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Can’t handle the daunting task of reading the latest Stephen King or James Patterson. I’m right there with you, I have a hard time finishing books, my need for instant gratification maybe? Most likely the A.D.D. kicking in. I’m more of a magazine article type of guy. I have to read in short bursts and it must grab my attention quickly and hold it throughout the story. I will have that “Hey…is that a squirrel” moment once or twice in a 20 to 30-minute span. Flash fiction to the rescue! Flash fiction, sudden fiction and the like are short stories that are no longer than 1000 or 750 words respectively but still offers character and plot development.
I have recently started reading the New Yorker’s collection of flash fiction stories A summer of very short stories. Some grab me from the first sentence some I can’t finish the second. Others I think, “Wow, that could be a longer book I would get into.” I really suggest taking a look at some of these stories. Either while waiting in the doctors’ office or your next trip to the washroom.
Both Justin and I have had many individuals come to us saying, “I want to write a book,” or, “I have a great idea for a book.” While that is all well and good there is a big difference between an idea and finished book. Many don’t realize what it really takes to write; how to structure a book or develop characters. Flash fiction is the perfect writing exercise for the aspiring author. It will help develop all the skills needed for good story creation.
Here are some tips to help you get started writing:
- Picking a topic – Narrowing it down.
– When writing flash fiction, the smaller and more specific the topic the better. Look for precise ideas in broad topics and build on them. Take a topic like coming of age; narrow it down. Pick out some specific events that show the coming of age in young adolescents. For example: failing a class, standing up to a bully (or not), a girl’s first period, prom night or high school graduation. Now choose one of those events and write a story about it.
- No long-winded introductions – Short and sweet is key.
– It’s fast fiction, you don’t want to spend too much time on the introduction. Yes, you want to get as much background as possible but you don’t want to go over your word count and you don’t want to lose your reader. Try to fit everything you need in the first paragraph and then get on with your story. For example, a character’s background info can be worked into the story through flashbacks and memories rather than laying it all out in the opening paragraphs. Rope your readers in, then worry about background information.
- Roping in your reader – Start in the middle of the action.
– Begin right away with the action. Try to remember that flash fiction is usually a single scene in time; one moment that sticks out. Don’t describe more than you have to; let the reader fill in some of the blanks. This will keep them wanting more and in turn keep them reading your story.
- Think like a camera lens – Focus on a single moment or image in time.
– As I said this is meant to be one moment in time. Focus on one powerful image to base your story around. For example, a deserted town or a cresting river. Paint a picture with your words.
- Don’t give your reader everything at once – Keep the suspense going.
– It’s okay if your reader has no idea what’s going on in the majority of the story. Just tie it all together in the end with a nice bow. They’ll keep reading out of sheer curiosity and a wanting for understanding. This goes with roping in the readers.
- Using common knowledge is helpful – Reference telltale facts.
– If your story is part of something that is commonly known than references will save you time and words. Refer to historical events, location, etc. For example: say your story takes place in the 1920s, a single word like prohibition or a phrase like economic boom, would reference that entire era. By doing this you give the reader a load of background information in a single sentence.
- Give the readers a shock – Twist endings are best for flash fiction.
– Unlike a novel or short story, in flash fiction, there is simply not enough time or space to build up your story through its characters and background details. This can make it hard to come up with an ending that packs a punch for the readers. In this case, we can turn to the twist ending. Leave your readers with their mouth agape in surprise at the unexpected turn of events.
I am looking for some community input on this matter. I would like to start a flash fiction writing project/contest in the Ohio Valley for aspiring authors and maybe even a separate contest for middle and high school students. We would like to host submissions online. Read them aloud or invite the authors to read them during a live weekly podcast or youtube show. Then have the public pick or narrow down the winners.
Hopefully, I receive enough interest we can make this happen. I look forward to hearing everyone’s comments.