Writing: Straight and Solid

January 10, 2012

Straight and Solid, is a flash fiction story in the collection of 17 that make up Claiming One.  What’s flash fiction? This one is a story told in under 530 words.

In a writing workshop, in Berkeley, circa 2000, we were given a photo to use as a writing prompt. A black and white picture to spark imagination. I saw it and this story came to me all in a flash. Though the photo itself had little to do with what I wrote. Prompts should work that way. If you’re too literal, you’re no more than reporting. I wrote it in a sitting. Not changing more than ten words since, from its original draft.

What I love about writing flash fiction is the beauty of telling something strong in such a small space. Bringing in the visual, physical, and visceral in a single scene. There’s a joy in being able to do that. You try not to rely on narration; it’s all in images. All in the now, beginning mid-scene. Every word carrying its weight. Spare, lean and strong:

What I remember most from that day was his nails. Thin bands of bone white, curt in length, clipped like the words he had for my mother. 

Characters, drawn for you by their actions, not by description.  Characters outlined in what they say and how they say it; not with dialog tags, fancy ways to replace ‘said.’ And an ending that turns things around. Brings up all that might be coming after the last line.

As a new writer, consider this form of story. Try your chops at the small and strong.  To jump start a flash fiction story idea, take any writing you’ve done that packs some type of punch in a single scene. Then try whittling it into a piece of flash fiction.

The places you may be able to take your story might surprise you.


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