Canceled Flight

She detected heat, movement. No one’s stupid enough to be that exposed in the snow.

“Hide,” Narra commanded Jae. She nocked an arrow, elbow up, eyes trained, just as Diannao once taught.

Jae had drawn over Diannao’s face one day, but Diannao taught her to focus despite distractions.

The cabin door slammed.

Narra watched in horror as Jae ran by, “no!” She grabbed at him. Missed. Fumbled with the arrow. Dropped it.

She couldn’t-

“You’ve forgotten to breathe.” Diannao emerged, carrying supplies and Jae.

Narra gawked, “how-” and noticed the scribbles on Diannao’s metal face had persisted, despite everything.

© 2021 Rebecca Glaessner

November 25: Flash Fiction Challenge « Carrot Ranch
In 99 words (no more, no less), write about a canceled flight. Where was the flight headed? Who does it impact and why? How does a protagonist handle the situation? Go where the prompt leads!

Submissions now closed. Read the full collection here.

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40 thoughts on “Canceled Flight

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  1. Writing to a prompt in 99 words can be difficult. I was thinking that since this was science fiction… well I put somethings together. I’m just hoping the ‘droid’ who brought the supplies wasn’t too concered about being drawn on. :) Being loyal should count.

    Liked by 1 person

          1. I rarely edit after the first go round of writing.
            Maybe some adjustment before ‘posting’. But if encouraged to make a big enough change, I’ll keep both copies.

            Some times I don’t like the changes other ‘editors’ have suggested. I’ve had stuff taken out of journals because I’ve ‘pushed’ back.

            Do you have the whole collection of that ‘piece’ somewhere it can be seen. If you are ‘saving’ it. Don’t worry. :)

            Liked by 1 person

          2. I haven’t typed it up just yet, it’s still handwritten in my notebook, but I added a page to my flash fiction collection doc for it. I might save it as an email sign up freebie in the future though, since it’s directly inspired by the website. I’m not sure yet!

            In regards to editors, I understand, I’m going the full self-publishing route since I’d either be too soft in the presence of editors and lose the soul of my pieces, or I’d be way too stubborn for it to work. No middle ground I fear. I’m too attached.

            Liked by 1 person

          3. Exactly! Unless the ‘editor’ was a friend who you could really trust –

            I think it is good to save all our ‘versions’ – just to see the evolution of something.

            Inspiration can come from anything. I’m using a journal that has fortune cookie sayings this month – but it clearly states that without permission I can’t repost the sayings… so I’m not. But I am saying what inspired the haiku that is coming from it…

            Some things say that they are free, but would like ‘credit’ – like the photo I’m using for the ‘Fortune Cookie haiku’ – but I put in post where I got the image – just be polite (and safe?).

            Liked by 1 person

          4. It’s such a balancing act with all those image permissions. I leave hyperlinks on images back to the creator’s pages in my monthly updates and the flash fiction images are all through wordpress’ free image server, pexels? I read on WP that they don’t need any credit or mention, luckily, but I’m nervous to go any further than that. I’m sure there are loads of blogs on the ethics around image use online.

            But besides that, I agree, there’s so much opportunity for inspiration in just regular daily life. Author and teacher Holly Lisle suggested, instead of asking how a story can fit around an item, ask how the item can fit into the story (if we have a pre-made world, ie my WIP/novel) and that has conjured a fabulous level of fun and inspiration despite being limited on how much new content I can take in. The inspiration is still there.

            As for different versions, I agree. I go back to old versions of this novel and am floored by the content and depth, and there are many parts I don’t ever remember writing. Those make for great inspiration too, and no copyright issues to fear! Haha

            Liked by 1 person

  2. This is a lot of story for 99 words. I’m a bit confused though… the girl with the arrow is in a cabin ready to fire, but her child ran by and knocked it out of her hand? Was the heat signature the child and the…robot of some type?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I tried to squeeze too much into this piece it turns out. Perhaps I can broaden their stories in future posts. Narra is an older sibling of Jae. Narra was outside aiming toward the heat signature, which was the long lost family droid (but she didn’t know yet), and Jae realised so he ran out of the cabin, past Narra, and Narra lost her cool and dropped the arrow all on her own despite thinking she had her focus down-pat. Thanks for stopping by, Marla! Let me know if you have any further questions.


