If you don’t already know of it, I recommend checking out Ad Hoc fiction flash contest online. http://adhocfiction.com/2015/04/about/
Every Wednesday, a word is given as a prompt for a 150 word flash. Write and submit; Ad Hoc will long list and publish; then the public votes for the winner. The winner receives entry into the Bath Flash Fiction contest.
This is my last entry with the prompt word TURN put to the vote with results on Wednesday:
Because my brain was in shock, I had emptied my account of its meagre savings and escaped to Europe, ending in one of those catch twenty-two situations. No home, no job, no money, no hope. Soup kitchens were my friends, hostels my family.
But living on the streets gave me thinking time. I wasn’t to blame. My guilt allowed him to toss me out. His guilt caused him to do so. Time to turn it around, and reclaim my life.
From Greece, I thumbed lifts to Cherbourg, and sneaked on board a ferry to Portsmouth. It is 250 miles to Manchester. A long walk but I aim to hitch a lift on the motorway.
When a trucker stops, I climb into the cab. Music blares, then the channel changes to the news. Another homeless person found bludgeoned to death. I stare into the trucker’s eyes, and see my future.
Another online flash fiction site is Visual Verse, which provides a compelling image for a flash piece from 50 up to 500 words, or poetry. Open the page and you have one hour in which to submit. They check it for offensiveness etc, and I am waiting to see if they will publish it on their site. https://visualverse.org/
There are many more such sites, and they are great as exercises, for honing brevity, for experimenting, for being creative, and for creating great stories with few words.
Despite the constraints of the word count, I think the form is freeing, and encourages greater creativity. It brings to mind Wordsworth’s poem Nuns fret not at their convent’s narrow room in which he finds freedom in the sonnet. No time to wallow in description, or emotion, or world building, so it is vital to find the right verbs and images to tell the story.
What have I learned about writing flash?
- Start in the middle of the story before the conflict.
- Use no more than two characters.
- The story still needs a beginning, a middle, and an end.
- Remove unnecessary words. Adjectives, adverbs, and anything which does not serve the story.
- Create strong images or scenes. This allows for rhetoric.
- Focus on one main conflict.
- Have a climax and a resolution.
- Use a small idea. This doesn’t mean bland or insignificant.
- Find a great title which doesn’t giveaway the resolution.
If you are interested in short fiction, but never tried to write it, reading some of the entries will inspire you to have a go. Let me know how you go on.