A group blog featuring an international array of killer mystery, suspense, and romantic suspense writers. With premises and story lines different from your run-of-the-mill whodunits, we tend to write outside the box. We blog several times a week on all topics relating to romantic suspense and mystery, our writing, and our readers. We welcome all comments and often have guest bloggers. All our authors can be contacted separately, too, using their own social media links.

We find our genre delightfully, dangerously, and deliciously exciting - join us here, if you do too!

Julie Moffet . Cathy Perkins . Jean Harrington . Daryl Anderson . Nico Rosso . Maureen A Miller . Sandy Parks . Lisa Q Mathews . Sharon Calvin . Lynne Connolly . Janis Patterson . Vanessa Keir . Tonya Kappes . Julie Rowe . Joni M Fisher . Leslie Langtry

Friday, July 15, 2016

Flash...and the story's there!

I recently entered a flash fiction challenge, to write 300 words on the topic of "Flight", in a science-fiction or fantasy setting.

A favourite question in our house, when faced with the amazing / astounding / bemusing things people do, is "But WHY?". The first thing is of course that, when I see the word "challenge" - also "contest", "deadline", and "dare" - is that my fingers itch to join in! It's just me, I'm afraid.

But this was particular fun on a couple of levels. I've written before about the fun of trying another genre, and I'm also a fan of Flash Fiction. But what can you do in 300 words? someone may ask (more politely than just going "WHY??"). What kind of challenge is it to scribble down what is, in essence, just a few paragraphs? How frustrating is it? How rewarding is it? Isn't it a waste of your precious writing time when you have that novel to finish by the end of the month????

Well, I can tell you, it's actually empowering! It's by no means wasted time: in fact, it can bring immediate gratification, it's free from publisher/deadline stress, often free from your branded genre, and FUN. That's not to say it doesn't have its own difficulties and skills required - it's NOT just a case of dashing off 100-1000 words, at least not if you want it to be successful and satisfying.

There's potential too - you may end up creating a draft that grows into a much longer project. A great book to read about this is The Short and Long of It: Expand, Adapt and Publish your Short Fiction by Paul Alan Fahey - with loads of entertaining and thought-provoking examples.

I hadn't read the article excerpted below from flash fiction author David Gaffney until recently, but I'm overjoyed to see it sums up exactly how I feel emotionally about flash fiction.

How to write flash fiction

1. Start in the middle.
You don't have time in this very short form to set scenes and build character.

2. Don't use too many characters.
You won't have time to describe your characters when you're writing ultra-short. Even a name may not be useful in a micro-story unless it conveys a lot of additional story information or saves you words elsewhere.

3. Make sure the ending isn't at the end.
In micro-fiction there's a danger that much of the engagement with the story takes place when the reader has stopped reading. To avoid this, place the denouement in the middle of the story, allowing us time, as the rest of the text spins out, to consider the situation along with the narrator, and ruminate on the decisions his characters have taken. If you're not careful, micro-stories can lean towards punchline-based or "pull back to reveal" endings which have a one-note, gag-a-minute feel – the drum roll and cymbal crash. Avoid this by giving us almost all the information we need in the first few lines, using the next few paragraphs to take us on a journey below the surface.

4. Sweat your title.
Make it work for a living.

5. Make your last line ring like a bell.
The last line is not the ending – we had that in the middle, remember – but it should leave the reader with something which will continue to sound after the story has finished. It should not complete the story but rather take us into a new place; a place where we can continue to think about the ideas in the story and wonder what it all meant. A story that gives itself up in the last line is no story at all, and after reading a piece of good micro-fiction we should be struggling to understand it, and, in this way, will grow to love it as a beautiful enigma. And this is also another of the dangers of micro-fiction; micro-stories can be too rich and offer too much emotion in a powerful one-off injection, overwhelming the reader, flooding the mind. A few micro-shorts now and again will amaze and delight – one after another and you feel like you've been run over by a lorry full of fridges.

6. Write long, then go short.
Create a lump of stone from which you chip out your story sculpture. Stories can live much more cheaply than you realise, with little deterioration in lifestyle. But do beware: writing micro-fiction is for some like holidaying in a caravan – the grill may well fold out to become an extra bed, but you wouldn't sleep in a fold-out grill for the rest of your life.

Off you go!
by David Gaffney


by Clare London

with some favourite examples of micro fiction!


Wynter said...

I've never heard of flash fiction before, but it sounds like a worthwhile endeavor. And there's some great writerly advice in your post. Thanks!

jean harrington said...

Wow! This was quite a post, Clare. The steps involved are brilliant--I especially took #3 to heart. And the two examples of flash fiction are stunners. Good, good job! Thank you.

mindprinter said...

Thanks so much, Clare, for the shout out of "The Short and Long Of It." Truly generous of you. Great article and loved the tip list you provided. It's great fun to write flash. Hugs your way cross the pond, Paul.

Elise Warner said...

Reads like a great learning experience plus fun and good advice. Thank you, Clare.

Clare London said...

Wynter, it's a phrase I learned when I was writing fanfiction - along with "ficlet", "snippet", "AU" and "PWP" LOL.

I really enjoy writing different length pieces, and stretching different skills.

Rita said...

Thanks for this. I must admit I don't understand flash fiction

Clare London said...

LOL Rita, I know, it's a very different mindset! But can be fun :)

More Popular Posts