Each year the Writers’ Police Academy features a fun writing contest called The Golden Donut Short Story contest. We provide a photo prompt and writers must use it as the theme of their stories. The catch? Each tale must be exactly 200 words.

The concept of flash fiction is not new, of course, but the way this contest came about was, well, here’s how I arrived at the decision to include the contest as part of the thrilling WPA.

This was the time before cellphones, social media, and TV remotes

As a child, I read everything and anything I could get my hands on, from Superman comics to Poe. And, as a result, I often wrote silly little stories and even made a few attempts at poetry. But, as time passed, writing faded out of the picture as my focus turned to police work. I never stopped reading, though. Book after book after book. I loved libraries and book stores. I loved the smell of both new and old books. And I was never very far away from something to read. Running radar … sure, there was a book nearby for the slow times. Working graveyard shift … I had to have something to keep me awake during the times when drunks and robbers slept. Fishing … well, those sly rascals aren’t always biting.

Fast Forward to Shortly After Leaving Police Work (Retirement is Boring)

I wanted to write because I had so many stories to tell. And then I saw it … a writers group for beginners. No experience needed. So I signed up (this was 10 years ago, or more) and it wasn’t long before we were hard at work writing short stories. The instructor, though, added a twist to our assignments. He wanted us to write a complete story in exactly 200 words (now you know where I got the idea for the WPA 200 word story contest).

To write a complete story in 200 words was a tough task, especially for someone like me who’d never written anything worthwhile with the exception of a few hundred traffic tickets and thousands of police reports. The assignment was indeed challenging, and fun. And, later, we had to do the same in just 50 words.

I kept my first story as a reminder of the beginning. And, for fun, I thought I’d post it here today. What about you? How early in life did you know you wanted to write? Do you ever re-visit your early work?

Anyway, here you go … my first official attempt at writing. It’s called Economic Downturn. Remember, it’s an unedited first attempt/draft written 10 years ago. So a bit of pity for me is fine … 🙂

Economic Downturn

Moments ago, the palette of reds, oranges and purples streaking the horizon gave way to night’s inky blackness. The sun had surrendered its position to a heavy and swollen harvest moon. Milky light pushed its way through the tired oak’s twisted and knobby branches.

A cold puff of wind shoved and swirled ribbon-like waves of dried leaves along the cracked asphalt street. They made clicking, ticking sounds as they tumbled and danced along the cold and lonely tarmac.

As he looked towards the sounds, an icy chill swept over his jacket-less frame. Turning toward the house where his wife lay sleeping, he saw the once toothy Halloween jack-o-lantern. It had begun to rot and its sagging, twisted grin mocked him.

Time was slowing and sounds were disappearing as the big limb groaned from the stress of the foreign weight. The thick rope tightened still more as the massive tree pulled him upward against gravity.

His feet came to rest two inches above the cool earth, and the crumpled lay-off notice he had clutched so tightly fluttered to the ground.

His last breath gently floated skyward to mingle with the autumn air.

He wondered if she would miss him.

7 replies
  1. Lyn
    Lyn says:

    I was certain it was heaps more than 200 words. If you wrote a book and that was the opening scene, I would not be able to put it down. You did a masterly job of the description, Lee.

  2. Pat Marinelli
    Pat Marinelli says:

    Your writing is always wonderful. Such a sad story told with so much emotion and description. Description is my weakness in writing.

    I wrote as a kid. Started making stories up before I could even write them. I don’t have anything to go back and look at because my parents always told me writing was kid stuff. So…stupid as I was, I listened so when I left home I burned my notebook full of short stories. Needless to say, I could kick myself for listening.

  3. Dave Swords
    Dave Swords says:

    I always look forward to the Golden Donut. Thought I missed the deadline last year. It certainly teaches you how to write “the essentials.”

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