Hello SErs! Harmony here. I hope this finds you all well. Today, we are embarking upon the first of a four-part post on writing flash fiction; that is, stories of 500 words or less. I will link back to each part in subsequent posts for ease of reference. As most of you will know by now, I am a dyed-in-the-wool pantser and only do the bare minimum of outlining. Having said that, I have found the following method so useful for tightening up my writing and getting in the essential beginning, middle, and end in stories this brief.
After reading Mae Clair’s excellent post on Creative Tools (which you can find HERE), I went ahead and bought myself a Storymatic set. Any of you following my blog will have seen some of the short fiction I came up with from the prompts. I have five complete stories and one in progress, as well as flash fiction in progress. So far, the completed stories add up to 20,400 words. All this from four prompt cards. What these give you is a character and a problem or desire and a setting. It is up to you what you do with them from then in. Not being a planner, these prompts suited me down to the ground.
More recently, I came across a great formula for writing very short fiction, and that is what I bring to you here. Well, it’s a mix between the story prompt method and the outline method. I hope you find it useful. In the past, I would just start writing, and I might start anywhere. When I have a few-thousand words to play with, that’s fine, but it isn’t so easy when it comes to keeping your count below 500 words.
The essential elements of flash fiction are:
- Length of story (between 500 and 1000 words)
- Character development
- Surprise or twist
- Change or epiphany
So, in this first part, we look at the bit before beginning to write your story. You need a character who wants something. You’re giving the reader a character they care about (either love or hate!) who desires something but has a problem getting it. First of all think of some different characters. I give examples of some of mine here:
(Storymatic prompts for character … Person who takes shortcuts and a person who needs to remove a tattoo right away) = I came up with …
And from some ideas without prompts … Kidnapped Teen
Now think about what they might want or need. A helpful exercise can be to think about what you most desire and what you might do to get it. What might stand in your way? Now think about someone you don’t like … what might they want? What might they be willing to do to get it? Think of nice people and nasty, vicious people … what might they desire? Here’s some I came up with …
Love, respect, relief from pain, to lose weight, a holiday, have fun, to mean something, money, fancy car, fame, power, prestige, wealthy early retirement, drugs, safety, control, invulnerability, super-powers, survival, to inflict pain, hide behind busyness.
My list has …
Groom = wants to get to his wedding
Kidnapped Teen = survival
Psychopathic Counsellor = To inflict pain
Sociopathic Author = Fame
Okay, that’s it for this post. Next time, we look at problems and interruptions, where a problem hinders your character getting their desire. And you get to write your story beginning. Have fun!