First off, let me apologize for not showing up yesterday. After my critique group meeting broke up in late afternoon, I was unexpectedly called out of town and didn’t get home until the wee hours of the morning. After having only three hours sleep the night before, an early morning alarm wasn’t on my agenda. So now you know why I missed my own deadline.
So, with that out of the way, let’s get to it.
Flash writing has now found definition in our lexicon of fiction forms. As someone who tends to write long, this form affords me valuable writing training. It requires concrete/action verbs and nouns. It requires those two parts of speech also to do the work of adjectives and adverbs. It’s the ultimate in pick-up games for a fiction writer.
Contrarily, poets have less trouble with writing in this format. Why? Because they already use verbal shorthand when they put together poems. A one hundred word poem is very long and most poets don’t engage in storytelling of that length.
Have you come up against FF parameters and experienced other problems with putting together your little stories? If so, drop a comment in the box and we’ll go through them next week as part of our finale for the month. Until then, let’s look at a themed prompt and my example of one way to tackle it.
I’m using Character as my theme for today’s exercise. You can easily pull material from anywhere or about anyone to create your story to fit the theme. But what do I mean by Character?
Character as a theme
We all know what a character is, in a general sense. Every story has one, whether our stories are carried by telephone, newspaper, TV, etc. When you call a friend on the phone, your conversation is all about character when you pause long enough to think about it.
In today’s instance, character as theme simply means centered writing about a specific person, place, or thing and an aspect of story action affecting that character. It could take many forms and still be flash fiction.
Example 1: Poetry with a Character Theme
The Tangled Web
It began with a tiny thing;
A lie of that day’s convenience.
A first strand in the web you wove
To make yourself important, and
Disguise truth you could not bear shown.
More silk strands followed to entrap
The weaver in tales unforgotten,
By those brought to emotions ruined.
Thoughtless weaving. Strands delusions,
All make to tangle the weaver.
Go now into your web of lies.
Seek only new fools to believe.
© Claudette J. Young 2010
A deceiver of friends and family is found out and exiled (sort of) in this seventy-five word pronouncement of character. It tells the story of a conviction carried out against a defendant–found guilty of taking advantage of others, deceit, and mental cruelty.
Okay, that interpretation might stretch things a bit, but when I wrote it, those were the charges brought up in the trial.
Example 2: Memoir (From a longer piece posted here) Fictional character Dreamie Simple in “Dreamie’s Box.”
I didn’t seek marriage. I protected friends and their families. Mother counted on that. Seventeen years with Martin was my sentence.
Martin had secrets tangled up with my mother. He wanted respectability. I gave him that.
Now I’m charged with his murder. Considering my actions, few would refute the possibility. I collected nearly a million dollars in insurance—a hefty motive. My own secret life, with a different identity, may convict me.
I can’t defend myself. I laid out plenty of motives. Honesty is preferable, but naiveté is different. I learned the whole truth can put a needle in your arm.
This example is a trimmed down version which originally had 479 words. Trust me, carving away that many words isn’t easy. I almost pulled my hair out on this one, but it gave me yet another lesson in editing and revision, which is always beneficial.
The point is that this memoir of a novel’s character can serve in many ways. It allows practice in flash fiction. It gives the writer a use and practice in character development, and it works to serve as an editing and revision tool/lesson. Not bad for 100 words, is it?
Now, on to my flash fiction piece for this theme. I’ll do a short memoir piece for a character in a fantasy series that I’ve just begun to put together. It’s for one of the primary characters, Reibe. (Note how I have several uses from this one bit of writing.)
Composing an Apprentice
I didn’t do anything wrong. I played my music. They asked me to.
Am I responsible? Why do they grasp at me—call out for me? Did they all lose their minds?
I want to go back to Riverton, back to the mill. Life was simple there. I worked. I ate. I slept. Not like here where everything and everyone is complicated. No one is unkind. In fact, they almost smother with kindness.
How can I understand these Theusans with their foreign ideas? I must work hard to become the trader I’m supposed to be? Mistress Cleone makes leaving impossible.
My character, Reibe, confronts his conflict of not fitting into his new role as an apprentice trader. He has another, perhaps greater, conflict though. For some unknown reason, when he plays his music (on a flute) those who hear him react in a way that frightens him, even as it confuses him.
The reader finds out that this new life isn’t as straightforward or simple as Reibe’s old life at the mill in Riverton. It doesn’t matter, in this case, what kind of mill that was.
The reader also learns that his new position places him with kindly people who have foreign ideas—immigrants perhaps. The introduction of Mistress Cleone also adds to the layers of the story and Reibe’s plaintive thinking. The implication asks the reader to fill in the blanks however she will. Readers are good at that.
And there you have it—my small story memoir in 98 words. I hope you’ll all experiment with this theme. Have fun with it. It can take you to unforeseen places. I’ll see you again here next week with the final bit of flash fiction for the month.
Happy writing, everyone. And don’t forget to share your story, if you wish, so that we might all share in your experience.