Short short stories Hint fiction/Flash Fiction
"The last man on earth sat alone in a room. There was a knock on the door ..." Fredric Brown
What is Flash Fiction • A unique type of story that has been whittled down to its essence whilst remaining a complete story, with plot, narrative, character/s, conflict, and resolution • Less than a 1000 words. Ideally between 300-500 words
Examples • Aesop Fables • Franz Kafka • Dubliners by James Joyce • Ernest Hemmingway
Elements of Flash Fiction • Setting is where the action takes place. This can be told in a sentence: She watched him go to bed. Or you can give out the setting in the title “ At the confession room” “backroom at Bhagdad” • Usually, there is not room for more than two characters. But realize "characters" don't always have to be human. In fact, they don't even have to be animate. Can you create a story about a pebble and a blade of grass trying to inhabit the same spot?
Elements of Flash Fiction • Conflict is just a difference of opinion--tension to keep the reader reading. It can be verbal, physical or mental. It doesn't always have to be villain/hero. • Resolution is the conclusion of the conflict. "Small" works best in flash fiction; don't go for miraculous resolution, in which the protagonist is saved by some miracle not of his/her making. • Most writers use surprise endings, partly because flash fiction lends itself to such, but mostly because it makes it more fun both to read and to write. But they are not necessary. Even with a twist, don't surprise your readers too much. Make them think, "Ah--of course!" Don't make them think, "Boy, am I stupid!"
It was very early in the morning, the streets clean and deserted, I was walking to the station. As I compared the tower clock with my watch I realized that it was already much later than I had thought, I had to hurry, the shock of this discovery made me unsure of the way, I did not yet know my way very well in this town; luckily, a policeman was nearby, I ran up to him and breathlessly asked him the way. He smiled and said: “From me you want to know the way?” “Yes,” I said, “since I cannot find it myself.” “Give it up! Give it up,” he said, and turned away with a sudden jerk, like people who want to be alone with their laughter. Giving it up – Franz Kafka
Elements of flash fiction • Setting: In “Give it Up,” the setting is the deserted streets of the city; • Character or Characters: In the above story, there are two, unidentified characters: the lost man and the policeman. In flash fiction, a character can even be an inanimate object, such as a tree or car; • Conflict: Here, the conflict is both within the lost man, and between him and the policeman. For flash fiction, conflict can consist of a mere difference of opinion or some form of tension; • Resolution: It’s unclear what the resolution, if any there is here.
Best Practices • Singularity : 1 character, 1 scene and 1 point of conflict. • Directness: Get straight to the point of conflict in the first few sentences and build from there . Since the piece is very short get to the now and skip as much of the back story as you can. The reader usually doesn’t need to know how the character got to this point. And if he does absolutely need to know some part of the backstory, keep it simple imply as much of it as you can through its relation to the story. In a flash piece, you don’t need to explain everything to the reader. Let him figure it out himself through logical deduction.
Best Practices • Show and Tell “Show” anything related to the main conflict. That is, “show”; don’t “tell” it. This is where you use up the bulk of your words. Ping-pong the primary plot. Focus the story’s intensity here, and don’t let up. The story is too short to require easy-going interludes. Except… “Tell” the backstory; don’t “show” it. That is, any part of the backstory that you couldn’t get rid of, and you couldn’t leave to the imagination, because it actually builds the main conflict or explains a key plot point… If you have to go off on a tangent, at least gloss over it as quickly as possible. • Write then edit. Word economy is, of course, the hallmark of flash fiction. Once you have the seed of an idea write as much as you can. Once all the ideas have poured out edit and restructure vigorously
Exercise 1: Hint fiction (15 mins) • Only three lines • It should consist of a beginning, middle and an end • Should be no more than 25 words • It should hint at a larger story
Examples • First heartbreak. Nineteen years wishing. Reunited! • One candle, unattended. Only ashes remain. • I leave. Dog panics. Furniture shopping. • Imagined adulthood. Gained adulthood. Lost Imagination. • One night. Three words. Never returned. • Cancer. Only three months left. Pregnant.
Exercise 2: Flash writing (30mins) Using the lines created for the hint writing exercise, prepare a 300-400 word flash piece
Some sites to visit • Everydayfiction- www.everydayfiction.com • Duotrope’s Digest- www.duotrope.com • Flashquake- www.flashquake.org • Flash Fiction Online- www.flashfictiononline.com • Smoke Long- www.smokelong.com • 365 Tomorrows- www.365tomorrows.com • Vestal Review- www.vestalreview.net