• Micro Fiction Contest: “These Pictures Were in Water-Colours”

    Posted Posted by David Duhr in Micro Fiction Challenge     Comments 63 comments



    Discussion question: Using fifty words or fewer, write a short story, scene, aphorism, snippet, etc., that includes the line “These pictures were in water-colours.” Write or past your story into the comments.



    It’s been a real minute since we last did a Micro Fiction Challenge, and I feel like it comes at a good time — I’ve heard from more than a few of you lately struggling to get words on the page. (You We know who you we are.)

    Let’s just say that our hottest one-on-one service is writer’s block counseling. And I’m thinking of entering it myself.

    One thing I am managing to do is work my way through, for the third time, Jane Eyre. Why three times? Well, A) Why not, it’s an awesome book, but, B) I haven’t read it since ~2005 and I have to get to discuss it on an upcoming Yak Babies.

    So this morning I opened to a random page (132 of my Bantam Classic) and let my eyes come a rest where they would, and here’s the first line I saw:

    “These pictures were in water-colours.”

    Strikes me as excellent fodder for a Micro Fiction Challenge.


    What Is This Contest and How Do I Enter?

    In fifty (50) words or fewer, write a story, scene, joke, snippet, aphorism — take it in whatever direction you want; it doesn’t have to be fiction, despite the title — that includes the line “These pictures were in water-colours.”

    (And let’s say “water-colours” is one word, since it’s so in the book and in Merriam-Webster.)

    Enter as many times as you wish.

    Write or paste your story/stories in the comments section below.

    Submit your entries by the end of Sunday, July 4. I’ll announce the winner in the comments and in the following weekend’s email message (which, if you don’t already receive, you can sign up for in the right sidebar).

    My favorite story (stories?) will earn its writer his/her choice of book from the WBN library.


    You’ll Choose a Winner Based on What, Exactly?

    The usual metrics: style, concision (obviously), humor. Whimsy (mine).

    And I’ll take into account the number of thumbs-up each story receives. So if you really enjoy someone else’s piece, be a sport and give it an upvote.

    If you find yourself self-sabotaging, feel free to talk about it in our previous post, “How Do You Self-Sabotage?

    Good luck!


    WriteByNight is a writers’ service dedicated to helping you reach your creative potential. We work with writers of all experience levels working in all genres. Browse our book coachingmanuscript consultationpublication assistance services, and sign up for your free writing consultation today.

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    WriteByNight writing coach and co-founder David Duhr is fiction editor at the Texas Observer and co-host of the Yak Babies podcast, and has written about books for the Dallas Morning News, Electric Literature, Publishing Perspectives, and others.



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    “Good Lord, look what you’ve done!”

    “What the hell, Dad. So what if I left the windows open? They’re just a bunch of stupid pictures and, anyway, you never liked them because mom painted them.”

    “These pictures were in water-colours. They’re ruined! Your carelessness decided for me, you little shit!”


    We left everything behind, eager to get to India and safety. In my memory, these pictures were in water-colours: it was monsoon season, the air thick with water, the jungle emerald green. Our sandals churned the mud on the nearly impassable track. Amma, in her yellow sari, clutched my hand.


    Thank you! It’s a fragment of a book that needs to be written, a memoir of a Deaf Bhutanese refugee who is a friend of mine.


    When CSI was done with pictures, Smith lifted the note from the body.
    Masters weep.”
    “That a suicide note?” I asked, frowning over the reproductions of famous paintings filling the backyard, all ruined by the rain.
    “A painter’s idea of one, maybe,” Smith said. “These pictures were in water-colours.”

    Susan W. Green

    Gina entered the cavernous first floor of the chateau and was overwhelmed by the Italian architecture and gleaming white terrazzo tile floors. Artwork was hanging at varying heights along the hallway. A collage of pictures literally took her breath away. These pictures were in water-colours. 

    Susan W. Green

    The teacher walked around the room to view the completed work of her beginner art students. As she neared the last row, she was immediately struck by the quality of the paintings done by Alize. These pictures were in water-colours.

    Susan W. Green

    It’s not what the agent had contracted him to do. These pictures were in water-colours, not charcoals. John knew in his heart that these paintings were the best work he ever did. Maybe he’d finally found his true artform. 

    Kris Lindbeck

    I put down his poetry in puzzlement. His music career had imploded like a black hole—later, he had served time for drug-dealing. I was hoping for some relatable agony, even scandal.

