September 29, 2012

Our guest blogger today is Melissa Mead! She has published over 24 flash stories in publications such as Drabblers, Daily Science Fiction, and The First Line.  Keep an eye out for something special from Daily Science Fiction in the near future.

We Write Short Shorts!

Well, I do, anyway. Short shorts, flash fiction, microfiction. Whatever you call it, writing short is a handy addition to any writer’s toolkit.

Not everyone agrees on the definition of flash fiction. Often, it’s under 1,000 words long. It does need to be a story, with a clear beginning, middle, and end. A real story, in miniature.

How do you cram a whole story into such a tiny space?

I find it easiest to write long, then cut. My first sales were to a market called The First Line. Back then, TFL had an upper limit of 600 words. I’d write a 700-1,200 word story, then cut it down, using tricks like these:

Choose a small concept. No galaxy-spanning epics. Show one moment in the life of one character. Use what your reader already knows. Ex, I love to rewrite fairy tales. The reader knows what to expect without the author having to set it up, leaving the author room to turn those expectations upside down.

Make every word count. Any adverb, adjective, or word that isn’t a noun or verb had better have a reason for being there. Nouns and verbs should earn their keep too.

Edit, edit, edit. Once you’ve finished your story, go over it and cut everything you don’t need. Sleep on it, and the next day do it again. Chop words, sentences, etc. out with an editorial axe. Then go back with a jackknife, then a scalpel.

Just for fun, here’s an example:

Beginning/setup “Look! Up in the sky!” (If you’re a certain age, you’ll be filling in what comes next.)

Middle/create expectations Joe didn’t bother looking. It was always a plane, or yet another superhero trying to save the planet’s dying fauna.

End/twist His daughter looked, though. She still believed in birds.

Have fun flashing!

mini dragon

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