Flash Fiction Train

Calling all fiction writers!

In an effort to expand Chalkboard’s genres of writing, this project will focus on stories told in less than 1,000 words. Because this is a publication for asynchronous collaboration, this writing should also be somehow collaborative in nature. This is our foray into the realm of fiction!



How it works

Jennifer Egan’s A Visit from the Goon Squad tells the story of the lives of several people, their parents, and their children. While it is classified as a novel, each chapter is a short story revolving around a specific character at an entirely different point in time. In each story, other main characters show up as background characters and objects reemerge as they are passed from person to person.

Our Flash Fiction Train will feature a similar structure. There is no plan for the story we’re going to tell, but it will be told through the collective lives of several characters existing in the world we are creating. In order to ensure our stories are linked, there is one rule you should follow in your writing: every story must feature at least one character, event, or object of some significance to a character in a previous story. Besides that, there are absolutely no requirements as to when the story takes place, what happens in the story, or who you introduce or kill off (as long as it works with the timeline, of course).

there are absolutely no requirements as to when the story takes place, what happens in the story, or who you introduce or kill off

Every new story submitted to Chalkboard under the “Flash Fiction Train” tag should be considered canon, and all subsequent stories should obey by the rules and relationships set up in the previous stories. (If things get complicated, I’ll make some sort of master post.) With this in mind, please don’t just give a “rocks fall, everybody dies” scenario. As the editor, I’ll make sure things stay sane.

If you’re concerned about your story’s continuity with the rest of the stories, submit it or email it to me at contact(at)andymeyer.media. In general though, a good rule of thumb is that abrupt left turns are fine, but dead ends are not.

This collaboration is open for anyone to participate, and stories must be submitted here, on Chalkboard, with the tag “Flash Fiction Train”. If you are not currently a writer on the publication, leave a comment below and I’ll add you!

Submission Guidelines

  1. Pick a significant character, object, or event (listed below) from any story (listed above) in this Flash Fiction Train and write your own story. Your piece must work canonically (or expand the canon), but otherwise can take place at any point in time and anything can happen!
  2. Make your subtitle “Part of the Flash Fiction Train
  3. Add [TK: Andy] to the subtitle, so all the Chalkboard editors know it’s for me.
  4. Tag your story with “Flash Fiction Train” and up to any other four tags you want.
  5. Now you’re ready to submit! 
    (a) If you’re a writer for Chalkboard already, just submit it to the publication as a draft
    (b) If you’re not yet a writer for Chalkboard, comment below and I’ll add you so you can submit your draft.
  6. You’re done! Your story will be published and added to the listing above, and any new characters, objects, or events you have created will be added below. Everyone’s going to love it. I promise.

Q&A

From Dewi: Question, if two people happen to take the same characters or write about an event and they are contradictory in nature does this make a parallel universe or do we streamline it? If we want to streamline it, should we call dibs on something before we work on it?
Answer: Good question! It’s a first come first serve thing, so whatever gets published first becomes canon. As the editor, I’ll be working to make sure nothing contradictory gets through, but of course stories take a while to write, so there’s potential for overlap. Ideally, it can just be streamlined into something that works, but feel free to leave a comment in the “Resources” area dibs-ing a certain event, person, etc., and I’ll add it as an unlinked story to the top list.
Also, multiple people can totally write about the same character, just so long as it works with the story! If someone wanted to write about a younger Tyler, say, or possibly a Tyler that survived the gunshot and wakes up in a hospital a week later, you can totally do that!

Resources for writers

Relationships and inspiration for characters, objects, and events

Most characters & the agency (MI6) are based in the UK

  • The Agency is MI6

Characters

  • Tyler —Dated Laura, friends with Bennie, gets shot on train, unwittingly in possession of the important part of the US prototype rifle stashed in his phone, in coma for 2 months afterwards where he dreams he has a daughter (Misha) with Anna
  • Daren—Tyler’s brother
  • Laura — Anthropologist, lover of Bennie, dated Tyler, pregnant with his child
  • Woman in the Red Hat /Darja — Cover name: Samantha; Chinese, Allegiance unknown, but somehow involved with MI6. Knows John, presumably David, tracking Oleg.

