Since I started blogging at the beginning of this year, I decided to focus more on flash fiction, partly as a break from the novel I started in November (see yesterday’s post). I’d dabbled in flash before and thought I knew what I was doing, but quickly realised that I didn’t have a clue! I always imagined it would be much easier to write a short short story – I mean, how difficult can it be to come up with 150 or 200 words? But when I wasn’t getting very far with the stories I wrote, I decided to focus a little more on the genre. I read a fantastic book by experts in the field, and this helped immensely – The Rose Metal Press Field Guide to Writing Flash Fiction.
In it Randall Brown says that the demand of the flash fiction form is
to view the constriction of time and space as a need for urgency and profundity.
So there’s no time to mess about, yet as Robert Olen Butler says,
a short story in its brevity, may not have a fully developed plot, but it must have the essence of a plot, yearning.
Lex Williford writes about flash fiction beginning in image. He says that
‘the story must have a complete reversal of some sort, and that reversal is usually carried by powerful, unforgettable images.’
Indeed the pieces of flash that stand out for me are generally those that paint clear pictures, that stay with me long after I’ve finished reading, and according to Jennifer Pieroni,
memorable images are natural elements of a scene that are developed to shock readers out of a routine feeling, mood or expectation.
Pia Z. Ehrhardt refers to the ‘load-bearing sentence,’ the sentence which feels like a mistake or change in direction, the one that makes you a little uncomfortable. She says you should trust that sentence as this is the sentence that the whole story hinges around.
One great thing about blogging is the blogging challenges and there are a few I’ve started to do regularly – ‘Flash Fiction for the Purposeful Practitioner‘ and ‘flash fiction for aspiring writers‘ to name two. I love the discipline of doing these and even more I enjoy reading what others have produced.
Another great little competition is ‘Ad Hoc Fiction.’ Every Wednesday we are given a word and asked to write a short story of 150 words or less including that word. The stories are all published in an e-book a week later and participants vote for the ones they like. The writer of the story that wins the most votes gets free entry into the The Bath Flash Fiction Award. As there are often around 100 entries, there’s little chance of winning but it’s free and fun to see what other people come up with, and trying to predict which story is going to win.
For the next two weeks I’m taking part in a flash fiction workshop run by a well-known flash fiction writer, Kathy Fish. Will keep you updated as to my progress; I’ve heard great things about her so I’m really looking forward to it. There’s clearly a lot to writing flash fiction, but it both intrigues and challenges me in equal measure.