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Tuesday, 18 June 2013

About Writing: Penning A Flash Fiction

Flash Fictions are very short stories that command words of at least 300 and up to 1000, maybe with an allowance of about a hundred more.

Psh! You say. What's in a 1000 words that I can't drum up in... just give me one hour?

And I'll say, Go ahead. If you can prepare something sumptuous to feed my eyes and mind and understanding in that short a time and using accurately that much number of words, kudos! Now close this web page or switch to something else more worth your time.

Truth is, writing an actual short story (2000 - 5000 words) is easier than a flash, I find. I've tried. I'd failed countless times and it was until recently that I started to get the hang of it.

What makes writing Flash pieces difficult? Economy, summation and summarization. You don't have the freedom you get in writing short stories and novelettes in development and expatiation. So how to go about it.

Of course, to begin on any writing (both fiction and non-fiction), you must have an idea. But an idea is too big for a flash, that I first found out. Because in an idea are many facets of events that any creative mind can spring up. Luckily, you don't need to utilize the whole idea to write a flash, no. Those clamoring facets your mind gathered, just one will do.

For example, early last month, I tried to write a zombie flash. What terrible choice. When I picked it, a lot of serious, crazy, stupid and funny ideas were kicking around. I couldn't focus on any one without having a stream of subplots engulfing my thoughts. So what to do...

I picked my pen and started a tree. At the top was apocalypse in bold, then subplots events, subsubplots group survivors and I kept going till I had a character, in a family, in a group, escaping together, through an overrun city, where government had promised protection... I concentrated on the character and on one happening, simple but complex, tuned down to its very basicness. Now with that achieved, I had my character, his placement, a beginning, a middle and eventually an ending that left me hanging.

Once you've picked your outline, then it's time to start. How? Easy. The first few lines (or more appropriately, the first three paragraphs) must contain details about the character and his situation. You could say the back story should be defined within these paragraphs. The reader should, by the end of these paragraphs know what's happening and who's involved with or in what's happening. With that achieved, we can move to our main body.

In the main content, the situation that involves the main character, and others, plays out, where the main action takes place. This is the trickiest portion of a flash as one can become too involved to write beyond planned. Here, you must know how to tell a lot with very little words, which unfortunately falls beyond this scope. It's another topic for another week. (I have however left some pointers at the end of this post.)

If you have reductivism under your control, then brilliant! The end part is, well, the end. Here, your reader must have gained the satisfaction similar to that gained from completing novels and other large pieces of work. I like to leave cliffhangers in mine. It's a flash, yes, but why did it end there? What would've happened next if it had gone on?

How to minimize your work without affecting quality
  • Avoid over-description. In the end, you would've used up more words in describing a place than in describing what's actually happening in it which is of more interest to the reader.
  • Avoid using metaphors and similes (In short, keep a very minimal use of comparisons. In fact, it would be best if you completely do without them. They waste words. As fast as, as strong as)
  • Use contractions. He will can be shortened to He'll and Will not can be shortened to won't.
  • After writing a sentence, cross-check to see that there is a way to further shorten it.
Thank you for having my tips occupy you. Have a great day.

Quote Of The Day
Normally, I work out a general summary of what I mean to do, then start writing, and the details can be different from my anticipation. So there is considerable flow, but always within channels.
~Piers Anthony

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