Can you have your carrot cake and eat it too - flash fiction

Can you have your carrot cake and eat it too?

Charli Mills flash fiction prompt "Carrot cake"

This week at the Carrot Ranch, Charli Mills challenged writers to In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about carrot cake. It can be classic or unusual. Why is there cake? How does it feature in the story. Go where the prompt leads.

Carrot cake is great for a celebration, and with Easter just around the corner, I decided to combine the two. I hope you like it.

A carrot cake for Easter

“What will we cook today?” asked Mum.

“Carrot cake!” chimed the twins.

“But you don’t like carrot cake.”

“Carrot cake. Carrot cake.”

“Why?”

“Well, it’s going to be–“

“Easter soon, and we want–“

“to give the Easter Bunny–“

“a surprise–”

“present.”

The twins smiled at each other.

“Okay,” smiled Mum. “Carrot cake it is.”

“Yay!”

“First, we need the carrots.”

The children raced ahead to the veggie patch.

“What–“

“happened?”

Their eyes opened wide. The carrot patch was devastated; not one carrot left.

“Carrot cake’s off,” said Mum. “That old rabbit can’t have carrot cake and eat them too.”

bunny eating carrot public domain picture

Thank you blog post

Thank you for reading. I appreciate your feedback, please share your thoughts; and if you can help me with the following two questions, that would be wonderful.

  1. How should I punctuate the twins’ dialogue to show that they are finishing each other sentences? Have I done it correctly? If not, how should I have shown it? I checked my style guide and online and couldn’t find an explanation.
  2. Word counted the em dashes I have used to punctuate the interruptions, but I haven’t. Should I have? Most punctuation is not counted as words.

Thanks for your advice.

49 thoughts on “Can you have your carrot cake and eat it too?

  1. Hugh's Views and News

    lol, I love it. That naughty Easter Bunny. It’s the reason why I told you to leave a slice of carrot cake out for him next Saturday night, Norah.
    As I read the story, I got the sense that the twins were saying the same things at the same time. They do say that twins can do that, don’t they? As for punctuation, I never count it towards word count.

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  2. reocochran

    This was a fun post and your flash fiction is great, Norah! The two boys look at each other and you mentioned “twins” so it was clear to Me. 🙂
    I liked the clever ending which I didn’t expect! That naughty bunny! 😉 xo 🐰🥕

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  3. Pingback: Carrot Cake « Carrot Ranch Literary Community

  4. Charli Mills

    Norah, you really have my brain whirring! First, I love your flash. The twins are so adorable, asking for a cake they don’t like but know the Easter Bunny will. I can sense Mom’s exasperation with the bunny who already ate his treat! But she holds it together well.

    So, onto em dashes. There are three dashes and multiple ways to use them — for example, I just created an acceptable em dash out of two hyphens with a space on either side. But a true em dash is the length of a printer’s “m” and an en dash is shorter, the length of a printer’s “n.” A hyphen is the shortest and typically used to join words. Businesses have more trouble with the punctuation than bloggers or authors because they often use dashes for ad copy (hours, recipes, lists). The important thing to remember is to be consistent.

    You are correct. The em dash is used to show interruption in dialog and does not use any spaces. However, you used an en dash. Although I am not a copy editor and I have not encountered your unique situation, I believe the proper punctuation is to also include the em dash at the beginning of each alternating interruption. I punctuated your story that way in the collection. It’s certainly not the final answer to your question! I hope to find out for certain, too.

    And yes, Word counts em dashes with no spaces as a word, which is why I create an em dash out of two hyphens with spaces or why other people put spaces before and after an em dash. This is technically incorrect but resolves the em dash counted as a word problem.

    Your best practice as a blogger is to be consistent with whatever style you accept. Globally, I believe most bloggers go with the journalistic style which is The Associated Press Style Book. However, literary bloggers (in the US) go with the Chicago Manual of style and academic bloggers have different guides according to science or humanities. It’s enough to blow up one editor’s head. I like to use Grammarly to catch all my tyops and faux pas and miscreant commas, but it does not allow for a more creative style for literature.

