Microfiction challenge #1: Childhood

Microfiction is what you’d imagine—very short. It can be as short as you want, but for this challenge I’d like you to set yourselves a word limit of 200. I could be cruel and make it less, but you should be able to tell a short story in 200 words maximum. For this first story challenge I’ve chosen this painting by Alvin Arnegger.

1280px-Alwin Arnegger_jpg


Is this just a sweet, chocolate box portrait, or is there more to it? Who are the children—siblings, friends, enemies? Is the little girl’s expression sad, or simply thoughtful? Why do they seem to be thinking such different thoughts? What happens to them? Are they even still alive?

Children are notoriously difficult to paint. They don’t pose; they don’t dissimulate or try to show themselves in a particular light. Perhaps because their world is so different to ours, it’s hard for an artist to know what they are thinking about. But this artist has captured something about these two that makes me slightly anxious. I feel these two children have a story to tell, if not several. I’d like to read your version.

If you want a word to ponder, try:


Please join in and leave a link to your blog post in the comments. If you would like readers to leave critical comments, just say so. We’ll see how that works out. And pass the word along—the more the merrier. I’ll do a round up next Thursday and post a new theme on Friday. Have fun!


Published by

Jane Dougherty

I used to do lots of things I didn't much enjoy. Now I am officially a writer. It's what I always wanted to be.

72 thoughts on “Microfiction challenge #1: Childhood”

    1. It’s a good one! Enjoyed it a lot. I’ve left a comment as to how it struck me. See if it makes sense, or whether I’m misunderstanding. It often happens 🙂

    1. Jane here 🙂 I liked your story and had the same sort of suspicions about that kid myself. I’ll keep any other thoughts to myself unless you say you want to hear them.

      1. Hmm not sure if that is a compliment or not….ill just keep trying Jane…..I’m already looking forward to next week…😃

      1. Thanks Louise 🙂

        Yes, it is a really well done portrait. The expressions invite you to stare and stare to try to work out what was going on in their world. It is a shame that we have a reflex reaction of smiling when photos are taken- makes it so hard to read character from a pic- unless of course it is candid or the ease/unease of the smile gives something away. Okay, I might have just talked myself out of that general statement. Anyway…my story is up 🙂 thanks for the great prompt! I see it is #1 how many do you plan to do?

      2. Just read your story 🙂 That painting does have a long story behind it. I’ll keep on with the prompt as long as their’s interest, I suppose.

      3. Thanks Jane. You mean it has a long story behind it in real life? Great- re:continuing. Your’s and Sonya’s prompts will keep the writing wheel greased here while I’m too caught up in a milliin other things to be able to work on my novel at the moment.

      4. Nooo seriously it isn’t an excuse, just a matter of priorities – work, 2 year old and a work related course that has been very time consuming have got my plate full, so any writing at all is a bit of creative space in my week and a connection to that part of my life. Only one other course to do and fairly soon I can pick up at turning point 5…

      5. I’m only joking. If it wasn’t work, or the two year-old, it would be something else. Life’s like that. It fills all the available space.

      6. 🙂 yes, it does and then something changes and new routines happen and you wonder how that something that was such a big part of life is no longer there. Thinking specifically about all the things I once used to do with intensity – guitar, gym, yoga, public speaking. Missing a week (or day depending on what the activity was) used to be a big deal, and yet I haven’t done many of those things for a long time and other things have crept in to those time slots…

    1. Oops — I mean leave critical comments if you want. I reread after publish — of course caught the wording then. I sound like some who thinks their work is beyond critique — far from it. 🙂

    1. I’d say you have the makings of a good short fiction writer. I liked your story very much. Only thing I’d say might make it tighter would be to stick to a point of view. You end very firmly in the girl’s point of view but start off more in an omniscient third. An editor would probably say keep it all in the girl’s point of view, how she sees her brother rather than slipping into what he ‘knows’. I say that because POV is what I have greatest difficulty with.

      1. I was writing as someone reading the faces in the image, first the girl, then the boy and back, but I can see how the details I include makes each the voice of the character.

      2. It’s a point that I used to contest, that it didn’t matter, but was always told that it leads to confusion. In a very short piece I tend to agree that it’s probably best to avoid popping into more than one head.

      3. The thing about omniscient is that you can ‘know’ what all the characters are thinking but you can’t get too deep into the thoughts of just one character or it sounds imbalanced.

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  2. Oh, and critical comments most welcome! I didn’t read the instructions properly (this has resulted in a few IKEA disasters). I only realised after reading the comments of others. Thanks!

    1. I put that in the post because I’ve noticed that often people say they want feedback and in fact all they want is an ‘awesome’ comment. Don’t know why. But I don’t want to hurt anybody’s feelings by not saying ‘awesome’. I can guarantee I’d never use that word of anybody’s writing bar one of the truly greats.

      1. And that is reason why I’d value your feedback. Awesome is all good but even so- what was it that made it awesome? Realistically though id like to know if there was a clear character arc, if the story was interesting and made you want to read on, if it made you feel something, if dialogue was awkward, language contrived etc…obviously not all that is relevant to this particular prompt but thats what i think when I say feedback. I do think a your writing is really really good by the way. I’d say ‘awesome’ if I didn’t dislike the word so much 😄

      2. One problem with ‘awesome’ is it’s overused and lost its meaning. Thank you for the massive compliment though 🙂 I’ll have another read of your story and let you know what I think. I’m no expert, but I know I’ve learned a lot from good criticism, so I’ll do my best.

      3. You’re welcome, and thanks for the feedback. You are spot on with a lot of what you’ve said but a difficulty is that I purposely make my stories a little indecipherable- perhaps too much so and that may be an issue in not understanding structural difference between short story and novel. Will reply to your message on my post tomorrow- too tired to do justice to your thoughtful feedback. Thanks again.

      4. I thought afterwards, I should have added, that the comments weren’t valid if you intended to be ambiguous. The reader still needs some guidance though, and that makes ambiguity a harder hand to play :)t

      5. Just realised I did exactly what I was talking about by saying your writing is great without elaborating. Generally: inventive, lovely poetic turns of phrase and what I love the most – you use few words really well. Stand out for me was the story you had multiple parts for about the girl in the library. Oh, and the parts of ‘abomination’ I’ve read to date.

      6. I’m so glad you said that! My writing does have a tendency to wax lyrical, I know, and I try to make sure the sentences don’t get too convoluted. Having said that, if it flows without glitches, you can use short, chopped up phrases for action and the contrast works well.

  3. oooooooh you’re doing fiction now – ok. I have some deadlines this week and I am still trying to crawl out after the bash exhaustion BUT I’ll try and join in next week 😀

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