The Canadian Writers' Collective

Writing, and writerly tangents

Monday, February 04, 2008

A couple notes on flash fiction

Here’s an observation: Whenever I’m looking to rework or improve (expand?) an existing flash piece of mine, I head straight for the middle. There, I know I’ll find that one paragraph, or string of words, where I allowed a story to emerge ever so briefly. It doesn’t matter how long the original flash. There’s always a passage that moves slower than the rest by slipping out of the ‘moment’ of the piece.

Another observation: Writing the beginning of a flash seems to use up more energy per word count than any other kind of writing I’ve done. It’s emotionally draining, as well, because there’s so much riding on that beginning getting the reader into the moment, getting your self into that moment. Is it enjoyable, sitting down to figure out where you’ll begin? Not really. I find the opening a stressful place to be. The middle is much more relaxing.

About the ending: 99.9 % of the time it’s wrong, or it feels better, more right than it should. The leaner the flash, the easier it is to get away with an ending that seems to fit, but you don’t know why. And 99.9 % of the time, the reader will come away from the piece thinking the writer was trying to do something here. Hmmm.

Back to the middle and then back to the end again: There’s so much pressure to get that flash in quickly, to rein in the moment, keeping it intense and emotional and satisfying. So in the end, while we’re puffing away on a cigarette, we can’t help asking: was it good for you, too? But what if the flash doesn’t have to end there? What if you could go back to the middle, find that passage where there was the promise of something more? Mmmm. What if life were like that? Think of the possibilities.


Blogger T. Lee said...

The term 'flash fiction' is an oxymoron, isn't it? It's a great form, but much more complex to write than we initially expect. It usually takes me longer to write the shorter pieces. But I don't sit back with a ciggie anymore. And the answer to the question is usually, 'It could have been better.' Then the flash usually kicks me out once I say that, though.

Mon Feb 04, 05:52:00 pm GMT-5  
Blogger Tricia Dower said...

I envy your ability to write flash. It's like alchemy to me. But this post gives me some insight into your mind when you're writing it. It seems more intuitive than anything else. You just "know" when it's finished.

Tue Feb 05, 01:49:00 am GMT-5  
Blogger Steve Gajadhar said...

You mean the writer doesn't have some profound hidden meaning? Now I don't feel so dumb! But you shouldn't give away your secrets, Tony.

Tue Feb 05, 12:40:00 pm GMT-5  
Blogger Antonios Maltezos said...

Ha! I swear, most of the time I have no clue where I'm going. A solid rewrite usually helps with my sense of direction though, so there is hope.

Tue Feb 05, 02:56:00 pm GMT-5  

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