Flash Fiction: Ten Views Of A Pencil

This week’s Flash Fiction Challenge is short and simple. It is “not a flash fiction challenge so much so much as an experimental writing exercise.” Take a thing (an object, a person, an emotion) and describe it in ten different ways, one sentence each. Okay, I can do this. Remind me to tell you some time about my art classes at UC Irvine in the late 1970’s…

As always, comments and constructive criticisms are appreciated.


  1. It was painted yellow, not quite sharp but not quite dull, Dixon-Ticonderoga #2, about five inches long, and had been found embedded in the eye of the victim all the way up to the green, metal cap on the end.
  2. I found it in a drawer along with a handful of pens, but when all of the ink came up dry and the pens useless, the pencil still worked just fine for scrawling a warning on the wall.
  3. Eventually the cat and I settled on an old stub of a pencil as a crude but effective cat toy, something I could mindlessly flick across the room to be pursued and briefly batted around by her before she resumed her aloof disdain of everything except for her bathing.
  4. Clarity came when she realized that her life was like an old pencil with a rock-hard eraser, unable to correct errors without making an even bigger mess, but if she got a new outlook on life it would be like putting a new eraser cap on that pencil, bringing about a resurrection of purposefulness through a single, simple change.
  5. Six sided around the longitudinal axis, pointed at one end with a protrusion of graphite at the core, a metal cap and pink rubber tip at the opposite end.
  6. Bored to tears in the class, she had used a red pen to color the pale white wood at the pointed end of the pencil, the part on that frustum between the lead and the yellow paint — only to see all of that effort ground away the next time she sharpened it.
  7. Urban legend says that the Russians used a simple, reliable, perfected technology pencil on their early spacecraft when the United States spent millions inventing a “space pen”, but no matter how good of a story that was, it simply wasn’t true.
  8. Given identical boxes of ten thousand new, sharpened pencils, the researchers found that many of the fine arts majors gave them away to local grade schools, while almost all of the engineering majors used them in contests to see how many could get embedded in acoustic ceiling tiles.
  9. Inanimate, non-sentient, nothing but a simple tool with ancient roots, alone by itself it’s a glorified stick — but when picked up by a poet or artist, from the pencil’s tip spills out a sonnet, a sketch, an invention, a love letter, a landscape, an insight, a portrait, a novel, or a symphony.
  10. Forced to stay inside, the children were becoming restless until we found a large box of long forgotten pencils, of all colors and lengths and types, which worked wonderfully well for an improvised game of “pick up sticks.”



Filed under Writing

2 responses to “Flash Fiction: Ten Views Of A Pencil

  1. Greg

    Your approach to this exercise brought back memories of high school for me and an experience that probably led me towards a more analytical approach to writing (and a career in technical, marketing writing rather than creative fiction). Had I chosen to describe a pencil,, my list would have been simple statements such as:

    It is yellow.
    It is about seven inches long.
    It has a point at one end and a rubber thing on the other.

    So what does this have to do with a high school memory. I remember an English class assignment where we were given a picture and told to write something about it. The picture was a clock. What I turned in was a story that started out with the main character thinking about time and then went on to some challenge (I don’t remember what) he was facing because he didn’t have enough time for it. The teacher gave me a low grade because I had not focused my story on the actual clock. I had let the clock spark ideas that I then wrote about, much like you have let a pencil spark 10 different scenes. All of that to say, I like the way you approached the assignment. I, on the other hand, described my dog’s food bowl more the way a technical writer would. I suppose both approaches are useful.


    • Thanks, Greg, I’m glad that my “writing exercise” connected with you so well. I had sort of the opposite experience on a couple of occasions – maybe I’ll write about it today (or soon at least).


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