Friday, July 3, 2020

Hone Your Craft With Flash Fiction - Exercises Included!

We all love when inspiration strikes. Flash fiction can feel much like that. It's a story in micro, a focus on a compelling moment in a character's life. 

Reading flash can help stir ideas for your own long or short writing. When you practice writing flash fiction, there's even better payoffs in your own work.

Improve Your Focus

Flash fiction gets a lot done in a very short amount of time. Big emotions and major change must coexist in a tiny, little writing space. Flash fiction word counts can range from just a few words to the more typical 1000. 

As you practice creating flash fiction, consider how tightly focused you can be on the main aspects of your story. What can you cut and still keep clarity? 

Exercise: Write a sentence summarizing your story using ten words or less.

Tighten Your Prose

When a story must be crafted to fit the short requirements of flash fiction, you learn to say a lot with few words. This habit will carry over into your other works, making them more concise and compelling. 

Exercise: Go through a current work-in-progress and see if you can cut the entire thing by 25% or even 50%. Alternatively, try replacing three words with one. Are there whole sentences or paragraphs you could cut while retaining or enhancing the impact of the story?

Experiment With Form

Flash Fiction is a fun, low-risk way to try new structure. If you want to try a story in texting or email form, this would be a great format to experiment with it. And you have nothing to lose but a little time and maybe 1000 words. Low-risk, high-return. 

Exercise: Experiment with something new in a piece of flash fiction. Maybe write the entire thing in iambic pentameter. Or starting every sentence with the next letter in the alphabet. The options are endless. You're creative; I'm sure you'll come up with something new to try!

Amp the Tension

Conflict and change are essential in any story, even flash fiction. Sometimes we might trick ourselves into thinking that because flash focuses on a moment in time that it is static, but that is a mistake. Static is boring. Nothing is happening. 

Try starting your flash fiction pieces close to a character's life-changing event or realization. It can be dramatic - the loss of a loved one, or subtle - the realization that their best friend is capable of lying to them. Whatever it is should change the main character's world and/or worldview. 

Conflict and change are things we grapple with regularly. They are essential to every story. As you learn to incorporate them in the small world of flash fiction, you will find it easier to build the needed conflict and change in your other works.

Exercise: Determine what life-changing moment will rock your character's world. Start the story right before or just after that moment. What's next? What suspense can you build that will keep the reader hooked all the way to the end?

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