Characters (Bad Guys)

  • Man with a Gun/Berk #1 — Name: Oleg, Russian thug moving Chinese Prototype, held up train with Berk #2. Badly wounded in Russian tundra, missing leg after “One Leg Oleg,” found and saved(?) by Woman in the Hat.
  • Man with an Even Bigger Gun/Berk#2 — (probably) Cover Name: Andrei Kalinouski, Russian thug moving US Prototype, held up train with Berk #1. Deceased after “Three Dead Guys”
  • Big Man with a Scar and a Teeny Tiny Gun/Ebrahim Louw — Cover names: Alex, Belarusian, knows the Men with Guns(?), Officer ??? recognizes him, he flirts with Woman in the Red Hat, South African crime-lord. Deceased after “Three Dead Guys”

Characters (Russian)

  • Leonid Sokolov — Left-wing Russian politician with lots of enemies, traveling to China by train when it was held up
  • Vsevolod — Captain at local police in Perm
  • Vladim — Investigator at local police Perm
  • Marja — Local police Perm staff
  • Unknown Officer — introduced by Marja at the end of “Perm II”

Characters (MI6)

  • Henry — Works for MI6, expelled to La Soukra, Tunisia after John lost the Ugly Sweater Contest
  • Officer ??? — Female, Russian accent under Texas accent, presumably high-ranking in MI6
  • David Schultz — agent for MI6, a.k.a. informant Dzmitry Abramczyk, a.k.a. Belarusian gun shop owner Mr Yakavenka, knows Woman in the Red Hat, Organized Christmas party with Henry
  • John Wilson — MI6, life is “rigged in his favor” due to his mother, Jaime Wilson; still writes to Henry 14 years later, still feels tainted by his mother’s shadow, sent to Belarus to recover 2 protoype weapons, broke his lower left leg falling from the infamous Train.
  • Jaime Wilson — head of MI6, head of Freemasons, etc., caters to her son, expelled Henry to La Soukra, Tunisia and David to Belarus.
  • Bennie—Friend of Tyler, lover of Laura, tasked by US Government

Locations

  • London, England—Location of MI6, home for many characters in the Agency
  • La Soukra, Tunisia—Home of Henry, who was expelled here after “workplace incident,” home of Tyler
  • Dzisna, Belarus—Home of David Schultz, who was expelled here after “workplace incident”
  • Three Frog Hostel — Near where the Woman in the Red Hat lives, in Bejing
  • Russian Hospital—Where Tyler is taken after being shot, stays in coma for 2 months
  • The “Office”—Presumably, MI6 headquarters, where Henry, David, John, and Jaime worked
  • Control Box—Holding the Tracker for Chinese Prototype, somewhere next to the train tracks and Oleg’s badly wounded body

Objects

  • The Red Hat — Owned by Girl in the Red Hat
  • The Guns — Sized Big, Even Bigger, and Teeny Tiny
  • The Chinese Prototype — The aforementioned Big Gun, held by the Man with a Gun, tracked by the Woman in the Red Hat, John Wilson. Tracker removed (see below)
  • The US Prototype — The aforementioned Even Bigger Gun, held by the Man with the Even Bigger Gun, tracked by John Wilson
  • Tracker for Chinese Prototype—Used to track the gun to the train, hidden in control box in the tundra after Oleg was thrown from train
  • Part of the US Prototype (Tracker)—Unwittingly carried by Tyler in his phone, traceable by John (or other agent with the proprietary frequency, etc.)
  • Tracker Token—Placed by Woman in the Hat into Oleg’s pocket after train heist

Events (organized chronologically)

  • “Workplace Incident,” a.k.a Office Christmas Party14 years before train holdup, after John Wilson loses the ugly sweater contest at the Christmas party, his mother, Jaime, expels Henry to Tunisia and David to Belarus
  • Chinese Prototype sold to Man with a Gun—gun has a tracker in it, which is how Woman in the Red Hat is able to track it down
  • US Prototype sold to Man with an Even Bigger Gun — gun also has a tracker in it
  • Tyler & Laura fight/breakup — Tyler was angry about it, went on Russia trip
  • Train Holdup — performed by at least two men with guns, Tyler gets shot, Berks #1, #2, Alex die in gunfight with MI6
  • Tyler Wakes Up—two months after Train Holdup, Laura is pregnant