I much prefer to read a whole story than be dropped someplace into a novel not knowing why I should care. For instance, when I was working on selling a book set in the south, I used my flash fiction story, “The Doozy,” to promote not the story, but the atmosphere of my rural southern setting. The idea was to set the stage for the market I had in mind and be entertaining as well. The two stories were related only by area and attitude.
So…how do you write flash fiction? Very sparingly.
There must be fewer characters and fewer scenes than longer fiction. The backstory is implied by body language, dialogue and succinct description.
All flash fiction has a beginning, middle and end. The ending can be hinted at or left to the imagination of the reader. You might find there are a few unanswered questions, but the elements are available for readers to dream up their own ending. The story grows upon reflection. Readers might ponder a flash fiction story more than a novel where all the details have been resolved.
Flash fiction is the whole story. It’s shorter than a synopsis and longer than a blurb, which does not include the ending. Readers are inside the characters’ heads. Their speculation is the enjoyment of adding their own “what ifs.”
Why write flash fiction? Isn’t it really a short-short story?
No. That would be a condensed version of a more traditional story, which is somewhere between 1500 and 2000 words, or a literary story that starts at two or three thousand words and ends where a novella begins. Flash fiction seldom exceeds 750 words.
Long before flash fiction was a genre, a short-short story “The Wig,” by Brady Udall, appeared in Story Magazine and won many awards. It was reprinted three times in Story. It contained fewer than 400 words, but every element was there. It was up to the reader to understand what the author was showing. Fifteen years later, I still remember it.
What are the uses for flash fiction when you are a novelist?
It can be used to get rid of those pesky excerpts. There are no introductions to those scenes that are short enough or long enough to place the perusing public into the scenes. Even the funny ones leave readers on the outside scratching their heads instead of laughing. Flash fiction winds down quickly to a resolution—or speculations.
Example: My first Sci-fi flash fiction. My apologies to sci-fi writers.
Robo worked for Amazon in the Kindle store on Sundays, a time when his more traditional buddies liked the day off. He was in charge of affirming that all those books people decided to order over breakfast on Sunday morning reached their devices before they changed the minds at lunch. Robo didn’t need breakfast or lunch, but he insisted on being home with his wife, T-Lizzie, a shiny example of her family’s DNA.
His wife, creative and beautiful, had an excellent job guiding drivers to their destinations via the best route. Her directions, given in a gentle but firm voice, made them glad she was onboard.
Once their day jobs were completed, the couple arrived home and made dinner together. Robo was in charge of fine desserts, occasionally even a small, hand-made ice carving. T-Liz took care of the basics.
Their favorite music, the theme from “2001: The Space Odyssey,” played in the background while they finished their meal.
Robo pressed forward to better hear his wife’s melodic voice.
“You were asking me something?”
She placed her glittering fingers over his and looked at him with laser focus, mapping his face. “I asked, was that WD 40 you put in the dessert last night?”
Her soft tones and British accent warmed his revved motor from zero to 180 in two seconds. He swallowed. “I actually used a dash of spiced olive oil as well.”
“Lovely spice, olive oil.”
“Yes. I find olive oil to be underutilized; don’t you?”
WD 40 for him; olive oil for her, to make her big moment even bigger.
Julie Eberhart Painter is the Champagne Books author of Mortal Coil, Tangled Web, and Kill Fee, winner tied for first place in the Champagne Best Book for 2011 awards.
For more flash fiction visit Julie’s latest story at http://www.bewilderingstories.com/issue472/index.html
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