I would never advise anyone to only write flash fiction, as writing under time pressure may not be you at your best, and certainly is not the best way to serve all stories. It’s like playing speed chess; you just lack the time to plan ahead as far as you should. it’s fun, beneficial and produces meritorious work, but it should not be your only mode.
One interesting practice that I have always championed is writing flash fiction sequels to flash fiction stories. It’s a different way to write and can be very entertaining.
I’m having trouble finding sequel stories, partly because no one likes to write them and partly it hasn’t been done in quite some time. So I hope you will forgive my selections.
Commitment by John Matz
“I made a promise.” the old man said flatly.
I looked him over. He was dressed in cheap old clothes, the shirt too big and the pants too short. He struck me as a flaky old geezer, more prone to lying for a buck than to keeping decades old promises. He might have kept that shirt for that long though. The beard must have been older.
He pulled a small bundle from his coat pocket, and carefully unwrapped the object within. It could have been anything, but somehow I suddenly knew what it was. My grandmother’s box.
I never knew what was in it, no one did, I think. It made a chinking sound, and was very heavy for it’s small size, most people assumed the mundane explanation of gold, or even silver. Perhaps it was because I was young at the time, but I always felt it was something more. My grandmother kept it on the highest shelf, and I once caught her looking into it when I came quietly into the room. She snapped it shut, and all I saw was a glimmer of light. I wasn’t able to make it to her funeral; too many miles and too few dollars. They said they never found her will, though I never quite believed that she would be so careless as to not write one. Apparently she had other plans.
The old man looked at the box with love, no, perhaps honor in his old, red eyes. I felt that this was his last scrap of integrity, the last wall within which his conscience still reigned. Now that his task was completed he could look back and know, that of all the mistakes of his long life, and the cold, the hunger of a seemingly useless man, he had done one thing and done it well.
I didn’t know what to say to him. It seemed a shame to give him five bucks and never see him again.
“Would you like to see inside it?”
The old man raised a bushy eyebrow. “No, I don’t think so. After all these years, there’s no way it can live up to my expectations, I suppose.”
He raised one wrinkled hand in an arthritic salute, and shuffled down the street.
But now, looking back, I think he may have opened that box. For only one who knew what was inside it would never want to see it again. His burden was heavy, but mine is the heavier.
Classic flash fiction. Introduces a massive question but focuses on characters and plot instead of telling you what the answer is. No doubt you will never find out what is in the box. Perhaps it is for the best. But wait! In the wild world of sequels anything is possible!
Commitment, Epilogue #1 By John Matz
She was a rather queer old woman, my grandmother, though it wasn’t obvious at first glance. She did all the normal old lady things; gardening, knitting, cooking a bit, complaining about her back. Not much reminiscing over old times, perhaps that’s what made her seem a little off. That and the fact that no one quite knew how old she was. Little things like those add up.
Alone in my study, the oak paneling gleaming in the firelight, I returned my attention to the box. It wasn’t locked, it never had been, but it was a puzzle box of an old variety. I have a wide range of knowledge, most of it outdated and much of it useless; nearly all of it interesting. I know how to open such boxes as this, a few seconds pushing and peering did the job.
She used to tell me old stories of far off lands. Not quite your average fairy tales of princes and princesses, trolls and witches, but all of those featured throughout. The quests were different, grimmer, the princes fought harder, and died as often as they lived. The trolls and witches were old beyond old, and wise in wicked ways. The princesses were beautiful in different ways. There was a strange air about those tales, my grandmother was quite the storyteller.
The box lid was a little stiff, or perhaps my hands were clumsy with anticipation, but when I slid off the lid I did it with a jerk, and one of the two small round things inside rolled out onto my desk. They were apparently perfect spheres; one a bronze-gold, and one a kind of platinum. I slowly moved to replace the gold ball in the box, but when I touched it I drew back my hand with almost a gasp. It was hot as fire.
I took my coat off the back of my chair, and lifted the ball off my desk using it as a kind of glove. As I replaced it, I noticed for the first time a slip of paper tucked in the corner.
To the boy who so enjoyed my stories. Perhaps these will bring you one more of which my lips can never tell.
Lo and behold! Not only do you find out what is in the box (though not of course what those object are exactly) but you are treated to a quick origin story as well. Also, looking back at this, I suspect my writing has gotten worse. My fault probably.
And here is another story which also has a sequel.
Tunnel By Andrew Page
“What are you doing?”
