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FLASH CHALLENGE: November 2016

PostPosted: November 05, 2016, 08:04:23 PM
by kailhofer
The "Happy Ending" Challenge

As you kick the cobblestones of the dark alley, you ache for her. She knows you love her, but she is with someone else. What were you thinking? She was way out of your league--a Lady, engaged to a Lord, no less.

"You should have never come to New Amsterdam," said a voice.

You look, but all you see is the gleaming blade in his Lordship's hand.


Bullets spray the edge of the trench. Dirt rains down on your helmet and onto your trembling hands as they clutch your rifle. It’s just you left--all your mates, they're gone. The enemy is pouring across no-man’s land toward your position.


Moonlight reflects off your sword in the dark, and you curse yourself. The King’s men will see you and kill you where you stand. The jewel is in a pouch on your belt, but the guards patrol everywhere around you.

Is there no escape from this dungeon?

If you were the character in any of these situations, you would desperately need one thing: a happy ending to come of it. Some way to escape, to win, to survive... perhaps even to get the girl, or boy... or robot. Whatever.

Sometimes life can make all of us wish for that happy ending. We listen to politicians rail at one another, governments rattle their sabers at each other, giant corporations close plants (like the one where I work)... There are kidnappings, murders, etc. The list of sources of gloom and doom is long.

Perhaps a higher power intervenes. Perhaps your hero survives through strength of arms, or just plain luck. Maybe the Lady saves the day.

Still... Sometimes, it would almost seem like we'd need to be in a different universe for that sort of happy ending to come to pass.

Thankfully, we write in exactly the sort of place where that very thing can happen. Plus, there is a tremendous market for a happy ending, so it behooves us as writers to be practice producing that.

I challenge you to write a story on an alternate reality Earth, in the present day, that has happy a happy ending.

Now, I'm not saying everything must end up over-the-top, happy gooey in "puppies, kittens, and rainbows," as it were, (I mean, if you can pull that off, more power to you) but yes, the stories must end positive and happy (in my view nonetheless).

REQUIREMENTS: (1) Your story must have a happy ending and be set on a present day, alternate reality Earth; (2) 1,000 words or less, not counting title, byline, or "The End"; (3) The characters and story must be original, fictional, and not previously published, even in these challenges; (4) One entry per author; (5) Give your story a title and a byline; and (6) Keep it clean. Rated 'PG-13'. (Basically, think, "Could I see or say this on ABC network television, even late at night?" That allows a lot, really.)

CHARACTERS & SETTING: No copyrighted characters or settings, or references thereto. Famous, non-copyrighted, fictional characters like Santa Claus, or non-human religious figures such as the Devil, named angels such as Gabriel, or gods like Thor, etc. as minor supporting characters at best and at my discretion. The Wicked Witch and Dracula may be in the public domain, but don't expect me to allow them. No person that was ever a "real life" human being may be used as a character, but can be referred to, as in "President Kennedy had declared it would be so." Except as noted above under non-copyrighted fictional persons, character names may not be copied from fiction or real life, even if changed, i.e. Char-less Darween. For the purposes of these challenges, all human (or born of man) individuals who appear in Greek or Roman mythology, the Bible, Torah, Quran, Mahayana Sutras--basically any major religious text--are considered real people, and therefore may not appear. One of the objects here is to practice creating fictional characters.

All non-copyrighted settings are ok. Famous, unique sites like Stonehenge may be used over and again. No fan fiction or sequels, so don't bother putting your story in the Land of Oz or using that great character you thought up two challenges ago.

DISQUALIFICATIONS/REFUSALS: If, in my judgment, any requirement or rule is missed, I won't post the story for voting, but authors are free to resubmit with changes until the deadline. Should a story be initially accepted and posted in the challenge, but then later judged by me to be in violation, the story may be disqualified and removed from contention at any time before contest end. Authors who feel a story may be in violation should send me a PM and state their case.

HOW TO ENTER: Stories must be sent by PRIVATE MESSAGE, and NOT posted into a thread. Just click the 'PM' button at the bottom of this post and paste your story in the message. You are responsible for doing your own formatting, and leave an extra line between paragraphs, just like when you see them in the 'zine. I will allow different colors, but not changed fonts or sizes, artwork, or any other embedded or external links.

DO NOT send a regular email to me.

Stories will be posted "blind"--without the author's name on them. All tales are literally tossed into a pith helmet and chosen in random order. When the poll closes after the voting week, I'll post a list of the stories and who wrote them. All entries will then be reposted in the Flash Archive with the author's byline.

Entries from new authors are strongly encouraged. C'mon. Give it a try!

NOTE: ONLY REGISTERED MEMBERS who have posted at least one message may submit a story. Without that one post, the system will not let you send a PM.

DEADLINE: Stories should be in by 9 p.m. Central Standard Time (GMT-6), Sunday, November 20, 2016. The stories will then be posted for voting at approximately 10 p.m. Voting will close on Sunday, November 27th at approximately 9 p.m., GMT-6.

