Fiction 101

The willing suspension of disbelief — in 101 words

By Michael Sullivan 06/21/2012

It’s no easy task — writing a fictional story that pulls readers in until the very end. Hundreds of pages, thousands of words, all in an effort that tries to capture the imaginations of readers with the hope the story will lead to the willing suspension of disbelief.

While world renowned authors and even beginning writers will slave over novels for years, our annual Fiction 101 contest entrants do much the same. Well, maybe it doesn’t take them years to complete, but to tell a full story, from beginning to end, within only 101 words is quite the feat. And that’s why we are proud to announce this year’s placeholders and honorable mentions. What they have been able to encapsulate in just a paragraph or two is worthy of honor.

To those featured this week and everyone who submitted — we thank you for your hard work and appreciate your vivid imaginations. To our readers — Enjoy!

— Michael Sullivan

Prizes for first, second and third place can be redeemed by contacting

Photo by: Bill Lagattuta


First Place

Back When
by Larry Bucklan

Bud waited for Greta to take his order. It was his first time back since he had been 86ed from the Fish Shack for 30 days. “Rude behavior.” Her words. It was an odd watering hole for a guy who was deathly allergic to shellfish, but the beer was cold and cheap and he and Rebecca used to come here. Back when. The ban gave him time to think. About how much he hated Greta. About how badly his life had gone.

Greta finally walked over. He re-checked to make sure he didn’t have his epinephrine and ordered a dozen oysters.


Second Place

The Wish
by Alicia Ruskin

Sarah gulps the pizza-scented air and holds her breath. She is inches from the candles, their combined heat unwinding her forehead of curls. 

In the dark, only the other children’s pale faces and chubby hands can be seen crowding the booth. “Make a wish,” chorus the mothers behind glasses of wine at the next table. Tommy, his latest victim still crying, chooses this moment to shoot his water pistol next to Sarah’s head, dowsing the flames and soaking the cake. He is still laughing when a waitress accidentally clocks him unconscious with her tray.

Sarah’s wish had indeed come true.


Third Place

Paternal Payback
by Azel Griswold

We were racing down from the 25th floor in the Luxor Hotel’s bizarro, high-speed diagonal elevator. My wife, infant son, and a young couple were onboard.
Suddenly the lights went off. 
The strange cubicle continued in total darkness.
It lurched to a stop; doors opened. The stunned old couple looked into the cave and shook their heads.
We sped on.
I heard my son’s sheepish little voice ask, “Da Da?”
In my most sinister Darth Vader-inspired snarl, I replied, “Daddy’s not here.”
Dead quiet turned into muffled chuckles.
Later, it wasn’t funny when I had to change his pants.

Beating a checkpoint award

Ce tan. The Hawk sees all.
by Yvonne Tello

Oh, great.
DUI checkpoint, in the middle of the rez, middle of nowhere.
Badlands. Crazy Horse. Custer.
Only thing supposed to be roaming out here is buffalo.
Instead, a lonely officer, doing his job, wondering with each car if this is going to be the one.
My palms are sweaty.
I stink of alcohol.
“Hello, Officer.”
Screeching hawk above watches what’s going down.
“License? Uh, someone stole my billfold a couple weeks back.”
“To see my aunt. She’s been having a tough time with dialysis … yeah.”
So quiet.
Wind blows dry out here.
“OK, sure, Officer.”
“You have a good one, too.”

The punch drunk love award

Livin’ the Dream
by Micahel Vail

He lived only in a drunken dream now. Kent liked to imagine his beloved wife was still around. They had been college sweethearts, never caught apart. Somehow he felt he was to blame for her passing. Instead of the harsh skid row reality, he preferred to drift off to these elaborate Technicolor extravaganza fantasies. She reappears once again with the look of love so bright she shimmers. Taking her gently to the dance floor he dips her back in his arms. “Hey! Get the hell out of my storefront, you no-good drunk,” yelled the store owner waving a broom.

The dirty rotten bastard nobody missed award

by Jan L.

In August 1846, Julie was married off to Herman Crank, the meanest man in the Mojave Desert.
After months of being bullied, she began secretly saving nickels in an old kitchen crock for her escape. Then, calamity! Crank got wise to the hiding place, walloped Julie, and grabbed all her hard-saved cash for himself.
She started over.
In April, 1848, authorities only scratched their heads when they found Crank.  He was stiff as a doornail, his wretched hand still stuck in Julie’s cookie jar. How a small but deadly rattlesnake got into that jar, nobody knew. And nobody ever asked.

