Fast Fiction: A Winning Strategy for Digging Your Own Grave

Hello again everyone,

I made my first blog post in four months yesterday, and only my third blog post in two and a half years yesterday. It felt good to put up some fresh content. With the COVID-19 pandemic forcing everyone to self-isolate, I really do not have the excuse that I’m too busy to put things up on this blog. A quick flip through my notebooks says I have 40 or 50 things that I could share here if I would just bother to type them up, to say nothing of actually creating new content.

They say if you do something regularly for two weeks it becomes habit-forming. It seems I will be living in my home for the next two weeks. Why don’t I try posting onto this blog twice a day for two weeks, and see if it becomes something I do regularly?

So let’s begin with more fast fiction from my monthly writers group’s warming up exercises. For anyone interested in a full explanation, here’s a link.

A quick rundown of the (now slightly modified) rules:

Rule #1: These pieces of fast fiction were generated from a prompt chosen at random during one of my monthly writers group meetings. I will label that prompt at the top and where I use it in the prose.

Rule #2: WordPress allows me a ‘click here to read the rest of the story’ break, and that will be used before the fast fiction begins in earnest so people browsing through this blog are not overwhelmed.

Rule #3: The prose of the fast fiction shall be transcribed from my handwriting accurately: Line breaks, grammar, punctuation, spelling, what-have-you. The point of showing a 10- or 15-minute first draft is saying what you tried to do in that time, so what does editing really get me? The very rare changes I really do deem necessary shall be noted with an asterisk and an apologetic explanation at the end.

Rule #4: After the fast fiction I will include a few sentences about my first thoughts of the prompt. These entries are less about the actual prose and more about the exercise as a whole. Post-gaming that exercise will be a big part of the end result.

And that’s it. Here we go.

Prompt:

“Would you like to wish for something?” The stranger asked me all at once.

It was late March. The cold was still in the ground, even though it was soft enough for my spade to sink in, cut out, toss away. Sink in, cut out, toss away.

It was early enough n the spring that not one green thing shot up out of the cold wet earth. I was ribcage deep in the cold clay, and sinking deeper a spadeful at a time.

It was quiet as the grave except for the sound of my tool making the hole I was standing in deeper.

It was quiet as the grave I was digging for myself.

The stranger stood over me, the double-barreled shotgun never waivered from my torso. He had me any time he wanted, center-mass at a distance of fifteen feet.

Snick. Shuff. Huh! Pat.

Snick. Shuff. Huh! Pat.

My spadework was the only sound, and I felt the cold, damp walls of my grave climb up around me as I sank lower and lower.

I had to break the silence.

“Explain it to me, for God’s sake,” I begged.

“Keep The Lord out of it,” the stranger muttered, those two barrels pointing at me saying more than his mouth ever could. “You know what you did, and if you don’t, that’s worse.”

“You have the wrong man!” I insisted, not for the first or tenth or twentieth time.

“No I haven’t. Now keep digging This is the last job you’ll ever do. Do it right. Six feet at least, and if you want deeper, I’ll let you dig until you stop digging.”

Snick. Shuff. Huh! Pat.

Snick. Shuff. Huh! Pat.

When the grave was now all around me and even the top of my head was below ground level, the stranger had to stand over me.

“Would you like to wish for something?” The stranger asked me all at once.

“I already got my wish,” I said.

I lashed out with the shade and caught him in the ankles. He fired both barrels over my head in surprise, and that was all I had wished for.

I was out of that hole and running across the wet field like a March Hare.

Note: So I’ll start off with a confession. The prompt apparently was, “Would you like to wish for something?” The stranger asked him all at once. I misheard and wrote ‘me.’ I guess I would have written the whole thing in third person if I had heard it correctly. As it is, this is a rare example of me changing the prompt, so I wanted to own my mistake.

What else is there to say? Well, I was in part inspired by the scene in Season 2 of Peaky Blinders from which I grabbed the screenshot featured at the top of this prompt. It also involves a man standing in his own grave waiting to be executed. That’s a powerful image. There’s a member of the writers’ group who does a lot of action and ‘physical drama’ in his writing, and I wrote this in part to see if he would enjoy it. He said he did, but that the guy in the grave should have wailed on the gunman with the spade after the shotgun went off instead of running for it. Chalk that up to our different styles, I suppose.

As a final thought, I believe I am remembering correctly that this was only a 10-minute or maybe even an 8-minute exercise, and so I was laser-focused on getting to the ending in time. I enjoyed the onomatopoeia of the digging, and it’s repetitive nature giving a rhythm to the piece. I also knew I didn’t have time for explanation of the motive, and so keeping it a mystery and likely a case of mistaken identity actually adds more spice than spelling it all out. That’s my take on it, anyway.

I quite like this one. There’s a reason I chose it as the first of these exercises to share after a two-and-a-half-year hiatus.

More to come!

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