VOTING: Stories are rated on a scale of 0-10 in whole numbers in 6 different categories by filling in scores in a form that is posted by me immediately following the post containing the stories for this challenge. Voters copy and paste the form into a Private Message (PM) and send it to me through the forum for tallying. One vote per user (and/or per ip address). Authors may not vote for their own story, but must vote for all of the other stories in the contest. A challenge entrant who does not vote for the other stories will receive a 30% deduction in their own score at the time of contest close, and the other stories will be given marks equaling whatever their story's average is at the time of contest close.


If more than two stories are tied at the end of voting, there will be a succession of one-day runoff votes until a single winner is chosen or the number of winners is reduced to two.

WHAT YOU WIN: Writers get improved short fiction skills, increasing their chances in the marketplace, without the lengthy investment in time a longer story would take. That, as well as bragging rights and pride--there is stiff competition each month amongst some great stories.

LEGAL STUFF: I'll try to do my best lawyer impersonation: By entering this challenge you are technically granting Aphelion: The Webzine of Science Fiction and Fantasy perpetual electronic rights only to post and archive your challenge entry. Aphelion would rather not lay any claim on them at all, but by posting them on a public site, they'd legally count as being published no matter what.

Ok. A real lawyer would have been less interesting. I tried.

All the things I do to get Aphelion out each month (find the artwork, design the covers, correspond with submitting authors, read & format the flash section stories, format Dan's editorial, upload all the sections, and create the forum folders) do not allow me time to write an example. I will, however, write one right alongside the rest of you. Whatever I come up with, even if unfinished, will be posted for voting with the rest of the entries.

Good luck to all of us.

Re: FLASH CHALLENGE: November 2016

PostPosted: November 07, 2016, 12:20:15 PM
by kailhofer
As far as I'm concerned, there's no real difference between the two.

Re: FLASH CHALLENGE: November 2016

PostPosted: November 07, 2016, 03:12:50 PM
by kailhofer
And for only the second or third time since he started entering, someone beat Sergio for first story in!

Re: FLASH CHALLENGE: November 2016

PostPosted: November 08, 2016, 12:48:30 PM
by kailhofer
My first draft is done.

Re: FLASH CHALLENGE: November 2016

PostPosted: November 09, 2016, 11:07:31 AM
by kailhofer
4 entries received so far already. Looks like we could have a pretty healthy crop of them this time. :D

Re: FLASH CHALLENGE: November 2016

PostPosted: November 09, 2016, 02:05:05 PM
by Lester Curtis
This ought to be a popular challenge. Happy endings are in short supply for some (likely most) of us here.

Re: FLASH CHALLENGE: November 2016

PostPosted: November 11, 2016, 12:15:56 AM
by Megawatts
Starting to work on mine today!

Re: FLASH CHALLENGE: November 2016

PostPosted: November 12, 2016, 09:32:57 AM
by Megawatts
Welcome Ajaye. Aphelion is one of the best and hope you enjoy it and stay. The challenges, the stories, the interaction between all contribute to better story telling, and you'll have fun along the way. Stay with us and keeping writing. You'll improve, believe me---you will!

Re: FLASH CHALLENGE: November 2016

PostPosted: November 12, 2016, 02:42:29 PM
by kailhofer
ajaye wrote:Hi everyone, nice magazine and forum! Hoping to participate in the challenge :D .

Ditto to what 'Watts said. Welcome aboard!

Re: FLASH CHALLENGE: November 2016

PostPosted: November 16, 2016, 05:26:05 PM
by kailhofer
Just a reminder to anyone on the fence about trying this Happy Ending challenge--entries have to be in by 9 p.m. (Central U.S.) this Sunday.

I'd recommend not waiting until the very end, though. If I find something needs to be tweaked in your story before I can accept it, you need to have time to make those changes and resubmit. Plus, I don't sit non-stop at my computer waiting for entries, either.

Probably the most important thing: stories get better when they're not first drafts at the last minute. Finish it early enough you can let it sit overnight and then look at it the next day. You're bound to find things you'd like to change or improve.

Just FYI and good luck on your stories!

Re: FLASH CHALLENGE: November 2016

PostPosted: November 17, 2016, 10:50:29 AM
by kailhofer
ajaye wrote:Is it ok for me to vote on this month's stories if I don't enter?


Re: FLASH CHALLENGE: November 2016

PostPosted: November 17, 2016, 08:12:25 PM
by Megawatts
Ajaye, try anything! Even start from a stream-of- conscience writing format. I'm having trouble but I intent to send something in. Many times it's like facing a brick wall. Sometimes the story flows like water. Sometime nothing. But then again if it were always easy, it wouldn't be much of a challenge, would it.

Face the brick wall! And remember: You can always write on a brick wall!!

Re: FLASH CHALLENGE: November 2016

PostPosted: November 18, 2016, 08:37:22 PM
by kailhofer
KateStuart wrote:This was hard!

That's what makes it great--and fun.

That's why winning this means something. You have to work hard and earn it.

That's why people fight tooth and nail over rules and results when there's no money involved. Who wins and how matters to people because they take pride in it.

That's why people come back again and again, often even after they've won.

I think it's really only after you've done your absolute best and then got blindsided by someone else's even better story that it really clicks that you can do more. You can do even better than you did--and then you want to.

See? It's all part of my evil plan... :twisted: