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  • Writer's pictureRosemary Gemmell

Flash Fiction Story and Opportunities

Updated: Nov 6, 2022

Flash Fiction of varying lengths has become very popular over the last few years, with major competitions such as The Bridport adding the category. It’s a creative way to flex the fiction writing muscles, as the stories are rarely over 1000 words, with some as short as fifty and everything in between.

When I get bored writing a novel, I love writing shorter fiction and began my writing career with women’s short stories. Now, I’m increasingly drawn to the shorter flash form and have been known to shorten longer stories to fit a competition word limit. This is not a bad idea, as it helps us to be more concise, shedding unnecessary words and phrases that add nothing to move the main story along.

Some competitions and markets offer a theme which can help us get started, and it’s even better when a previously written story (unpublished) fits a theme exactly. That’s what happened with me. I noticed Ottery Writers was running a Flash Fiction story for their Literary Festival with the theme of ‘Trapped’ and a maximum of 500 words. I had not long finished a 500-word story, Unravelled Life, that seemed ideal and reckoned there was no harm in sending it in. I was suitably amazed and delighted to win second prize!

I’ve posted the story below since it has never been published. Another 250-word story won a Romantic Novelists’ Association Flash Fiction competition several months ago and was printed in their Romance Matters magazine, and a few others will be published in an anthology. Scroll to the end of my story, to find a few places to submit Flash Fiction, some with an entry fee. Google ‘Flash Fiction’ to find many more opportunities.

Unravelled Life

Ellen picked up the tiny pearl, translucent with promise, a perfect sphere. Fashioning an eight knot to secure the bead, she threaded the next pearl, taking her time to admire her work. She looped the thread once then brought the end over and under, tightening it to form the knot to hold this one in place.

Her mistress expected perfection even now.

Pausing to dash a sudden tear from tired eyes as her work was nearing its end, Ellen tried not to think of the coming days. She had been a good and loyal seamstress to her young mistress, mending rich fabrics that had protected the wearer from cold castles and hard rides over rough ground. Sewing elaborate Turk’s head knots to attach small buttons on silken gowns for grander affairs.

How could a life unravel so completely? Like the unpicked hems of the little girl who had returned from foreign shores, promised a kingdom that now proved her undoing.

Ellen stood to rub her lower back before her mistress returned from the short daily walk that was her only release from the imprisonment she now faced. Ellen knew of the ill-fated marriages, of the courtly plots and political turbulence. But most of all she appreciated the tall, noble woman who loved her people, who showed kindness to those undeserving of it, and who allowed tolerance in worship that many denied.

Lifting the pearl-studded headdress, Ellen set it aside for approval, admiring the way the scant light from the narrow window illuminated each bead. She picked up the favourite pearls that would never again encircle the pale slender neck at courtly balls and colourful pageants. It lay heavy and cold in her gnarled, knotted fingers, swollen with age and intricate sewing tasks.

Hearing light footsteps approaching the door, Ellen waited. Her mistress seemed in good spirits today, pacing about the room as though her energy could not be contained in such a small space.

“It is such a beautiful day, Ellen, that I wanted to ride across the countryside, the wind tugging at my hair, the sun on my face, thawing this ice gripping my heart. Why do they still lock me up when I mean my cousin no harm?”

Ellen stood silently, while her mistress removed her warm plaid and settled in her chair once more. No answer was expected, but she always listened with discretion and love for the girl who waited in vain for freedom.

“Pass me my embroidery, please, Ellen. I see you have finished securing the pearls to my headdress. Thank you.”

Ellen curtsied and passed the embroidery and threads, for her mistress was as fine a needlewoman as any.

“I must finish this before...”

Mary’s voice faltered for the first time, as Ellen watched her sew the next French knot that showed her fine stitching. And her heart broke for this beautiful young woman, Queen of Scots, whose life would end too soon in cruel execution.


Flash Fiction Opportunities

Writers’ Forum Magazine: a monthly competition for 500 words with a theme set by the editor. Free to subscribers and £5 if not.

Press53: a fun 53-word free competition to a set theme.

Australian Writers Furious Fiction: a quarterly free competition of 500 words, to include a given set of words or phrases.

Flash Frontier: monthly free submissions of 250 words.

Bridport Prize: annual competition of 250 Words – quite a hefty fee but big prize money.

Good luck!


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