Fancy swotting up ahead of next year’s contest? We asked Calum Kerr, the UK Director of National Flash Fiction Day, to flash us his credentials and fire off a crime story in 150 words or less.
by Calum Kerr
Sirach stands over the body, the knife hot in his hand, blood dripping through his fingers. His heart pounds in his chest and his breath comes fast and friable in his throat.
The alley is deserted; litter-strewn, smelly and with blood spreading out across it.
He wipes the blade on the body then slides it back inside his coat.
Steadying his breathing he slips back out onto the street and walks back to his apartment. No one marks him.
In the kitchen he opens the dishwasher and carefully places the weapon inside, then washes his hands in the sink.
He bundles all his clothes into the washing machine. Naked and unashamed, he goes upstairs for a shower.
Afterwards he dresses and sits at his desk. His computer hums as he types:
The man stood over the body, the knife hot in his hand, blood dripping through his fingers.
Calum: “In its first draft, this story was nearly 300 words long, but 150 or under was the stipulation, so it was time to get out the blue pencil. I cut and I cut and when I’d finished (including a tense change) I discovered I’d cut it down to 133. I was – as I always am when I edit in earnest – amazed that the whole story could be told in so few words and that nothing essential had been lost. It was still the same story, simply distilled. I tell my students to always write long and then cut back. This is why. You get a chance to tighten, to remove the extraneous, and – if you’ll excuse the crime-related pun – to get to the heart of the matter. If you count them up, you’ll notice that it’s now 148 words long. I didn’t put any back. Instead, my editing had given me the luxury of inserting new words. 15 of them. Bliss.”
Calum Kerr is a writer, editor, lecturer and director of National Flash-Fiction Day in the UK. He lives in Southampton with his wife – the writer, Kath Kerr – their son and a menagerie of animals. His new collection of flash-fictions, Lost Property, is now available from Amazon or direct from the publisher, Cinder House.