Sarah Ann Hall

Reporting on writing in progress or, more probably, not; practising flash fiction.

#FridayFictioneers – Hoist by My Own Petard

with 35 comments

Every Wednesday Rochelle Wisoff-Fields publishes a photo prompt to inspire writers to write 100-words of flash fiction or poetry.

At any point during the following week, the Friday Fictioneers post their 100-word tales. Read the other stories by clicking below.


Doug’s photo last week left me struggling, and I didn’t come up with anything in response until this morning (although I think this has been brewing slowly). Ted’s photo this week prompted a story idea straight away, but it has taken numerous drafts to shape it into something vaguely respectable and I’m still not happy with it. Criticise away – edit, reshape, tell me how to fix it.

(My mobile broadband has reverted to snail pace so I’ll be reading and commenting Monday when I can get to steal some of my parents’ bandwidth.)


PHOTO PROMPT Copyright-Ted Strutz

Copyright – Ted Strutz


The Commission (100-words)

Angus gazed over the sleeping village, cleaning his tools. He had six days left to finish sculpting the likeness of every islander. At least the other part of his task was done.

The replica ship had been ready for months, enabling him easy access to stow the final surprise. When the villagers sailed out on Ancestor’s Day to recreate the first landing, their boat too would founder. History demanded another sinking. Angus wouldn’t be there to see which of the families made the strongest swimmers this time. His job was to make sure every face was recorded on the memorial.




PHOTO PROMPT Copyright - Douglas M. MacIlroy

Copyright – Douglas M. MacIlroy


Hoist (Genre: autobiographical; 100-words)

‘Writer’s block isn’t a problem,’ she told an inquisitive friend.

It wasn’t a boast. So many stories fitted around her mind, characters demanded to be heard, and words flowed through ballpoint or machine-gunned across the screen.

Time management was her issue: fitting writing in around daily living, and trying to eradicate a garden of rampant horsetail.

News reports, music, comments overheard in the street, any and all could elicit a Pavlovian response – the ‘what if’ question that with character and setting becomes plot.

Visuals sometimes triggered only silence.

Staring, waiting, hoping for a half-formed character to grow, resulted in nothing.



Friday Fictioneers


35 Responses

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  1. What a great idea! I love the last line and hadn’t seen the tools as being a sculptor’s tools.

    Virtually All Sorts

    June 15, 2014 at 9:46 pm

    • Thank you. I hadn’t seen them as dentist’s tools – it’s good that we all see different things and come up with such varied stories.

      Sarah Ann

      June 16, 2014 at 7:49 pm

      • I just replied to your comment on my blog that that’s the beauty of flash fiction 🙂

        Virtually All Sorts

        June 16, 2014 at 9:44 pm

  2. on your first story, how sad and i’m wondering if the villagers are aware of the actual sinking? it would really recreate the tragic moment, again. so sad but i like the story idea.

    i like your second story line about words . . . machine-gunned across the screen. and on time-management . . . yep, i can relate. 🙂
    looks like you were real busy writing up two stories in one week. well done!


    June 16, 2014 at 12:34 am

    • No, I don’t think the villagers know. In my mind there is a higher authority demanding the sinking and the commemoration.
      As for the second, I think my problem has been me being busy doing other stuff and not writing when I should have been 🙂
      Thanks for reading both and the comments.

      Sarah Ann

      June 16, 2014 at 7:47 pm

  3. I really liked the alternative idea of the tools being used for sculpting, and that story was quite chilling.

    As the the Hoist story, I could definitely relate, especially when fatigue seems to pound at me for weeks on end!

    I’m glad you posted both pieces!

    • Thanks Joanna. In my dim and distant memory I have an inkling that Ted’s a potter (I could be wrong), so I didn’t see the tools as a dentist’s at all – maybe time I got my eyes tested again. As for Hoist, I have no idea why some prompts are easy and others not.