      1. I can see all of that now. I don’t think you put too much at all. I think you gave the perfect amount and the readers either see exactly what you saw in your head, or see something slightly different, but similar enough.

        For me, I got their relationship wrong, but I did get the droid (I said robot though). I got that she felt her concentration faltered, but how she lost the arrow was not clear in my head; it was either being bumped or to protect the child. When the droid came in, the image I got was like a male Rosie from the Jetsons with crayon on his face and carrying groceries, which is why I thought they burst in and not out.

        Personally, I think it’s perfect the way it is, but based on what you clarified here, I think you find certain bits more important for the reader to pick up. You spent quite a few words explaining the coloring on the droids face while not being specific at all. If you cut that down, and just leave the part when the droid returns (without knowing the younger one colored on it or carved it, the description you have makes you know it was loved and part of the family), you maybe could use those 10 or so words to better explain their familial relationship, or specifying that in your story a droid has a heat signature which is atypical for robotic characters, or go into more detail about whatever you want.

        That’s the misery of limited word prompts. There is so much detail that you see in your head but you have to either reword or omit to ensure the accuracy of the overall story. Personally, I enjoyed it just the way it is even if I didn’t grok it completely.

        I would be curious to see what you do with these characters next!

        Liked by 1 person

        1. I love seeing how readers interpret these stories. We all think and feel so differently and it shows every week, every comment reminds me that this language is malleable and the words I choose won’t often tell the story I expect, rather a story that resonates with the reader in their own way. It’s such a beautiful process.

          I like that you got the feel for the family connection from the piece, I hoped for that, and the Jetsons fuel the sci-fi feel too! As for droid v robot, they’re much the same in terminology so no confusion there. I also like your idea about cutting out that one flash-back scene, and showing it in a more concise way when the droid appears. The family connection could’ve been strengthened for sure.

          I love the challenge of cutting down a story and using so few words to convey emotion and impact, it’s a fantastic way to hone our storytelling skills, but I agree, sometimes a story does need more space to breathe. Other Carrot Ranch contributors tend to lengthen their stories into serials to give a story a little more justice. After this awesome discussion, I’ve decided to use the longer version of this piece in the flash fiction collection I’m working on. I look forward to sharing it and I appreciate the time you took to share your thoughts and perspective on this piece too. I’ve enjoyed reading and learning from your comments, the human mind is a fascinating place!


          1. I truly appreciate comments that give some idea where the reader thinks I may have become somewhat confusing. If nothing else, it teaches me how to take something malleable and twist it to fit what I’m saying. It’s not easy, but then it wouldn’t be a challenge!

            Liked by 1 person

          2. I agree. I love the challenge. It calls me back week after week, despite the chaos of life. Keeps me connected to the craft, keeps me feeling like I’m growing and improving. It wouldn’t be half as fulfilling without the consistent element of difficulty.

            Liked by 1 person

          3. This comment is a bit lengthy, and I’m sorry. I am aware you didn’t ask for this, but comments like this always help me learn. I put them in order based on your story for clarity. The numbers in parenthesis show the differences between what you originally had and my sorry attempts to paint the picture you described via your comment to me. Not all save words, some use a few extra, it is documented and counted out for you with a final total. I don’t know yet it it will come under 99 or over or exactly. I’m gonna put it together forever you and we’ll see.

            Please feel free to simply ignore this comment and not even read it if you prefer. I’m completely ok with that! You don’t even have to like it. But if you are interested, please make sure the last two characters are emojis so I know the whole thing went through.
            **I personally like knowing as much about the protagonist as possible off the bat. That would include her name. But that’s me.

            “She detected heat, movement. No one’s stupid enough to be that exposed in the snow.”

            Narra detected heat, movement. “Who’s stupid enough to be exposed in the snow?”
            ***I never heard of “knocking” an arrow. But I may not be up to date on the parlance associate with bows and arrows. “Strung” or “loaded” are the words I know. But like I said, I’m not much of a bow and arrow sort of girl.

