Passionate about “Place”

When it comes to literary devices what could more powerful than the mysterious, mercurial, silent passenger under our character’s feet? That is, the place(s) the story moves through support and ground the skein (backbone) of the emotional dynamics that play out on the page. The inner and outer landscape do a lovely dance of transformation.

Now that Beth and I have processed a healthy stack of fiction submissions on the theme of “Place,” I want to give a little attention to the masters who do this dance of transformation in their fictions and creative non-fictions so well.

Tim Cahill

Annie Proulx

Stephen King

Don George

Simon Calder

Robert Hass

Christopher Reyolds

Harriet O’brien

Annie Dillard

Garrison Keillor 

… to name a few.

When “Place” is a character in a story you know it. For example, we feel the chill of the rules crack down on Jack Twist and Ennis del Mar in “Brokeback Mountain” — the very heterosexual, macho cowboy spirit of Wyoming’s Big Horn Mountains. The sense of …you guys are really in trouble now! crackles across the dry air and into our bones.

But let’s look at a few excerpts from writers whose talent with image detail and description steals the air out of your lungs. Emotions engage, immediacy is palpable.

“Guitar Central” by Christopher Reyolds – First appeared in The Los Angeles Times.

It is a mild day in the mountains of middle Mexico, a fine day for chasing butterflies or lingering on cobbled side streets, neither of which I’ll be doing. I am here to sniff sawdust and engage in arcane conversations with old men in dim, cluttered rooms.

~ I love the juxtaposition of  cliché to reality. Especially since clichés are like candy when including “place” as vital element of design in story ~


“Las Vegas” by Simon Calder.

But when it comes to gambling, tuition is better than intuition.

Beware of staying in Vegas too long. On my last evening I got so lost trying to find a way out of Binions Horseshoe Casino that I had to ask for directions back to real life.

More in the travel writing tradition but palpable. Vegas takes on life like proportions.


 “Pilgrim at Tinker Creek” by Annie Dillard.

Seeing is of course very much a matter of verbalization. Unless I call my attention to what passes before my eyes, I simply won’t see it … I have to say the words, describe what I’m seeing. If Tinker Mountain erupted, I’d be likely to notice. But if I want to notice the lesser cataclysms of valley life, I have to maintain in my head a running description of the present. It’s not that I’m observant; it’s just that I talk too much.

An argument between identity and surroundings-a struggle of nervousness in character. Beautifully developed emotional landscape in parody to the tensions of place and time.


This little article has one simple request: Get excited. Next week’s showcase is a beautiful blend of strong physical detail and emotional story arc’s that are riveting.


~ by Niya C Sisk, CR Stories founder



A Note from Straight Blonde

Okay, so “Straight Blonde” isn’t nearly as catchy or winsome as “Curly Red,” so this is the first and last time you will see me use that nickname in reference to myself. I just had to try it out. Don’t you just have to try out the words sometimes? Type ‘em up, read them on the screen—take your ideas for a little test drive?

That’s one of the great things about flash fiction. Its design lends itself well to experimentation. Which is not to say it’s easy or fluffy, or necessarily even edgy. A quick tour around the stories on Curly Red will show you a range of tone and topics, from heavy to light, sunny days to darkest night.

Here’s the deal: whether you view flash fiction as a creative writing exercise, learning tool, or legitimate literary genre (we do), writing flash will make you work. It will sharpen your writing and editing skills. If you can craft an engaging story—complete with a beginning, middle, and end—in 750 words or less, chances are you’ll be capable of longer forms. And once you’ve got the longer forms down, turning a 10-page short story into flash is an excellent opportunity to practice “killing the darlings,” cutting all but the most essential words, sentences, and paragraphs, while leaving intact the story’s guts. Less can be more.

And, just so we’re clear: flash fiction is not the 21st century-American literary fad you may think it is. With roots in ancient fables and parables—from countries as remote from the West as China and Japan—microfiction is nothing new. (What is microfiction, and how does it differ from short or flash or prose poetry or sudden fictionIs there a difference? We’ll cover these questions in another blog post down the road.) What’s still true of the style is this: it allows you to play with words and ideas, and create a world with very few, strategically selected words. In a very compact space, you can populate this world with characters, color it with conflict, even drawn an arc. And we’re talking hours/days/weeks to make a story take shape, not months or years.

So try it out. Mess around! Sculpt some small but sturdy little tales, and send them in. I am eager to read your work, delighted to serve as editor of stories, and honored to be invited into the worlds you create. (Thanks, Curly Red!)

–Beth Bates, Stories Editor

Call for Submissions – Spring 2012 Showcase

‘PLACE’ as a character of story is such a ‘hot and intriguing’ atmosphere for a reader. Don’t we just love to visit another place in our minds? — budget vacation — lots of imagination possibilities for this next showcase. We are excited to read your work!

I do realize that the image for this post is a Diner. But this diner is so unique, I think it can only exist on a dusty road that exits route 66 somewhere near Flagstaff or a place in Turkey I never knew existed. Something about the color of that sky and the architecture. Who does that?

We aren’t very literal over here in Curly-land.

So have at it. Enjoy. And we can’t wait to read.

Go here for detailed submission guidelines…