      Sarah Ann

      June 16, 2014 at 7:45 pm

  4. Sarah Ann, Both stories were good. The first one was really scary. O_o Nothing like having to deal with a psycho sculptor. I’m sure many writers can relate to the second story. Both were well-written. 🙂 —Susan


    June 16, 2014 at 11:45 am

    • Thank you Susan. I hadn’t thought of him as a psycho sculptor – just one without many scruples. He’ll do whatever it takes for money.

      Sarah Ann

      June 16, 2014 at 7:42 pm

  5. The first one I get some Vodoo feeling from.. is the recreation going to result in real incidents or not.. the writers block.. so famous— good use of the photo…

    • Thank you Björn. You’ve got me thinking now with the Voodoo. I had imagined someone behind the scenes dictating that there should be a real sinking and a real commemoration. Only he can know why (although maybe I should have a vague idea).
      And what’s that block? 😉

      Sarah Ann

      June 16, 2014 at 7:55 pm

  6. Waiting for a character to glow! Oh yes, I’m familiar with that. I love your idea of sculpting every islander. I picture some kind of mural. I came across another writer who saw these sculpting tools as well. Very creative take, Sarah!

    Amy Reese

    June 16, 2014 at 8:59 pm

  7. Ok, I just reread your story. I didn’t get it at first. The memorial, yikes now I understand the voodoo element. This is really good, Sarah! You should be very proud if it. Sorry, I’m blogging on my phone, too, and it’s tricky.

    Amy Reese

    June 16, 2014 at 9:05 pm

    • Sorry to have caused a yikes moment. 🙂 I’m thinking more and more about the voodoo. If I take that approach presumably there’s no need for a bomb on the ship? And I relate to the phone typing. My tablet has the most habit of finishing my typing for me and making my sentences incoherent.

      Sarah Ann

      June 18, 2014 at 7:53 pm

  8. Yikes! That’s one way to make a memorial eternal.


    June 17, 2014 at 6:03 am

    • I wonder if it’ll be the making or the ending of the sculptor’s career.

      Sarah Ann

      June 18, 2014 at 7:56 pm

  9. Dear Sarah Ann – Good job on both! First: The sculptor is creepy, because he is going to let all those people drown and he will have already made a likeness of them. I think maybe he is in on the disaster with a psycho too. Second: I like this too – you really had a lot of writing to do this week. I love the Pavlovian response (Pavlov’s dog?) That takes me back to college! Excellent! Nan 🙂

    Nan Falkner

    June 17, 2014 at 8:08 am

    • Thank you, Nan. The sculptor must be in on the disaster, but I think his missing the compassion gene, or the madman behind it has a very good reason ?! Yep, Pavlov’s dogs. I think some of us FFs have developed a similar response – always having to write when the prompt appears. 🙂

      Sarah Ann

      June 18, 2014 at 7:59 pm

  10. Dear Sarah Ann,

    Bonus. Two good stories when I was expecting only one. The first one was a bit odd and scary. The second was my favorite because you illustrated writers block so well. Who among us can’t relate to it. Well done twice.




    June 17, 2014 at 9:20 am

    • Thank you. I think the second story was a bit of a cheat as I described my non-writing process of the week. I’m not sure where the first one came from. The scariness developed as I tried to give it a middle and end – the first line came easily, but then I had to make it somewhere.

      Sarah Ann

      June 18, 2014 at 8:02 pm

  11. Very different take on the prompt. I don’t think anyone else saw sculpting tools. Nice tension in the story. Reminds me slightly of The Lottery by Shirley Jackson. Very different setting, but a similar premise.

    Melody Pearson

    June 17, 2014 at 3:43 pm

    • Thanks Melody. I’ve just found Shirley Jackson’s story online so will take a look. Thank you for the tip and the comparison 🙂

      Sarah Ann

      June 18, 2014 at 8:10 pm

  12. Your first story reminded me of the Famine Ship we toured in Ireland. Was figures of real people who actually made it ALIVE out of Ireland during the famine. The second story was great at depicting writer’s block and trying to squeeze writing into our lives.