The all too familiar award

First Impressions
by Miss Ahjanee

She was beautiful. He struggled with eye contact as she initiated conversation. Whatever.  His applied efforts resulted in no interruptions. Her numerous “first times” prior were no concern. His confidence masking nervousness. He needed what she needed to give. Simple enough, but minimum standards aren’t considered. Could he possibly fill her void? Every response, she smiled, listening closer, eyes widening, anxiously giving subtle hints only to retreat. “Cat and mouse” between them. This challenged both their inhibitions. However appealing, she could control any situation. She thanked his efforts. He stood slowly afterward, silently questioning her words, leaving the office. “Other applicants?”

The tastefully disturbing award

by Jay Windsor

The critics raved overseas. Back home there was flak. The film about an incestuous relationship between an older sister and her younger brother was explosive. He sold distribution rights early, and then scary fame came fast. He hunkered down, hiding from the ringing phone.
Via e-mail, she wrote: “You owe me.”
“What do you mean?” he wrote back. “It’s not that much money and, besides, it’s my story and my film. What do you want?”
She wrote back: “Don’t be silly. I don’t want your money. I taught you how to make love to a woman. A simple bouquet would be nice.”

The wrong way out award

Letting Go
by Miss Ahjanee

He bustled around his apartment preparing for this new day. Everything had to be cleansed, including him. No more worries after today. For too long he had let things bother him; people, his work (or lack thereof), war, etc. More than that, she still bothered him. The morning sun shone through his open curtains.
He saw three little birds perched on his doorstep. [A universal message.] With Sknyrd’s “Free Bird” set on repeat, he drew in a last breath before letting go of it all. He kicked the chair out from under him, then let go his grip on the noose.

The predictably too sweet award

by Mark Brickley

The sky was slate gray, the air cool and dispassionate. The priest spoke.
“Would anyone share a story about Chuck?”
A man in a pin-striped shirt walked to the pulpit.
“I visited Chuck near the end. He whispered he needed 40 dollars. I’ve been wondering what happened to the money. He couldn’t have spent it.”
At the back of the church a young woman stood up. Dressed in a white hospital coat, her voice was strong.
“I know what happened.”
Everyone turned to hear.
“He used it to buy See’s candies for all his nurses.”

The must turn off the computer award

The Day the Earth Stopped Talking
by Michael Mahoney

It was a beautiful morning as Greta took her daily stroll through the neighborhood. It wasn’t too long before she sensed an unusual silence. She soon realized that her fear was upon her; technology had completely taken over. Gone were the friendly hellos and well wishes of passers-by. Lifeless creatures were mesmerized with their phones, texting or “liking” things on social sites. People in cars were similarly entranced to the point of recklessness.
Sadness fully engulfed her after entering the once lively coffeehouse to absolute silence, everyone hypnotized with their gadgets. Greta left in tears, recalling happier times before addictive technology.

The f*** cancer award

Oh, How I Missed My Barber 
by Mickey O’Mara

“Twenty six months, five days and a handful of hours, but who’s counting?” I blurted out between sobs of joy.
You see, I rehearsed this line in the car every two weeks, adding the additional days or weeks each visit.
“You did it, kid. It’s a badge of honor,” Dr. Greyson responded reassuringly as we hugged in that otherwise awful patient room I’d spent so much time in for the past two years.
For two years, this disease kicked my ass up and down UCLA’s cancer ward. Would it beat me? Not this time, pal. Can’t wait to need haircuts again.

The unhinged award

by Mary Murray

I stood in the shade, waiting calmly for the school bus. I hadn’t been calm as I packed the car. Or as I looked at the calendar, realizing it was six years ago to the day that Tad disappeared. Never found. Yet I was supposed to get on with my life. I looked at the date, the 11th, and saw an eye for an eye.
The yellow behemoth rumbled to a stop as I gazed at the driver with confidence, a genuine smile on my face. A boy crossed the street.
“Hi, honey. Your mommy wants me to walk you home.”

My achy breaky heart award

Lover’s Paradise
by Samantha Cervantes

My name is Neil Hedwethrin and I use to enjoy my life with my wife Lucile until she was taken away from me during a car accident. Her sudden death led me to Timbo Tikki, a bar that I have never been to or heard of in Queens, New York. As I sat on my stool heavily intoxicated, a red-headed woman sat next to me, “I can make you happy” is all I remembered because she had given me “Happy Pills” the moment I agreed. I never imagined I’d end up in a tub of ice with my heart stolen.






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