A writer friend suggested I try flash fiction – very short stories, usually under one page. So around 300 words.
Next day I had to have a root canal on a molar, and to think about something else, I thought about a story. I had a rough idea – actually just a concept – and expanded this into a story. I had in mind 300 characters since I had been doing software descriptions for my new writing app Notes Story Board.
Anyway, once I had got it down to 300 characters – about 50 words – I remembered I was aiming for 300 words (at this point the tooth and one root was out).
Perhaps that is a good discipline – create a summary, a short elevator pitch, as recommended by books like Save The Cat (about script-writing, not cats).
So I expanded this story idea a day later in a café, writing using note software on my phone. Got the story down in around 200 words. Well, any more was just padding. I ended up with an interesting little piece, so I entered it into a competition.
It was great to start and finish a whole story so quickly, as I find long-form writing hard… too easy to lose the motivation and then forget the atmosphere, the germ of the idea in the first place, the feeling of a story that is not written or even known yet. (It seemed to be easier in the past when I would write a novel almost as an end in itself).
But that still leaves the basic question.
Is flash fiction just an internet fad? A short form for a low attention span.
So why bother with it?
The root of all
I have also got kind of stuck with a novel. This has been in the plotting and note-taking stage for years.
A few months ago I changed it (not much, only a few thousand words at the start) to an ‘epic poem’ to speed things up a bit – converting it to short broken up texts, with a ragged right margin, like a ‘proper poem’. This was quite an interesting process, but again was a delaying tactic, substituting craft for creativity.
Now my plan is to rewrite all the plot scenes as flash fiction – each small scene has a beginning, middle and twist, to quote R. L. Stine, as spoken by Jack Black in the film Goosebumps. This might not be suitable for most of the scenes but you get the general idea.
So try that – take a long boring text, and condense it down to a page. If nothing else, it can improve your style.