A few weeks ago, I had some fun with Lisa Reiter's flash fiction challenge, Bitesize Memoir. I found the task pretty challenging. It takes a lot of skill to scale down a piece of writing into such a small bite. Writers tend to want to add detail upon detail.. (Or is that just me?)
I did a little research and found everything and more one needs to know about this tightly trimmed task.
There are many names for it. Sophie Novak breaks it down on TheWritePractice.
There are How To's with detailed guidelines on being brief.
There are whole websites devoted to it. (Try flashfictiononline.)
There's even a National Flash Fiction Day in the UK!
TheReviewReview lists numerous places you can publish or read these tiny verbal installments.
Flash fiction carries a few simple rules: keep it brief (duh); make a story (beginning, middle, end); close with a surprise.
Sounds simple, yes? Uh, yeah, no. Not for me. I write novels because I'm like a starting pitcher. I need a few innings to warm up. Think of flash fiction as your closer who comes in an inning early. Flash needs to be tight AND pack a punch AND leave them wanting more. Not so easy.
However, this writing exercise has been great for me. The task of trimming unnecessary verbiage from a wordy piece of prose is like squeezing your 40-year-old self into your college jeans. Not impossible, but it may require a diet.
I'm on a flash fiction diet. Join me! It's always better with friends.
This week, I found another amazing writing resource, Charli Mills. And guess what? Yep, Charli likes to write flash fiction. She's tempting visitors with her own short challenges. I tried this week's: Flash Fiction with a Twist. Write a story of exactly 99 words; start with a twist. Post it in the comments section on Charli's site (carrotranch.com) by Tuesday, May 20, to be included in her round-up. Or just write it for fun. Please share your links here, too, so I can see what you've come up with.
Here's mine. I'm posting it with Charli, too.
Dan Fields leapt out of the coroner’s van and searched his pockets for a cigarette. He’d seen plenty of dead bodies in his time to know they weren’t supposed to breathe.
“This is a problem,” he told himself. He realized he had another problem: he’d quit smoking last week after Carol left. He shoved a stale stick of gum in his mouth and flicked the foil wrapper into the street.
He heard a thud against the van wall. No, a pounding. No, a thumping. The whole van shook. This wasn't good.
Dan worked alone.
Yep, this was a problem.
Many writers adhere to the adage - "write what you know". However, writers are not born with a wealth of knowledge. That means, our stories are limited to our own isolated lives. Often, there's need for research.
Don't skimp on research.
Tom Clancy never set foot on a sub before he wrote his acclaimed novel THE HUNT FOR RED OCTOBER. You'd never know because he did his research.
Consider the many crime shows on television and the numerous and popular mystery novels that hold the attention of so many passengers waiting to board planes. Chances are the author never put on a police uniform, so he better have done his research. Think about the cop who picks up a crime novel and discovers the hero catches the crook based on a blood test (a blood test the cop reader knows is inaccurate).
Even romance novels require research; especially if they include a historical setting. Don't skimp!
For my YA novel BIRDS ON A WIRE, I embed information about birds throughout the story. It's not essential to the plot, but it is essential to the theme. I spent hours, days and weeks reading up on the different mating habits of blackbirds and owls and hawks. I read bird guides from the National Audubon Society. I spoke to birding friends. I reviewed various websites and blogs.
Presently, I'm writing a story about a girl who suffers auditory hallucinations. This is a completely foreign topic to me, but it fits well for the plot. I am hip high in books, websites and information from friends, psychiatrists and other writers. I've even received great help from someone I've never met in person, crime writer Fiona QUinn. Her website bursts with info on how to catch and commit crimes - info for writers only!
Whether you plan to write a children's book, historical fiction or fantasy, you will need to do some research. Click on the links above for some great tips. Good luck!