            “Hide,” Narra commanded Jae. She nocked an arrow, elbow up, eyes trained, just as Diannao once taught.
            Jae had drawn over Diannao’s face one day, but Diannao taught her to focus despite distractions.”

            “Hide,” Narra commanded Jae. She nocked an arrow, elbow up, eyes trained, just as Diannao had instructed, emphasizing the importance of focusing despite distractions.
            “Narra watched in horror as Jae ran by, “no!” She grabbed at him. Missed. Fumbled with the arrow. Dropped it.”

            As Jae ran past, “no!” Narra yelled, horrified. Grabbed for him, missing; fumbling she dropping the arrow.” (-3)
            **You said he was “long lost”, but you word it to make it sound like he went shopping for the day since he was carrying supplies. Maybe:

            “You’ve forgotten to breathe.” Diannao emerged, carrying supplies and Jae.”

            “You’ve forgotten to breathe.” Diannao, their beloved droid, emerged, carrying her happy little brother.” (+4)

            “Narra gawked, “how-” and noticed the scribbles on Diannao’s metal face had persisted, despite everything.”

            Narra gawked, “how-” noticing the scribbles Jae had once drawn on Diannao’s metal face still persisted, despite everything.
            ***My suggestions are most certainly not the best options, but they convey what you were trying to put across (based on what you told me in your comment about this), with 7 words life over to do with what you want.

            The one part I might use a word or two in is the line “she couldn’t-“ the way it is allows the reader to draw their own conclusions, but my question was “couldn’t what?” What came to mind was “focus,” “regain composure in time,” “reknock the arrow,“ “protect them,” “shoot,” “control the child,” “control Jae,” “stop Jae,” “believe her eyes.” Those are just a few. You can certainly leave it the way it is as I like the idea it’s kind of unclear, but you seemed to want it to be as clear as possible for the image in your head. All of the ones I wrote above leave more words left over for other details.

            If you wanted to maybe use them all on that sentence, “she couldn’t understand, and reached again for her arrow” that should be 99 total words. I’m not sure as I do not have word count on my phone, I manually counted and then added them together to get the seven and then used them.

            As I said before, these are merely suggestions. Since cut and paste is so simple now-a-days, maybe copy and past it into a processor, make similar changes to mine (I know they aren’t good enough for your story or your style) and see what you think and tinker from there. You may get the whole story you want in that 99 words, and every story you want to tell with these characters can be about why Narra seems to be the responsible one (did their parents die?), the story behind Jae scribbling over the droid’s face (does your droid sleep or was it to make the child feel better?), lessons on patience and focus that Diannao taught her (and be good advice for the readers as well), or even expand it out to what happens/comes next.

            These are all just theories. And as I said before, I think it stands alone and is great the way it is. You seemed to wish you had done more within the limits of the challenge. These are just some random off the top of my head ideas and you can do as you will. I gift them to you to use or ignore 😉🤗

            Liked by 1 person

          4. 😉🤗 I truly appreciate the time and effort you put into rewriting and explaining the changes you’d apply to each section. I enjoyed comparing each through your eyes, and have learned new ways to approach style and intentional ambiguity without leaving too much unclear. I’m impressed by the number of words you managed to save and much of what you wrote fits well with the story I tried to tell. I’ll be saving your comparisons in a separate document as a resource for future pieces, thank you! I especially liked how you condensed the lines referring to the connection between the droid and her focus, it reads smoother your way. And you’re right, nocking an arrow is the technical term for placing it against the bow with the intent to draw and release. Thank you again for the time and care you put into this response, the craft of writing is one of constant growth and discovery, it’s un-masterable, a lifelong challenge, and I always appreciate another opportunity to learn.

            Liked by 1 person

          5. I’m so glad you appreciated it! Some people get offended, but I just thought that since you felt that you had so much difficulty saying the full story, I could use that as my challenge for the day, so it was a win-win.

            Thank you so much for truly understanding I wasn’t trying to destroy your work, just make it reflect more of what you were trying to say since it’s a beautiful story.

            I’m happy that you found my changes effective and helpful in any way, and more surprised that you want to save them!

