Flash Fiction: How to Build a Pyramid Fire in the Rain by Natalie Schriefer

JMWW

Photo by Marko Horvat 

  1. Collect wood. Look for fallen branches, as dead wood burns better than live. Keep your eyes on the forest floor, and hope for a pocket of dry sticks somehow protected from the pattering rain. Never look back at camp. Never look at your future suitemates—at Hana from Chicago fuming with the tent poles, and Liza from Boston crouching by the river, examining a forked birch limb, her back soaked navy.
  2. Separate your collection into tinder, sticks, and branches. If needed, break the wood into footlong lengths. You’re five miles from the car. Five miles from a roof, five miles from heat, and more than two dozen from a gas station, from fire-starting logs. A freshman mistake, not bringing one, even if it was supposed to be sunny. So much for being a sophomore. When Liza and Hana snap sticks in silence, don’t apologize for the…

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Micro Fiction Bonanza!

2020 has been a crazy year. That may be the understatement of the decade, but the truth is that everything feels outside of my control.

One of my favorite ways to cope with uncertainty has always been writing. I published a lot in 2016 when I was on the verge of leaving my job and committing to freelancing, a move that not everyone thought was right for me. Now, in 2020, the uncertainty is a lot bigger than me, but writing is still my go-to, this time in the form of micro fiction.

Though there isn’t a wholly agreed-upon definition, the most common caps micro fiction at 300 words. That doesn’t seem like much–300 words is little more than one manuscript page–but good micro packs a lot of meaning into that space, maybe because the word count is so restrictive: there’s no room for any detail or action that doesn’t move the story forward–and I love the challenge.

The following links are my best attempts, thus far, at this tiny form:

  • Relief,” a 166-word story at Fewer Than 500.
  • Safety Blanket,” a 50-word story at 50-Word Stories.
  • Stars,” Twitter fiction published by Cuento Magazine.
  • ISO,” Twitter fiction also published by Cuento Magazine.

Does quarantine have you writing more or less than before? What are your favorite micro magazines and stories? How much can you pack into fewer than 300 words?

Stay safe and well out there!

The Importance of World Building

World building is typically associated with genre fiction like fantasy or sci-fi, but I’d argue that it’s just as important for stories set in the real world.

Why? Check out my full article on Pop Culture Uncovered!

World building is a key element of story craft in which an author creates and defines the universe in which he or she will write. Good world building is consistent above all else—and also gives the story meaning. A Google search of “world building” pulls up almost 150 million results, almost all of them relating […]

Make Your Own Luck

Recently I was asked to speak to a group of undergraduate students about my freelancing job as a writer and editor, answering the usual “How did you get your first project?” and “When did you know you wanted to write?” sort of questions. Those are easy to answer–my first project was for a friend, and I figured out I wanted to write as a career in 2014–but harder to do was create an actionable piece of advice. In the audience were students of diverse backgrounds and work experience. Some were in their 30’s; others were not long out of high school. Some wanted to work in creative fields and others didn’t.

What could I say that might help all of them?

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Photo Credit: Nilufer Gadgieva

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Character Development in Harvest Moon

Howdy, everyone!

With the semester as busy as it’s been, I haven’t been able to write as much as I would have liked, but the good news is, I did have some time to put together a piece on one of my favorite video games of all time, Harvest Moon. Even better, I got to write about how some of the characters were especially well-developed for a kids’ video game.

Check it out! 🙂

Pop Culture Uncovered

Character development—the process of creating a believable, nuanced character—can be tricky. Spend too much time detailing a character’s past experiences and you risk boring your audience; don’t give them enough depth or information, and your characters feel flat and two-dimensional, Mary Sues less than fully fleshed out.

Video games in particular struggle with this—books and movies have to make us care about the protagonist to keep us watching or reading, but we don’t have to care much about Master Chief’s past or his relationship to Cortana to finish playing Halo; fun multiplayer, good graphics, a cool story mode, etc. are enough to keep people playing whether or not Master Chief seems like a believable, complex character (if you want more info on him, check out this interview with his voice actor Steve Downes).

Marcus Schulzke sums the character development issue up best in an essay anthologized in Game on…

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Harvest Moon: An Exploration of Gender Stereotypes

“Video games of varying genres shaped my childhood, but none more so than the Harvest Moon series – which (accidentally) introduced me to characters that broke the gender norms I’d come to accept as facts.”

Check out my recent publication at Pop Culture Uncovered!

Pop Culture Uncovered

Scientific studies laud video games for the variety of real-world benefits they offer players, ranging from neurologically combatting depression to restructuring the way we think. When it comes to gender, though, we rarely hear good news; it’s easy to find discussions on the sexualization of female characters and the harassment faced by cosplayers who dress as these characters.
But that doesn’t mean that there are only negative stories. Video games of varying genres shaped my childhood, but none more so than the Harvest Moon series – which (accidentally) introduced me to characters that broke the gender norms I’d come to accept as facts.

Girls and Flowers
Also known as Story of Seasons, Harvest Moon is a franchise built on a simple premise: your character has decided to revive a derelict farm. Your main goals consist of planting and watering crops, caring for livestock, and creating a life in…

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