Stories in the 75 word range

This week’s flash fiction presented a unique series of problems, both expected and unexpected.

The prompt itself was a picture of a cable car:

Mount Seceda in the Dolomites. Photo by Wolfgang Moroder, WikiCommons.

The target word count: 75 words (give or take 5)

My mind went immediately to ‘Where Eagles Dare’ and I came up with the rough draft almost immediately.

Martin looked at his men and smiled.  They had done the impossible and now all they had to do was get down off the mountain before the enemy discovered what they’d done.

It had been risky, traveling in the open, but the enemy was so afraid someone would sneak into their base, that all the back ways had triple guards.   They held their breath as the cable car doors opened and the border guard asked for their papers before waving them through.

“Do you have it?” the General asked.

Martin smiled and handed over the enemy’s recipe for streusel.

99 words, something that would need to be edited and polished, but it was a decent first draft.

The problem with telling a story in 70-80 words, is that you have to combine as many elements as possible – the story, to actually be a traditional story, has to have a beginning middle and end.

The key is to present the beginning the ‘situation’ quickly, possibly starting in the middle and possibly implying the beginning.

Editing went quickly and within 4 edits, I had the final version:

Secret Mission

Martin smiled and let his breath out slowly as the cable car made its descent. They were almost through and he could taste freedom in the air.  He fought to remain calm when they reached the bottom and the guards demanded their papers.  In order to get the story moving, I dropped any direct mention of interaction between Martin and his men.  Its implied that they are working together to escape but in order to keep things short, I did not name any of them or try and give them personalities. – Instead, they are escaping after doing *something*, they were nervous… but they got through.

A minute later they were on their way.

An hour later they were in the General’s office with the secret documents they’d “retrieved.”

“Do you have them?”

Martin smiled and handed over the enemy’s recipe for streusel

 A quick story, that led to 4-5 edits… a few less than usual, but notice the difference between the first, rough draft that didn’t really quite fit… 

The thing was… this story made me think of something else: when the guards asked for their papers… I thought about a) a man escaping a country and b) the newspapers you get at McDonald’s… and thus, using the intro from Secret Mission, I wrote:


Martin smiled, letting his breath out slowly as the cable car made its descent. They were almost through.  He was tired of all this sneaking, but if he truly wanted to be free he had to do this.

He fought to remain calm when they reached the bottom and the guards demanded their papers.

As he crossed the border he heard one of them mutter: ‘Damn tourists…don’t they read?  The newspapers are only free to read inside the restaurant”

When your stories are this short, they come together rather quickly.  These two led to a rapid fire collection and the surprise problem with 75 word fiction – which do I post?


Martin watched the cable car and shook his head.

Every day the people on the mountain went down to the valley then the people of the valley would step into the gondola to be taken up the mountain.  Every night it was the same thing in reverse.

“Wouldn’t it be easier,” he asked.  “If they just stayed where they were?”


Martin stared at his companion until he elaborated.

“Then we’d be out of a job.”

This one was nice and philosophical, but it didn’t really… stick the ending.

Good eats

The skiers stood in a line, waiting for a ride to the top of the mountain.  Martin was surprised when the descending car’s doors opened, and no one was on board.

When he asked the tour guide why this was, she smiled and explained, “The food is too good.”

Her words came back to him when he made it to the top and they were herded towards a waiting dragon’s mouth.

He fought, refusing to be ‘good’ food.

Not bad, but I do have to rely on the reader putting two and two together and getting the good food/well behaved, obedient food.

Cable Car to Nowhere

Samantha watched as the gondola broke through the clouds and smiled.  Sunlight filled the car and the view was breath taking.

It had been a last minute decision to go, and she was glad she’d made it.  She looked up to see where they were going and felt ice-cold fear burn through her.

The cable stretched out for miles ahead of them, but there was nothing there.

“Next time” a voice over the loudspeaker hissed.  “Make reservations.”

Again, interesting, but not as good an ending as some of the others.

So Close…

David fixed his gaze on the next rise hoping it would afford him a glimpse of humanity.  It had been five days since his plane crashed and with no food or water and a damaged transceiver he’d had no choice but to hike out.

When he crested the hill and found nothing but more mountains, he fixed his hopes on the next.

His body was found the next day when the cable car made its first run of the day.

A zinger… dying so close to civilization, but not my usually ending.  A bit too morbid for me (although I have gone to the dark side more than once with my stories, because the unexpected twist is usually the one that sticks)

And, my final… just for fun story came about because of the sheer number of writers using the cable car to commit murder:

Death by Cable Car

“I’m telling you, the clues are all there.”

“How can you possibly believe that he murdered a woman with a cable car?  They’re in Sacramento,” Amy sputtered .


“The cable car is obviously in the Dolomites, so, it doesn’t work that way.”

He flipped open the envelope and cried in triumph.  “Ha! I told you… Col. Mustard in the Library with the Gondola.”

That was the last time Amy agreed to play ‘Clue’ with The Doctor.

What can I say, I’m a Doctor Who fan.  Does it show?

Which would you have picked?

July 27, 2013


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