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    1. Norah Post author

      Thanks for all this wonderful information that you provided in addition to your comment to Anne, Charli. Maybe you are convincing me about Grammarly. I’ve not tried it yet. I’ve always thought I had a pretty good grasp of grammar and punctuation, but I must admit it can be confusing with all the different uses and rules internationally. I do refer to my Australian style guide, and check sources online if I am in doubt, but not everything is covered.
      I feel quite embarrassed about using the en dashes rather than the em dashes. As I explained elsewhere, I picked up an incorrect shortcut and didn’t even notice I was using the wrong thing – dash it all! Never mind. It’s a good lesson. I’m pleased I asked about the presentation of my dialogue, as I fear this conversation and learning may not have occurred without it. I’ll check how you have presented it in the compilation. Thank you for doing that. But I won’t change it here. I think it’s a great learning tool and the conversation won’t make sense if I do. Boy, have I learned a lot through this flash. Brilliant! Thank you. 🙂

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      1. Charli Mills

        You made this flash a great learning experience! And dash it all — don’t fret over the en dash em dash mix up. Many people are not even aware of them. Grammarly has a free version which works terrific. My biggest errors (because the track them and give me a report) pertain to commas. et they also track my most misspelled words, which is useful to know. According to them, I write, read and edit more than 99% of their users. If you join, would I be bumped to 98%? 🙂

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        1. Norah Post author

          That sounds like a challenge in the making, Mrs Mills. 🙂 I think you’re convincing me to check it out. I’m pretty sure I overuse commas too. I think of them as markers for pausing as much as for meaning, that’s why I have too many. I know (from proofing) that I frequently type ‘your’ instead of ‘you’. I wonder what others slip by. Although I read everything back before hitting ‘publish’ some sly misses slip through. I’m always mortified when I find them and am unable to correct them, like in a comment on someone else’s post. I think your 99% position is pretty safe. 🙂

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  5. Marcia Strykowski

    Cute story and that carrot cake looks delicious. I like em dashes, although I usually just use them with a word tight on either side. Using them that way, Word counts the words correctly. The ones in your story look more like en dashes instead of em, but still I’m not sure why Word would count them as extra words, usually this would happen only if there is added space.

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    1. Norah Post author

      Thanks, Marcia, for your kind words about the story and your helpful comment regarding my en dashes. Oh no! How embarrassing. I didn’t realise I was using en dashes by mistake. I’ve been using a keyboard shortcut I’d recently been told and hadn’t even thought to check if it was the right thing. A few of you have noticed so it should have been obvious to me too. I’ve now checked with Word and corrected them (in my original document, not here), and they are still counted. 😦 Maybe they need a word either side to be not counted? Actually I just checked. They were not counted when I added a word after. Interesting. Thanks so much for your guidance with this. Appreciated. 🙂

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  6. Jennie

    Very cute and enjoyable story, Norah. I know what you mean about the dialogue. As the reader, I understood that the twins were finishing each other’s sentences. Yet, had I written the flash, I also would have wanted it to be clearer to my readers. Make sense? And I don’t see a way to do that.

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  7. Annecdotist

    Sweet story, Norah.
    I’m not sure what the official line on your punctuation would be, apart from that your closing quotation marks are the wrong way round, but I imagine that’s due to the technology rather than you.
    Personally, I prefer a new speaker to start with a capital letter, even if it’s midsentence, or with a dash at the beginning as you have at the end.
    No way should Word count your em dashes! Although your use is correct I don’t like ems myself (I don’t like the look of the way they don’t give a space after the word, I treat ellipses the same, inserting them after a space, although the official line is that my way is wrong). Although I’d rather see an em than a hyphen misused to represent a dash!

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    1. Norah Post author

      Thanks for your detailed report, Anne. I have noticed those pesky quotation marks that insist on being the wrong way round before, but didn’t this time. I’m not quite sure why it happens, but it happened after each em dash this time, so they obviously like the em dash no better than either you or I do.
      Okay about the new speaker’s capital letter. I wasn’t sure about that since it was really the continuation of the sentence, but new speaker capital letter makes sense to me.
      I agree about em dashes. I’ve never had much use for them before but I much prefer a space before and after them. They looked jammed in otherwise. But who am I to know? Which is why I asked for help with these things when I couldn’t seem to find advice pertaining to this situation. I’m probably guilty of using hyphens instead of dashes, though Word does often correct them.
      The funny thing with quotation marks is that Australian publishers have a preference for single quotation marks. I was taught, and children are still taught, double quotation marks at school. They call them sixty-sixes and ninety-nines. I have decided that in my work I will stick to double quotation marks as that is what the children are taught. If I submit something to a publisher, I can change it then. When I attended an editing seminar a few years ago, the editor suggested we used double quotation marks in our drafts, since they are used in some international markets (US, not sure about UK) and it is much easier to find and change all double quotes to single, than the other way round because of apostrophes. I thought it was pretty good advice, and I’m sticking to it. 🙂