    These pictures were in water-colours . . . why haiku?

    Reading again, more carefully, I started to understand.


    “These pictures are in water-colours, fluid, adaptable. In my mind they are so bright and hopeful…buoys against the tides of life, even though I once found them to be dark and cumbersome loads. Allow people to change. Allow yourself to change. Please tell your mother it’s not her fault.”

    Kris Lindbeck

    Going through my mother’s things
    a strange task, not a sad one,
    when I thought that I was done,
    I found an unexpected gift of wings.

    At the bottom of a box, put away
    from college days, paintings of hers!
    These pictures were in water-colors
    grosbeaks, hummingbirds and jays.

    Kris Lindbeck

    Two notes. First, I am indeed going through my mothers things after her death at 93, and although I have not found watercolors I found some a few years past when sorting old papers with her (though not of birds).
    Second, I don’t think I can revise a comment, but imagine the second line thus: (a strange task, not a sad one),

    Kris Lindbeck

    If I remember correctly, it was because the line ” an unexpected gift of wings” popped into my head to when I was thinking about rhymes for “things” ;-)
    Writing rhyming poetry can do things like that.
    My more usual poetic medium is haiku, and I also write free verse, but for 50 word 2 stanzas was just right.
    And yes, I see the little “gear” on the lower right — and just used it to write this! — but it goes away after I time, I believe.

    Last edited 2 years ago by Kris Lindbeck
    Jerry Schwartz

    These pictures were in water-colors: calm blue; hopeful yellow; and the reddish-brown of despair. He didn’t know anything about art, but he’d seen dried blood before.

    Last edited 2 years ago by Jerry Schwartz
    Jerry Schwartz

    I dive the reefs and take a lot of photos, and sometimes I turn them into paintings. I use acrylics. The fish, the corals, everything is so bright. But these pictures were in water-colors, and they were brilliant.

    Jerry Schwartz

    Nope. I’m not a strong swimmer. I’ve gone down in a plexiglass submersible and in a diving helmet, but not to anything as interesting was what you see in the nature specials.

    I wondered if you (or anyone) would pick up my play on words.

    Last edited 2 years ago by Jerry Schwartz
    Sid Kemp

    Three Reasons I cannot say “These Pictures Were in Water-colours.”

    • HS English teacher told me no British spellings. Watercolors.
    • A red line appears under “colours” on screen.
    • No American says, “in water-colors.” “Were water colors, or painted in “water color,” sure.

    I never learned to draw inside the lines.

    Sid Kemp

    Good news, David. A red line under your name means you’ve been noticed! Even computer systems recognize not only your existence, but your uniqueness! :-)

    Lindsay Belle Sobolik

    Another dirty sock. Another half empty glass. Jen wandered her teenage sons’ bedroom aimlessly cleaning as she silently cursed her boys. These selfish, disgusting brutes who seemed obsessed with refuse and ruination.
    She stopped.
    What was this?
    These.. These still-wet pictures on their desks…These pictures were in water-colours.

    Last edited 2 years ago by Lindsay Belle Sobolik

    She lived her life in this hospital room.
    Painted her pain, dreams and fantasy places.

    Sunshine and sunflowers, red balloons, gold sunsets. Nurses, needles, stories in bed.

    Only five when she passed. Took her last breathe.

    These pictures were in water-colours, left on her bed. Make me smile, then cry.


    “These pictures were in water-colours originally,” the photographer said, adjusting an elbow. “Antique Curiosa. Real high-brow filth that Barons would collect.”
               One actor yawned, another cracked her neck. The light was sublime now, softening their naked angles into brushstrokes.
               “Arse up a bit more, Jackson,” he said, snapping. “That’s perfect.”

    Elissa Malcohn

    these pictures
    were in water-colours,
    blending with track light glare
    on framed glass,
    they reduced
    to white and silver feathers
    brushed on her
    until she could not recall
    the memories stilled
    by her own
    in the white
    matter, gray
    matter, dark

    Fred Peyer

    Policeman: “You claim somebody stole your oil paintings?”
    Homeowner: “No, these pictures were in water-colors.”
    Policeman: “And they abducted your wife?”
    Homeowner: “I guess, haven’t seen her since the pictures went missing.”
    Policeman: “How long ago was that?”
    Homeowner: “About a week.”
    Policeman: “What is more important?”
    Homeowner: “The pictures.”  


