Thursday, September 30, 2010

Flash fiction

I just mailed my entry to the Missouri Writer's Guild Flash Fiction contest. I have become a fan of flash fiction for a couple of reasons. The first reason is that I like short stories, which means that I also like really short, short stories. The second reason is that writing a really short, short story is a good exercise for any writer who struggles with words (which is every writer I know).

For this contest, I wasn’t sure what to send, and had been going through my archives/computer files for the past couple of weeks looking for something. At first I tried working with a dark short story but didn’t think it would work as flash fiction. I would have to cut too much to maintain the level of “darkness” I desired.

Later, I found a short romantic story that had been rejected by a magazine editor who took the time to tell me what worked. I knew I had something, but the piece was 900 words. I had to cut almost half to submit it.

I got to work right away. While I cut, I kept asking myself the same question. “What can I take out while keeping the story intact?” The answer was “A lot.” I was able to cut dialogue, description and (a little) action.

I only needed one line of dialogue instead of two or three to show someone was a jerk. Easy cut, the reader still knows this character’s a jerk. Description was easy. The right descriptive word can take the place of a couple of sentences. I also picked one item in a scene to focus on and describe instead of two or more. And finally, I was able to cut some of the action. That was a little more difficult, but I think I made the story tighter and simpler, which is good.

So I challenge you to write a flash fiction story, or take one of your existing stories and turn it into flash fiction. Make every word count, and watch your writing improve.

Talk to you soon,


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