Photos, Uncategorized, World War 2, Writer's Life, Writing, Writing Inspiration

WWII Flash Fiction: “Changing Horizons”

red notebook writing

Author Trisha Faye runs “Pages of the Past: Celebrating Historical Fiction,” an excellent website, newsletter, and facebook group for historical fiction readers and writers.

She also hosted her first historical flash fiction contest this December, which I entered, and won!

For those of you not familiar with the term, flash fiction is characterized by its brevity. The shortest flash fiction I’ve ever attempted was for the (no longer running) Six Word Story Challenge. 

The “Pages of the Past” contest (thankfully) allowed for a few more words. Contestants chose one out of three historical photo prompts. Based on the photo we chose, we composed a 400-600 word story. My story came in at 600 words exactly. (Whew!)

Of the three photos, the one below caught my eye. It started me thinking about the millions of American women who entered the workforce during World War II, about how working outside the home changed their lives, and how their lives changed again as hostilities ended…

“Changing Horizons”

train ladies

Milly’s face ached, the smile plastered across it wearing thin. This has got to be the last photo, hasn’t it?

“Just one more, girls! You,” the newspaper photographer pointed to Lorna, who was whispering to Nanette, “could we get a smile on this one? Please? Remember, you’re the happy, hardworking women of the Homefront!”

Milly suppressed a sigh. C’mon Lor, just play along so we can get back to work.

Lorna rolled her eyes. “Okay, okay.” She flashed him a wide grin. “Better?”

Snap. “Perfect!” he said, then muttered, “Finally.”

Flexing her stiff jaw, Milly asked, “We’re done, then?”

Without waiting for an answer, Nanette slid down from her perch above the locomotive’s “cow catcher,” allowing the hammer she’d posed with to settle into the dust. Lorna hopped down too, continuing her stream of talk. “When Steve gets home, we figure we’ll get married right away, especially if he can get back his job at the foundry…”

The photographer didn’t notice Milly’s question, or Lorna’s interruption. He pulled out a silk handkerchief to wipe down his nice Graflex camera, grimacing at the dust and dirt of the train yard.

Milly climbed down from her perch and sidled past Nanette and Lorna, who was outlining her future life in rapid detail. It seemed like the whole town had couldn’t stop talking about the future since this morning’s headline: Allies Liberate First German City.

Aachen had been taken just yesterday. American forces were in control of a city on German soil. Finally, after all these years, it seemed like the end of the war might be in sight.

And soon, Milly thought, everything will change.

Pursing her lips, she took a deep breath and willed the tears away. Better get back to work. It doesn’t bear worrying about. But first, she wanted to make sure this task was done. Stepping closer to the photographer, she asked again, “Excuse me—are we done?”

He glanced up at her, wrapping his camera flash as carefully as a new mother swaddling her baby, and blinked. “What? Oh, sure. Yep. All done.”

Nodding, she turned to go, but he continued talking. “Bet you girls are looking forward to getting out of all this.” His nod took in the whole train yard—the smells of oil and coal dust, the haze of steam, the echoing cacophony of metal on metal and voices of workers hollering to and at each other. “Back to normal life. Back home.”

Milly opened her mouth, then closed it. He watched her, waiting for an answer as she wracked her brain for an honest, acceptable response.

Mercifully, Lorna stepped in. “You bet we are!” She snapped her gum loudly as she grinned. “I mean, it hasn’t been so bad. But once the boys all come home, I’ll sure be glad to leave these aching muscles and this dusty hair behind!”

Nanette laughed and agreed, and Milly took the chance to slip into the background, to gather up the hammers and search out something to keep her hands busy.

Gravel crunched underfoot as she tried to outdistance thought. Of course, I’m glad the war’s looking to be over soon…but…

Things would be different if Matt hadn’t…if it hadn’t been for that sniper in Sicily.

One of the fellas working up in the locomotive called to her. She waved and glued on a smile. After Matt, this job had given her purpose. She’d made friends here.

Glancing back at Lorna and Nan laughing, rejoicing over the bright future they could see ahead, she bit her lips and faced forward, squinting into a hazy, smoke-obscured horizon.


cover photo, Image may contain: 1 person, possible text that says 'Pages of the Past CELEBRATING HISTORICAL FICTION ................... Kellemes pünkasdi innepeket!'

If you’re interested in trying your hand at some historical flash fiction, the next contest is running now through March. All you have to do is sign up for Author Trisha Faye’s newsletter and follow the directions below! (Copied from her newsletter. A link to the source and the new photo prompts is here.)

It’s Flash Fiction Contest Time! Enter your flash fiction story for a chance to win a $50 gift card.

Write a 400-600 word story to one of the three pictures below. Email your entry to with ‘CONTEST ENTRY – (title of your story)’ in the subject line.
Entries are due by midnight, Friday, March 20th. The stories will be printed in the April 3rd newsletter.

A PDF will be compiled with all the stories and posted on Facebook, allowing others a chance to read the stories and send in their votes. The contest will run until April 12th at midnight. The winner will be announced in the April 17th newsletter.

The winner receives a $50 gift card.

Here are links to join Trisha on facebook: Log into Facebook | Facebook

…and to sign up for her newsletter: Get Pages of the Past delivered to your inbox every Friday!


What about you, Readers and Writers- have you found an interesting sources for historical fiction, or chances to flex your writing muscles? I’d love to hear your thoughts- thanks for stopping by!


If you’re interested in checking out more of my writing, my historical fiction novel, Whom Shall I Fear?  is available on in paperback and for Kindle. It is available to read for FREE for Kindle Unlimited subscribers.

Whom Shall I fear mini ad 4

28 thoughts on “WWII Flash Fiction: “Changing Horizons””

    1. Thanks Joy- full disclosure, it was the first contest for the site and so the number of competitors was small, but it was good to get me writing, and I was pretty happy with how the piece turned out 😉 I like her new photos for the next one- it will be fun to see what folks come up with!


  1. Thanks Anne for sharing about the next upcoming contest. I plan to do one every quarter – so there will be more chances for winners!
    I’m glad you’re sharing Changing Horizons here, so that your readers can read your excellent short story too!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I can see why you won, Anne. The story seems to capture the moment so perfectly. The twist caught me by surprise. Sad that women had to take two steps backward after the war but the seed of independence had been planted. –Curt

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks so much for your kind words, Curt!

      Yes, it must have been a big shift for them, both at the beginning of the war and then after, huh? I am thankful for the options of today- and for the chances I’ve had to see how valuable both roles are- my time working strictly in my home with the kids, and working in the wider world 🙂


  3. I’m not at all surprised you won Anne. As always, you write beautifully, evoking the time and mood. I’ve recently discovered ‘flash fiction’ as a specific genre & have been dabbling, but you’ve inspired me to get a bit more serious about it. Keep up the (very) good work!

    Liked by 1 person

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