voting for another story twice?

      Reply
      • October 29, 2020 at 1:48 pm
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        Oh yeah good point, just put yourself in third place!

        Reply
      • October 29, 2020 at 1:49 pm
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        we’ve had several people who did not submit a story already vote, so it was not an issue for them, but for the writers, just put yourself in third place

        Reply
        • October 29, 2020 at 2:49 pm
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          Will do, thanks Carrie.

          Reply
        • October 29, 2020 at 4:17 pm
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          I repeated the second place in the third slot, didn’t vote for myself (I had already voted before this instruction came in).

          Reply
          • October 29, 2020 at 4:37 pm
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            Perfect!

  • October 29, 2020 at 5:51 pm
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    Baring any complications, I should end up in fourth place. Which is better than I ever have.
    One time there were only six of us competing at a car show, and with my luck, barely garnered the seventh place.
    This is is my last story for the near and/or foreseeable future. I’ve gone to the dogs – we’ve move into a vacant stall at my daughter’s kennel.
    All these’s girls in heat and I’m not a stud Golden retriever. Sigh!
    It’s been a joy competing and learning. Living is learning – stop learning and you’ve stopped living.
    So long – live long and prosper.

    Reply
    • October 30, 2020 at 7:17 am
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      Robert, I’ve truly enjoyed your stories and feel you’ve come into your own with style and dialogue. Hasta la Vista, mi amigo.

      Roy

      Reply
    • October 30, 2020 at 12:33 pm
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      Always a good read from you Robert.

      Reply
  • October 29, 2020 at 5:59 pm
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    HELP I can’t vote for myself, but I must vote for a third story. The only third one available is mine. I had fun writing it, but vote for it? I do have standards; ya know!

    Reply
    • October 29, 2020 at 6:04 pm
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      Hahaha just put yourself in third place…. The one exception for the year! 😁

      Reply
  • October 30, 2020 at 12:58 pm
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    Sure wish I had the time to read the other two stories and vote. But I can see that it’s already past the deadline. I downloaded them to read later tonight.

    Reply
    • October 30, 2020 at 1:04 pm
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      We can extend the voting until tomorrow. That would give me a chance to read and vote as well!

      Reply
  • October 30, 2020 at 2:08 pm
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    I was fully expecting the deadline to be extended a week since there were so few contributions this time … (but I understand that the theme was directed at this week). I’d started a story – it’ll have to go in the drawer for another occasion.

    Reply
  • October 31, 2020 at 11:36 am
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    Thank you to everyone who participated in this year’s Halloween prompt – I was a little late to the party getting it posted. I will be much more on the ball next year!
    WIthout further ado here are you winners!!!
    1st Pace: Bird Droppings by Ken Miles
    2nd Place: The Hook by Robt. Emmett
    3rd Place: False Steps by Peter Holmes

    Everyone’s favorite character was Roberto in “Bird Droppings”
    The story with the favorite dialogue was “The Hook” by Robt. Emmett

    And an original illustration courtesy of one of the Ken’s who didn’t provide a signature… for your Halloween viewing pleasure: https://i0.wp.com/fiction.wwocz.net/blog/wp-content/uploads/2020/10/IMG_5306.jpg 

    Reply
    • October 31, 2020 at 11:40 am
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      A much needed chuckle, thanks Ken.

      Reply
    • October 31, 2020 at 3:57 pm
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      Thanks, guys, for the top spot. There weren’t many of us this time, but still very worthy contenders.

      And Roberto getting the fave character trophy, really? I surely didn’t see that coming!
      Cheers!
      Ken

      Reply
      • October 31, 2020 at 6:52 pm
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        Congratulations, Ken!

        Re Roberto … it just goes to show that characters don’t have to be likable, merely memorable. 🙂

        Reply
        • November 1, 2020 at 9:57 am
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          Thanks Phil!
          Indeed, like with old school friends, decades later we still remember the good ones – and the nasty ones. But not the boring ones in between.

          Reply
  • November 1, 2020 at 11:45 am
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    That cartoon was not provided by me, Ken Cartisano, in any way that I’m aware of.

    Reply
  • November 1, 2020 at 12:00 pm
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    Oh I see. Just checked my email. That cartoon is by Ken Miles. Don’t sue me Ken. I had nothing to do with it.

    Reply
    • November 1, 2020 at 12:04 pm
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      Oops!!!!!

      Reply
      • November 3, 2020 at 12:16 am
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        When’s the next prompt going up please?

        Reply
        • November 3, 2020 at 6:50 am
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          We always post the new prompts on Wednesday.
          Tomorrow.

          Reply
          • November 4, 2020 at 1:20 pm
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            Carrie, we post new prompts on Thursdays, the day we reveal the winners. 🙂

        • November 3, 2020 at 6:51 am
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          But….if you want a head start….

          Theme: Last Line Contest
          Requirements:
          Your story must end with the line, “As night became day, he started to understand the truth.”

          Reply

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