“Quiet,” I hissed. He’s always asking questions and bugging me, I thought to myself as my little brother watched me curiously.
“It’s past midnight.”
“I know,” I growled back as I continued opening the window. It stuck at one point, but I pushed up with all my strength and it finally gave way.
“Are you going back to the tunnel? I want to go with you,” my brother pleaded.
I rolled my eyes. “Shut up and go back to bed.”
“I’ll tell mom if you don’t let me,” he said as he put on his snow boots.
“Fine,” I whispered back. “Grab a jacket and hurry up.”
He stumbled his way to the closet and picked out a large, warm winter coat.
“Now shut up and follow me. If you can’t keep up I’m not waiting for you.”
It was hard keeping the excitement alive in me with my little brother now following me, but I tried to ignore him, remembering the day before. We had been playing in the wood when we came upon an old shed, at least a couple miles away from our house. Our interest piqued, we quickly figured out a way in, finding it only boring at first with a variety of random tools and other things. But then we noticed the latch in the floor.
It was a square wooden door with a brass ring as a handle. We had to use some of the tools we found in the shed, but finally we had gotten the trap door open. Wooden stairs led down to a dark room, the light only barely touching the ground at some points from the door in the ceiling.
We climbed down into the dank room, filled with little but dust and hay. But at the far end was another wooden door. Neither of us had dared to speak, scared that our voices would anger some dӕmon that lived down there. But slowly we made our way to the door, only to discover that it had an old rusted padlock securing it shut.
“What do you think’s down there?” my brother asked suddenly, knocking my thoughts from their reverie. There had been a set of bolt cutters in the shed, but we feared that our parents would grow suspicious of our long absence, so never saw what was past the door.
“I don’t know,” I whispered, still unwilling to raise my voice even though we were deep in the forest now, our house long behind.
As we walked along, large flashlights bouncing in my coat pockets, I saw my brother skipping along happily beside me and a smile crept on my face. Although I’d never admit it, I was glad he was here with me to discover the secrets behind the door.
Finally, after what seemed like hours, we reached the cabin again. I had handed one of the flashlights to my brother about a mile back and we had used them since then, believing we were far enough away from our house to not be seen with the light.
As the light hit the shed, it looked far more daunting than before. But we continued on, our curiosity out-weighing our fear. Once we were in the hidden room again, my brother shone his flashlight on the lock while I broke it with the bolt cutters from the shed.
The lock came off easily, and we shared a look – a smile on both our faces – before slowly opening the door to see only a tunnel of shadow before us. We shone our flashlights down the passageway and walked in.
A classic story in a rather homey vein. But the sequel plunges through the scary door and lands between the depths of man’s fears and the summit of his knowledge.
Tunnel Sequel By John Matz
How much we would regret those steps and that journey I will never be able to express. A child’s love of adventure can be a dangerous thing, though a beautiful one. Beyond that dark door, its broken padlock in my pocket, heavy and cold against my leg. Some doors are best left closed.
My brother and I were not disappointed by the apparent featurelessness of the tunnel, to us it was important merely as a passageway to an unknown place. Images flashed through my head of glistening treasure troves, a magician’s sanctum, perhaps mummies. The nature of darkness is that it obscures, and to me all questions had happy answers, all mysteries glad solutions. I was young.
We left the door yawning open behind us, and my brother yawned a yawn of his own. It was very late now. Too late, though we didn’t know it.
I heard a creaking sound and spun my flashlight back to the door. It shut with a quiet click, and our route of escape was gone. My brother didn’t cry, and nor did I. A midnight’s romp, that was all this was supposed to be.
There was a crackle, and a voice boomed, wordless at first, but gaining clarity with each moment.
“Curiosity,” it boomed.
My poor brother clutched at my arm. I am glad I did not ask him on this journey. If only he had not come.
“Curiosity,” it repeated, more quietly.
“A gift of the One not granted to any others in such abundance. The humans of Earth overflow with it, and it will lay a stain across the universe not seen in many Revolutions.”
What can a child say or think to such a statement, past midnight, in a dark tunnel too far from home? I thought perhaps it was a joke, with one layer of my mind. The rest rebelled; I knew this was serious, deadly serious.
“I do not understand curiosity as well as would be beneficial to myself and my people. That is why I have waited here, for a far shorter period than I anticipated, for someone to break the lock and peer beyond the door to nowhere. You have come.”
I shuddered, not for any particular reason. I could hardly breathe. Yet I spoke.
“Who are you, and what will you do with us?”
Perhaps it needs another sequel.