Zack Umstead, Young Writer

November 6, 2012

Business Card Fiction

This year, one of the classes I’ve been taking is Creative Writing. Sounds like a ton of fun, right? Well, it does to me, but so far, we haven’t done a heck of a lot of writing in Creative Writing, and what we have done is mostly nonfiction. But we are now finally beginning to write fiction, and I couldn’t be happier. Whenever I get the chance (and the story’s good), I’ll post what I’ve written on here. This first post was an odd prompt – we were given a picture prompt, the painting by George Tooker you see here, and were told to write a piece of fiction about it. Simple enough, except there was a catch – we could only write it on the front and back of a business card-sized piece of card stock. Not the easiest thing to fit a full plot arc on. I tried my best, and I think you’ll like it. Go ahead and read below!

The Bureau of Time

Walter shuffled forward in line. “Name, please,” the man asked.

“Walter Robinson.”

“How long are you requesting?”

“Eight years.”

The man behind the counter punched a few keys. He had the same face as everyone else behind the counters. That was for protection – there were dangers in this job. “I can’t give you that. At most, you have seven months.”

“Seven months!” Walter cried. “I need more than that!”

“I can’t give you more than that, sir. I suggest you live your life while you can.”

“Oh, you’ll give me more than that!” Walter pulled a handgun and pointed it right at the clerk’s face.

“I’m sorry sir,” he said without emotion. “I can’t help you.”

Walter pulled a trigger and the bullet punched a clean hole through the robot. He emptied the rest of the clip in the two guards coming toward him, also robots. As he was taken away, he heard the clerk say, “Enjoy your life, sir.”

And just for a bit of fun, here’s a picture of the front and back of the card, with a quarter for scale.



  1. very cool exercise and implementation There’s a serious story there trying to get out.

    Comment by Dave Mcallister (@dwmcallister) — November 8, 2012 @ 3:24 PM | Reply

    • Thanks! I feel like that happens a lot when I have limited space or word count – I always try to tell more than can fit.

      Comment by Zack — November 8, 2012 @ 9:11 PM | Reply

  2. wow, this is remarkable. You should flesh this out a bit and make it a short, instead of a mini.

    Comment by Julie Weathers — November 8, 2012 @ 3:27 PM | Reply

  3. I want to read more!! Really cool story.

    Comment by Candice De La Luz — November 8, 2012 @ 3:28 PM | Reply

  4. I love it

    Comment by Jo (@jms_1174) — November 8, 2012 @ 3:29 PM | Reply

  5. Sometimes the best stories can be told in a few lines. I would be interest to see more. I really liked it, great job.

    Comment by Trish Dugo — November 8, 2012 @ 3:30 PM | Reply

  6. Good short-short story. Cheers, @Gurdur

    Comment by Tim Skellett (@Gurdur) — November 8, 2012 @ 3:31 PM | Reply

  7. I hope you’ll let us know when The Bureau of Time is released. Great job! 😀

    Comment by denise616 — November 8, 2012 @ 3:33 PM | Reply

  8. I like it. I think you can make it even shorter w/out losing anything, & add a bit of description near the beginning.

    Comment by David Kopaska-Merkel — November 8, 2012 @ 3:37 PM | Reply

    • Hmm, interesting. What exactly did you have in mind?

      Comment by Zack — November 8, 2012 @ 9:12 PM | Reply

  9. What a fantastic job you did with that exercise in brevity! Seriously, the creativity you were able to encapsulate into so few lines is really impressive.

    Comment by Steph (@ssbpiphany) — November 8, 2012 @ 4:20 PM | Reply

  10. Eerie and imagination-grabbing! Even though it’s only a few short lines, you captured the essence of the story. Well done!

    Comment by Jessica Marcarelli (@jmarcarelli) — November 8, 2012 @ 4:24 PM | Reply

  11. Just enough to grab you, hold you and pull you in! Excellent!

    Comment by Shane Midgley (@V8_Ranger) — November 8, 2012 @ 4:26 PM | Reply

  12. there’s more than one way to get what you want. you demonstrated that quite well in a tightly packed space. nicely done.

    Comment by turtlesong17 (@turtlesong17) — November 8, 2012 @ 4:31 PM | Reply

  13. Love that!

    Comment by baldini — November 8, 2012 @ 4:55 PM | Reply

  14. I really love this. Great interpretation, original ideas. Good job!

    Comment by baldini — November 8, 2012 @ 4:59 PM | Reply

  15. Very good. I enjoyed it. there is a group, Prose3@writing or something like that, he’d fit in our prose3, we’re sci fi, horror and fantasy.

    When I took English 101 I think, I did my cause and effect paper on the premise “washing your car makes it rain.’ It all started with a man named Noah who had a camel named Porsche. Have fun writing. It’s worth it.
    love, LinnAnn

    Comment by LinnAnn Pike — November 8, 2012 @ 5:55 PM | Reply

  16. The title is a book that I want to read…An intriguing little gem and a sound reminder of the potential all around us. Good work and thank you for sharing dude.

    Comment by niclouisejones — November 8, 2012 @ 6:27 PM | Reply

  17. Brother, you NAILED it. An excellent and well told story. Well done, Zack. (May I call you Zack, or do you prefer Mr. Umstead?)


    Comment by @Comkey — November 8, 2012 @ 7:25 PM | Reply

  18. Thanks all for the great comments! You guys really blew this post up (in a good way!)

    Comment by Zack — November 8, 2012 @ 9:14 PM | Reply

  19. Nice work writing a story that matches the image.

    Comment by Juliet — November 9, 2012 @ 6:54 AM | Reply

  20. Hey Zack! I agree with previous comments that you could really develop this story. You made me want to read much more. Great job.

    Comment by Laurie Laliberte — November 9, 2012 @ 11:06 AM | Reply

  21. You really did a great job of matching the story to the image without making it about the image, I seriously think you should expand upon this!

    Comment by Lexy — December 3, 2012 @ 8:09 AM | Reply

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