    These pictures were in water colors. More ‘s the pity, my love was oils

    Last edited 2 years ago by GaryB
    Alison Leigber

    Alone on the park bench, 
    our bench, 
    unbidden images pricked the corners of my eyes;  
    these pictures were in water-colours.
    Again, I recalled
    the blushed petals of your cheeks, 
    your russet hair, tousled with streaks of summer-gold, 
    eyes like echoes of autumn leaves…
    no whispers yet of winter’s impending frost. 

    Elissa Malcohn

    These pictures were in water-colours,
    a delicate touch depicting cracks,
    the gradual power of relentless flow
    to compromise steel,
    to overwhelm concrete.
    A smoking ruin on the news
    away from a turquoise beach.
    Light dripping into dark.
    Descents of gravity and rain.
    Dirty brushes
    bleeding into the glass.


    Tricia’s eyes were the exact green of the sample of trinitite he’d stolen from Alamogordo. She was with Warlord now, probably dead. The dog door flapped suddenly, and Warlord’s midget emissary clambered on to the desk and held out the scroll. The earlier communiques had been written in blood. Morgan took it with a shaking hand. Atomic green eyes, intertwined rings and a loving portrait of Warlord. These pictures were in water-colours. In code she’d written ,”be happy for me”.


    Ya know..ACFL is embedded imy DNA…I didn’t realize but yeah, Warlords of Alamogordo and Los Alamos (the Last Resort)…I may have been channeling my inner Old Benjamin…


    Roy Baty sat up. “I have seen things you people wouldn’t believe. Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. C- beams glittering near the Tannhauser gate. All these…pictures were in water-colours at this really kicky art sale this morning. You should go!”


    These pictures were in water-colours. The ones that kidnapped us. I tumbled inside, shocked. Explored the clocktower built of fresh brushstrokes. Awe. Wonder. 

    Slowly, my limbs stiffened. Panic. How to escape? Scrambling, frantic. Until my body dried mid-stride. New additions to the paintings. Terrified people, captured forever in water-colour.

    Linda Hanna Lloyd

    The water-colours I used blue, gray, and pink. After lying on the grass in the camp, and looking at the sky, I decided to paint the tent. I used a cup and threw splotches all over the tent. Then my hubby peeked out, he looked like the evening sky.

    Marka Acton

    “These pictures were in water-colors and done by my earliest friend,” was how grandmother had described them long ago. 
    Now, she too loves the paintings. Not because they are flawless masterpieces. It is the eternal beauty of the memory. The doorway to once again rest in Grandmother’s loving gentle embrace.


    Aunt Remmy would sip her sweet tea at noon, smiling coquettishly as she added, “just a splash of bourbon!”

    “The paintings of New Orleans,” I said. These pictures were in water-color and Remmy had painted them during her big band singing days when she learned to add — just a splash.


    She was happier here. It was hot, sure, but no men sneaking in to her at night. She was left alone to paint her memories on the backs of the damned. These pictures were in water-colours and were immediately washed away by sweat. The Light often stopped by and winked his eye at his foot-long cigarette, which instantly flamed. He approved of her horrific rapes, beatings and tortures and allowed her the freedom to work. It could be worse. It had been, when she was still alive…

    Aaron Infante-Levy

    Tears cascaded over me, washing away doubts about a medicine man wearing jeans and a flannel. With my eyes clenched tight as prayer, luminous pictures formed in the darkness. His hand was on my shoulder and he wept, painting color to form. These pictures were in water-colours.

    Shelly Dudley

    I’m on the train again. It fills a metaphorical need to leave, without the actual leaving.

    I stare out the window for hours. These pictures are in water-colours, the grey sky dripping and the red flowers bleeding. I want to jump in. But my tickets are always one way.

    Last edited 2 years ago by Shelly Dudley
    Shelly Dudley

    I know the contest is over… but stumbled on this site… and felt compelled to add one. :)

    Stefanie Chandler

    In Appalachian Mountains the hills of fall look like pictures painted by God himself.  “These pictures were in water-colours.” God gives the hills another wash of color each night. The colors so vivid, the view so beautiful, it is sometimes difficult to keep your eye on the road.     

    I an not sure why part of the post has a shadow. Sorry.

    Would love your thoughts, please comment.x