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      1. Charli Mills

        It is funny that we are talking quotation marks, and Norah, I’m glad you brought up how they are taught in Australia. In Vol. 1 (as will be the case in Vol. 2) I wanted to create a hybrid style guide that allowed for country of origin flexibility. C Jai Ferry did the line editing and I remember getting her emails about what to do with the random use of quotation marks across the globe! We both scratched our heads because we couldn’t figure out why Americans didn’t follow American style consistently, and why Brits didn’t follow British style consistently, and we had no idea what was going on in Australia! In the end, C Jai made quotation mark usage as consistent as possible (I think we accepted that the Aussies would be roped into the American double-quotation marks). It’s not only the difference between single or double, each country has different style rules regarding how and when punctuation goes in or out of the quotation marks. And did you know, when you omit letters or numerals and represent that omission with a single quotation mark, the curvature points toward the omission such as the ’80s, not the ‘80s? Then there’s the issue of using quotation marks versus italics to indicate irony or highlight a phrase…Ah! Style…!

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        1. Norah Post author

          Quotation marks, apostrophes, ellipses, italics, en dashes and em dashes! There’s too many rules! It’s hard to learn them all. There is good help available, but I got my em dashes wrong when I learned a shortcut from someone who didn’t know. However, it’s not their fault; it’s mine, I didn’t check, and when I was proofing, I was concentrating on the words.
          Anne pointed out that the final quotation marks point the wrong way too. I’ve noticed this before and don’t know how to correct it. Sometimes the computer thinks it knows best. Sometimes it does, too. But not always. Thanks for your explanation. I think consistency is probably the best thing. I’ve begun a style guide for readilearn to make sure I’m consistent with how I write and show things there.

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          1. Annecdotist

            Great idea to produce your own style guide, Norah. I didn’t realise your dashes were ens either.
            I think the UK is moving towards single quotation marks, but double are also acceptable, so that’s what I use. Then there’s the case of quotations within quotations, for which I use single or italics (consistently!!!). But Charli, punctuation WITHIN always surely!
            Thanks for raising this issue, Norah. I know many don’t care, but I love the discussion!

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            1. Charli Mills

              Ha! Anne, I’ll have to look up the rules C. Jai had shared with me regarding within and without. When you delve deeply into these rules, you begin to sort the writers from the editors. Line editors are amazing and I don’t think enough writers appreciate what they do to bring consistency to written communication.

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              1. Norah Post author

                So many rules!!! It will be interesting to see what C. Jai has shared. Perhaps we need a Carrot Ranch style guide – like a fruit salad – a little bit of this and a little bit of that. Now wouldn’t that be confusing!!! (Apologies, I know – too many exclamation marks, and using hyphens for dashes. I don’t know how to make dashes in these comments. Who can tell me, please?)

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                  1. Norah Post author

                    I’ve tried space hyphen hyphen space, but it just looks like two hyphens in a row –. 🙂
                    It’s interesting the use of Title Caps for Titles as I had always done that; but when I was working as a writer for the Education Department, we were required to capitalise only the first word. This is what I follow in the titles of my posts and teaching resources – unless they happen to be a story and I capitalise each word (except the ‘little’ ones :)). Different practices internationally certainly make for confused writers. Or is that only me?

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                    1. Charli Mills

                      I’m so glad we have C Jai because she is a proficient line editor who speaks multiple languages and edits academic journals for international clients. She understands all the differences. I set some basic framework for structural consistency and then let her figure out the different rules between countries. I had not heard of capitalizing only the first letter in a title, but I see that used often in weekly responses at the Ranch.

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            2. Norah Post author

              It is an interesting discussion, Anne, and thank you for making it more so. I always use single quotations within quotations. There are times when the full stop goes outside the quotation marks (I remember being the go-to for this when I was working) but I can’t think of an instance off-hand. Interestingly, I did try to find one online and discovered this page (https://www.quickanddirtytips.com/education/grammar/how-to-use-quotation-marks) that says US punctuation always goes within, and British varies. 🙂 No wonder we get confused. So many are telling us different things. I think I’ll be checking out Charli’s grammarly to see if I agree with it. 🙂

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  8. D. Avery @shiftnshake

    Another fine flash. I’d say it all worked out if the twins don’t really like carrots. The bunny clearly got what she likes.
    Your punctuated dialogue was also clear. It was effectively done and I dare say correctly done. Go back to sleeping at night, it’s all good.

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