            I’ll be honest, the 99 word challenge was nearly impossible for me. I tend to be verbose (*SHOCK*), but sometimes, simply moving an idea or rewording it a smidge can help a great deal. Sometimes, thesaurus’ can help. Mostly, it’s just to rework statements we use in our writing every day.
            Decribing whatever you are talking about, “and she was there that day and saw it in person” is a sentence all of us wouldn’t hesitate to use. On limited word challenges, it’s more accurate and simple to say, “that day, she saw it”. 6 word different, exactly same message.

            Just something I learned while wracking my brain to figure out the Saturday 6 word challenges LOL

            Liked by 1 person

          6. Wow! 6 word challenges. That’s intense. I admire your ability to self-educate, to look at a piece and spend the time and energy on working out why it just doesn’t feel right. It’s a powerful skill and I look forward to having more discussions with you in the future. As for thesauruses, I love how useful they are when needing to avoid repetition between sentences in 99 word pieces. Helped me save a piece on more than several occasions. (I’m also prone to overwriting and adding excess detail, so you’re not alone there haha).


          7. That’s what this community is all about for me, anyway. Everyone here loves to write, and we appreciate reading other people’s responses to the same stimuli. I have found that sometimes, a simple comment can trigger an entire new direction for both me and my writing. Sometimes, others can see glaring holes that I didn’t even notice.

            For me, I’ve always avoided dialogue because I was weak at it. As I’m this particular story, dialogue is light or nonexistent. A while ago he challenged me to work on dialogue and I have been since. Without realizing it until a comment told me, I completed an entire 6 sentence post in only dialogue. Something I would have never thought to try a few months ago.

            So, this is an artistic community to help all of us learn, grow, and help if we think we can; we just don’t all have to travel to the middle of a desert somewhere to do it 😉

            Liked by 1 person

          8. Yes! I agree. The internet has been wonderful at bringing the world together and connecting people so they can learn and grow from each other. I’m not a fan of dialogue either but I believe I wrote a 99 word piece in all dialogue once too. It was a blast and felt so natural at the time. However, if it was an intentional goal, I’d be hard pressed to get it to work so easily again.


          9. It’s been an intentional goal for me for months now. What started out as something that practically made my skin crawl is something that I can put in wihtout too much added stress. But you are always welcome here with any comments or suggestions!

            Liked by 1 person

          10. Diannao is the English pronunciation of the Chinese word for Computer. Narra and Jae were from “baby name” websites, though I looked for non-white nationalities. Middle eastern and Asian mostly. I couldn’t go past them!


          11. Wow, that’s really clever. Names for my stories usually just pop into my head randomly. That’s why it’s always like the same 15 names lol
            I have used the baby name sites as well, I almost never connect with any. They never fit the character that’s being hatched in my brain. But reading yours… there were no other possible names for them, and they were brilliant.
            English pronunciation…that is so clever! I’m thinking that may be something to attempt in a story eventually. Thank you for the suggestion!

            Liked by 1 person

          12. I struggle with names, I never find any that fit, especially when the character has been with me for some time. I forced myself to use these, actually. The names didn’t feel right until after I published the piece and the story became theirs, and unchangeable. I’m glad I could inspire a new tool for you!


          13. It’s interesting to hear someone else say they feel “forced” to use names as well. Sometimes you have to. The only good part about it is that even if the names don’t always feel right to us, the readers only know what’s on the page, so the names are perfect to them. And for this piece, to me, the names were perfect and very beautiful.

            Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks D. I tried not to give too much away, but it seems I settled this one with too much ambiguity. To clarify: Jae is a younger sibling/brother, and Diannao is an old family droid that managed to survive and find them. The characters were all made up on the spot too, so I’m not sure about the why’s or how’s, but I hope this helped! I’m glad the tension and emotion came through despite the lack of clarity, I hoped it would.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I hesitated to admit my confusion, I am glad you went ahead with this and I love that your characters were made up on the spot and you were unsure of the how’s and why’s. I sometimes just put something out there that I know only has meaning to me or is a small part of larger piece that is as yet untold… go where the prompt leads, right?

        Liked by 1 person

        1. I love that D. It’s a vulnerable way to write, and empowering too. It’s nice to get praise for our stories, but we need to challenge ourselves every now and then, release something new and different and bask in the criticism, lest our craft and skill begins to stagnate.

          Liked by 1 person

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