Ficly picks

My previous post included links to a couple of blog posts by ElshaHawk, friend and regular commenter in these parts. Which reminds me of something I’ve always intended to blog about.

I met Elsha through the story-writing website, where she is a frequent participant. I’ve published a few stories there too, but not for a while, and my friendship with Elsha is the main lasting thing I got out of it. That said, it was a lot of fun, and I’d go back if there were more hours in a day.

Ficly is a website where people write stories of no more than 1000 characters, and then write prequels and sequels to other people’s stories. There are also challenges – where people create their own story-writing competitions for other people to enter – and various other features I won’t list here. Below are three examples of stories from, each consisting of an episode written by someone else and a sequel written by me.

If you want to, you can decide what happens next.

1. In green, Lunch, by Fracture. In blue, Tastes Like Chicken, by me. The interesting thing about writing this was the challenge of using characters someone else had created and keeping their actions and dialogue consistent with their personalities.

“What do you think is in it?” asked Ron, giving the container a cautious prod.
“I’m not sure,” said Derrick. His voice cracked, revealing that his bravery was feigned. “Open it and look.”
Ron left the container sitting on the shelf, but reached in and lifted the corner of the lid ever so slightly, as if trying to prevent an escape.
“It looks like meat!” offered Derrick.
Ron risked tilting the container a bit. “But it’s runny! Is meat usually runny?”
“Well,” offered Derrick, “it is brown. Meat is brown, right?”
“That’s what I read.” admitted Ron.
Derrick’s eyes grew wide. He ducked behind Ron with a start. “It moved! I saw it move.”
“I don’t think so,” replied Ron. “I think that was from me sloshing it around.”
“No,” said Derrick, unconvinced, “that lump… the see-through glob floating near the back. I think it looked at me.”
Ron grinned. “Flip you for the first taste.”
“Uh, no.” said Derrick. He’d taken on a distinctively green tint. “You found it, you can have the first taste.”
“In that case, get me a spoon,” instructed Ron as he sat down.
“Get it yourself!” returned Derrick.
“Come ooon,” said Ron. “Tell you what, if I chicken out and never actually touch the stuff, I’ll wash up for the rest of the week, OK?”
“Not if you’re sick, you won’t,” predicted Derrick. “Look, plunge your finger in and get it over with, or else don’t.”

Ron stared at the odourless brown sludge for a few moments, wearing a sly smile but otherwise doing nothing at all. Then he said, “You know, in case you’re right, you should at least get me a drink. If it turns out to be horrible, I’ll need something to take away the taste.”

That was fair enough, thought Derrick. He walked across to the other bench and removed a can of beer from the esky they’d brought with them. Then he turned around and –

Ron had vanished. The container was wide open on the table. Inside, the brown substance was still there, but Derrick felt sure there was more of it than there had been.

As though it had fed. And grown.

2. In green, The Stream of Broken Memories, by Taheil. In blue, Songs Between My Tears, by me. I wrote this because I saw an opportunity to use song fragments that I actually wrote many years ago, but which never developed into songs in their own right.

As our boat floats down the river carried only by the water’s current, we give a last look at what was once our home, our parent’s home, and the home of their parents; now consumed almost entirely by fire.

A shiver runs down my spine as the black fire rises, not just from our last attachment to this place and our roots, but from the attachments of others, the entire city soon up in flames.

Our boat keeps floating, floating down a stream of memories broken, watching them disappear further one by one. Will this fire ever stop burning? Even if it does in the city, I know it will never do in my mind and heart. I’ve been scarred by it, we all have.

Drifting helplessly into strange, foreign lands, I find myself humming an old folk tune in fragments interspersed with tears, music being the only thing I can think of to numb my pain.

Every healing word I know is void
Watching silence greet every desperate cry
Everything we shared, everything we said
Watching memories freeze as they pass me by

That age-old poet had thought he was singing about failing to win back a lover who had left him, but to me the words now take on a completely different meaning. The birds in the trees lining the riverbank sing their own tunes. Happy, joyful tunes. They have no idea what they are talking about.

I hum another ancient song.

How do I build from impossible stones;
Where’s the ground to hold them?
How do I walk from infinity home
After wandering there?

The impossible stones are the things you never prepare for, never admit are possible, because they’re too terrible to contemplate until they happen. And infinity is the distance to a place that doesn’t exist anymore.

3. In green, An Abundance of Reality, by falconesse. In blue, Where The Toys Go, by me. I enjoyed developing the characters and advancing the plot in this one.

The doctors pressed their faces against the glass like children crowding a pet store window.

Jack’s chubby-cheeked daughter sat on the exam table, paper crinkling whenever she shifted to examine a toy.

“She’s doing it again. Watch.” A flurry of clicking pens and excited murmurs.

Regina picked up a rag doll and ran her fingers through its blue-yarn hair. She traced the stitches in its nose, touched her own.

“Here it comes.” They held a collective breath.

Jack hated them.

The doll began… fading. It started at the edges and worked in, growing more and more indistinct until there was nothing left. Regina looked at her empty hands and began to cry.

“We’ll run some tests, draw blood, and…” They eyed one another and fell silent. What if the girl turned her attention on one of them? They’d already lost two nurses.

And her mother.

Jack shoved past them, into the room. Regina sniffled as he held her.

“Daddy’s here.”

* * *

Life’s lessons learned. Never have an affair with someone claiming to be the King of the Fairies.

Marilyn sat on the grass, the scattered toys all around her, eating a pale blue apple she’d picked on her last walk by the river. It must have been hours now, not that time was really the same under an orange sun that never set. She loved her daughter very much, but wished she was more ordinary. Ordinary children throw toys out of cots. Regina threw toys into the other world and was too young to understand that other people couldn’t pick them up again.

They usually turned up, eventually, but it sometimes took a few days. Regina seemed to will them back into her hands in the same way they disappeared. How long would it be before she realised that she really wanted her mother? Or that Marilyn couldn’t simply walk … through? Marilyn watched for a toy to fade, hoping she could grab it and be dragged back before it vanished entirely.

The nurses had panicked and run off. Probably lost, thought Marilyn.

That’s enough for one blog post. Which of the above stories has the most potential, in your opinion?

2 Responses to “Ficly picks”

  1. Itai Says:

    Your post gave me an interesting idea for a game: how about you post a segment by someone else followed by a sequel by yourself, similar to what you did above but *without color*, and then have your readers guess where did the writer change? This can also be done for more than two writers.

  2. Flesh-eating Dragon Says:

    Yeah, could be interesting. For most stories I think it would be very easy, so I would deliberately choose stories where I expect it to be more difficult than usual (such as the first one above).

    A problem with using stories from Ficly is that episodes tend to be very close to the maximum 1000 characters, and players could take advantage of this consistency.

    I asked Elsha what she thinks of your idea, and she thinks she would lose.

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