    June 17, 2014 at 5:24 pm

    • I’m going to have to look for that famine ship online. It sounds scary. And I’m not doing enough squeezing at the moment. I make time and have plans and then people turn up or don’t and the writing is always the thing to give. Maybe I need to be more selfish 😉

      Sarah Ann

      June 18, 2014 at 8:05 pm

  13. Sarah I have a set of these dentist’s tools, given to me by a dental student friend, when I was at university doing my fine art degree. I used them for sculpting clay and scoring, etc. So I saw the tools as both. I liked your first story best. It hints at something sinister. It could be the beginning of some larger tale. 🙂


    June 17, 2014 at 8:15 pm

    • Thanks Ann. Having read through so may horror dentist stories I’m even more pleased to have seen them as sculpting tools. That’s part of the fun of being an artist – using anything to hand or subverting an item’s normal use.

      Sarah Ann

      June 18, 2014 at 7:48 pm

      • I’m stamping on cloth at the moment with a piece of tubular-shaped styrafoam picked up from the boatyard where our boat is lying up – I think it’s pipe lagging; also an almost triangular-shaped styrafoam that was part of the packaging of a security light we recently had fitted. Our throw away society provides much art material and tools! 🙂


        June 25, 2014 at 6:50 am

  14. Both are great reads but if asked to choose, I’ll go with The Commission.

    Eric Alagan

    June 18, 2014 at 2:43 pm

    • You can always choose. The Commission is definitely more of a story. Hoist is more a description of desperation. Thank you for reading both and the comment.

      Sarah Ann

      June 18, 2014 at 7:46 pm

  15. I love that first story, creepy but good. Angus may be a good craftsman but he certainly lacks empathy.


    June 18, 2014 at 10:23 pm

  16. Oh my goodness, that last line on the first story is so creepy. And they have no idea…

    I have the problem of too many ideas, not enough time. However, I have had a few prompts where I ponder them and still get nothing. I’m learning to just walk away 🙂


    June 19, 2014 at 6:24 am

    • Good to know I can do creepy. It’s not something I usually try. And I’ve started to walk away from the thought-less (as in generate no thoughts) prompts. There’s enough other writing to be done without struggling.

      Sarah Ann

      June 19, 2014 at 8:57 pm

  17. Hi Sarah Ann
    Came back to comment on this because I meant to at the time. I think your hard work paid off in the first story, especially the line about the strongest swimmers which was subtle but seriously sinister – he knows they’re all going to die but imagines them trying to survive. Brilliantly done.
    For the second story – you’ve captured something we’ve all gone through. I’ve just read a book called ‘The Comic Toolbox’ – it’s American and a bit cheesy at times, but has some good tips for when you’re stuck for what to write. Basically, the idea is that, if you brainstorm, 9 out of 10 ideas will be crap, but the 10th will be fabulous. It gets you working at chucking random ideas on paper without worrying if they’re any good or not. It’s made a big difference to the way I write, and the way I feel about writing. Failure is no longer an option, it’s a fact – most of what I brainstorm will be rubbish which takes the pressure off.
    Anyway, I’m rambling now. Happy writing 🙂


    June 19, 2014 at 7:20 am

    • Thanks for coming back! I always find it amazing what people pull out of my writing. I’m just trying to make it coherent, but there’s you finding the swimming line subtle and sinister. I’ll take the praise 🙂 knowing it’s more to do with luck than planning.
      Thanks for the book info too – I’ll take a look. I’ve just completed the ‘Start Writing Fiction’ MOOC at Future Learn. That provided techniques for getting started. It didn’t suggest 9/10 ideas would be crap though. It encourages writers to have a journal strapped to their arm and note down everything and anything as it’s all fuel to burn later. Having the other students read and comment on a couple of stories was useful – they saw all sorts of things I didn’t, which I have planned to post about, when I can concentrate my thoughts. Now I’m rambling 😉 ttfn

      Sarah Ann

      June 21, 2014 at 10:54 am

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