I Can’t Say No To A Good Writing Prompt

That’s it. I’ve become a writer stereotype. In the middle of ongoing writing projects I stopped and started something new. In my defense, there were prizes and a writing prompt involved. Who can say no to that?

You’ve probably seen me mention AutoCrit before. Out of all of the writing communities I tried out during the pandemic, it’s probably my favourite. And one of the things I like best about them is their writing challenges. Although there may be prizes at the end – distributed to winners or by random draw – “winning” is not the goal. These challenges are simply to get you writing, to get you inspired, and to build good writing habits. Almost like mini NaNoWriMos. (By the way, this post is not sponsored by them. But if they ever want to sponsor me I certainly won’t say no. Hear that universe?)

*Update: As of February 2023 I am now an AutoCrit Affiliate!

Around the time the challenge was announced, it was less than a week until my uncle’s funeral. My brain was already buzzing with a healthy dose of memento mori when the AutoCrit crew informed the community that the theme of this challenge was just that… Community. I thought, communities gather for funerals – this is perfect! And thus the idea was born.

Oh, and obviously I turned my idea into a horror story.

Apart from the theme of community, I also have some other recurring elements in this piece of short fiction: cold cuts and cigarettes. Incidentally, that was the working title for the story that ended up sticking better than I expected it to. The cigarettes tie into the narrator’s place within his community, and the cold cuts… Well, they certainly go with the theme of “community”, but if you’ve seen some of my recent Tweets then you’re probably already aware that they represent an aspect of horror in this story too. Apologies. You may not want to eat lunch meat again after reading this story.

But how can you read it? Well, I’m really proud of what I’ve written and edited within the confines of this two week challenge. And when the writing challenge is officially over, I may do even more edits and take this past the word count limits that were imposed upon me. But I might not. Either way, whether this story stays short or becomes a novella, I would like to publish it. Not in a collection, but as a standalone. But first, I should probably return my focus to publishing Coping Mechanism.

Without further ado, here is a little taste of things to come – the opening scene of “Cold Cuts and Cigarettes.” Happy Reading!

Bob’s funeral is a disaster before its even begun. Dad is sitting in a corner, staring at his beer, fighting back emotions he pretends he doesn’t have. Trish is running around, fussing over every little detail. She still doesn’t understand how things are done around here but she’s trying, and she’s making a mess of everything. Neighbours are trickling in, Dani is nowhere in sight, and a platter of cold cuts has gone missing. Not that anyone other than Trish has noticed.

Bob would have hated being here. All the noise, all the people, all the chaos. Good thing he’s dead, I guess.

I suppose I should call him Uncle Bob, but we were never that close. We could have been, but no one in my family ever learned how to cope with their feelings. He wanted to keep to himself from the confines of his living room, and I wanted to get the hell out of town. Same thing. But even when I moved back home, neither one of us made any effort to have a relationship. No one’s fault. That’s just how it is sometimes.

“Is Dani on her way, do you know?” asks Trish.

God I want a cigarette. But it’s a big city habit I’m trying to break. That only makes the need worse.

“I’m going to step outside,” I say without answering her.

She’s too busy, too flustered, to mind. She just moves on to the next poor soul, asking about Dani.

Things aren’t any better outdoors. It’s that rancid part of spring where the snow is all gone but the air is still just a touch too cold and the stench of rot still lingers from the thaw. Oh well, as long as the ground’s not still frozen…

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