Posts Tagged ‘flash fiction’

So here I am, ensnared between two competing priorities and passions at opposite ends of the literary continuum.  As much as I love novel-length works of fiction, I have also been enamored with short stories since I was a kid.  In his introduction to Just After Sunset, Stephen King discusses the art of the short story and describes the process of writing short fiction as a “fragile craft,” a skill that can atrophy or be forgotten with disuse.  I think he’s on to something.  My short fiction, at times, has seemed to suffer from a bizarre version of a literary eating disorder: skeletally anorexic, or feasting upon itself in bloated splendor.  This has resulted in too many of my short stories blissfully blimping their way into novella territory, or worse (perhaps) being truncated to the point that the richness of the potential tale is lost. 

I started exploring flash fiction this year in an effort to fight the battle of the bulge and to improve and hone my writing skills.  It is a challenging and demanding medium to work within.  Flash fiction can be broadly defined, but often it is described as fiction of less than 1000 words, or stories within a range of 250-500 words.  In other instances, it borders on micro fiction: tales of 100 words or less, or is dictated by a wide range of more prescriptive guidelines (often for challenges, contests, or writing prompts) such as fiction of exactly 50 words.  Writing effective flash fiction can be daunting, but it also offers huge payoffs.  Writers really have to bring their A game when trying to weave an evocative tale with word count limitations while paying attention to such elements as story arc, plot, character development, and resolution.  It is a great cure for bloat.  I’ve found that writing flash fiction has tightened up and improved my writing considerably.  Writing flash is not without its frustrations, but when you pen a story that works, it works.

In the midst of my current obsession with writing flash fiction, I’ve also been working on a novel-length work preliminarily titled Scorch.  While Scorch is not, er, blazing along at warp speed, I am making reasonable progress.  It has been an interesting daily juxtaposition, working with one foot in the world of flash fiction and the other planted firmly in a novel length piece.

Complicating matters further – a bit of a plot twist, if you will – is National Novel Writing Month (sometimes referred to as NaNoWriMo, or just NaNo), which launches in November.  Essentially, the goal of nanowrimo is to write a complete novel of at least 50,000 words between November 1 and 11:59 p.m. on November 30.  For me, that means cranking out words at roughly Mach 3.  During November, that explosion you hear in the distance is probably someone’s keyboard breaking the sound barrier.

This year I will again seek to complete National Novel Writing Month, most likely letting loose my zombie hordes to sate themselves on the flesh of the living.  But I’ll also keep pushing myself to crank out some flash.  November will be a heck of a ride!

What about you?  Eagerly anticipating NaNoWriMo?  Working on a large scale project or exploring a little flash fiction?  What formats are you currently working within, or enjoying reading?  I’d love to hear from you.  If you’d like to post a link to some of your own flash fiction, please feel free to include it in your comments – I always love a good tale!

It’s my favorite day of the week, Flash Fiction Friday!  Today I would like to share with you my 176 word short story, The List.  This tale is a bit on the periphery of my normal subject matter, but hopefully infused with a healthy dose of creepiness for these rainy autumn nights.  Is that a knock I hear at the door?  Enjoy!

Thunder rattled the panes of glass in the window frame, while lightning strobed across the black backdrop of night.  He wrote by candlelight, which flickered in the draft and cast misshapen and contorted shadows on the walls.  His letters were even and precise, chiseled into the creamy parchment by the sharp nib of his pen.  He studied the list of names to ensure it was complete, closed his eyes, and willed himself to shift.  He screamed, first with agony, then with ecstasy, as his muscles spasmed wickedly and his joints contracted.  The flesh on his face first tingled, then burned before it peeled away and fell to the floor in long streamers of macabre confetti.  He opened his eyes, once brown, now sapphire blue, and gazed at his reflection in the mirror over the fireplace mantle.  A petite young woman gazed back, eyes wide and innocent, long blonde hair in slight disarray.  A desperate woman in need of shelter.  She glanced once again at the list, licked her lips hungrily, and stepped out into the storm. 

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For the last couple of weeks, I’ve been toying with neuroticism.  Not my own, although I’ve got a pretty good stockpile of that.  I’ve been thinking about character development, and the role odd little quirks and psychological peccadillos can play in making a protagonist, or a villain, more intriguing.  This is a bit of a natural line of inquiry for me, as I was a psychologist who wanted to be a writer in my previous life; now I am a writer who was once a psychologist, although my love for the behavioral sciences hasn’t waned.

Most of my characters are average joes, leading average lives with the same fears, frustrations, and concerns that so many of us share, who are suddenly thrust into a situation outside their control or forced to make decisions that are nightmarish in nature or implication.  But what if one of them struggled with attention deficit disorder in a world dominated by zombies seeking to devour the flesh of the living?  What if a recently-turned vampyr struggled with depersonalization?  How would uncontrolled auditory hallucinations and psychosis affect one’s ability to survive in a post-apocalyptic world?

When Chuck Wendig (who’s blog, Terrible Minds, happens to be outstanding)  issued a three sentence flash fiction challenge, I couldn’t resist the opportunity to toy with the concept of introducing a psychological quirk and seeing where it would lead.  As with most of the paths I walk, it lead into a pretty dark place.  This flash fiction piece, Head Count, is the result.  Enjoy!

His undead neighbors shuffled ceaselessly below his third story apartment window and his compulsion to count and touch them had become almost unbearable; at first he’d thought the desire to count was a quirk – annoying, yet harmless – but now he knew better.

As he counted his remaining shotgun shells and adjusted each with meticulous care to ensure that they lined up across his cheap Formica kitchen table in ranks and files with perfect alignment and proximity, he wondered if 27 would be enough.

He loaded his shotgun, inverted the barrel, and stared into its black depths; as it turned out, one round would be sufficient. 

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It’s Flash Fiction Friday, and to celebrate, I’m sharing one of my more recent forays into miniaturized horror, The Keeper of the Well.  This story seemed to flow out of the ether as I sat down to pen my first flash fiction piece of 100 words or less.  Or maybe it didn’t flow out of the ether at all.  Maybe something was sitting beside me.  Enjoy!

She sat at her desk, typing as if to beat the devil, or in this case, writer’s block.  She’d suffered from it for five agonizing years.  But tonight her fingers danced on the keyboard and the words seemed to flow from the well of her soul.  She glanced at her reflection in the monitor.  With half-lidded eyes she saw the succubus, caressing her shoulders, kissing her neck.  With every keystroke her vitality waned, her reflection was somehow less there, but still she continued to type in an explosive rapture of words until she lacked the strength to draw another breath.

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My grandmother would be horrified.  Well, maybe not horrified, but if she were still alive, she would be astonished and overwhelmed with the possibilities that the interwebs offers us.  She would also be horrified – but not exactly surprised – at my choice of fiction genres.  Grandma always knew I liked to write, but I am not sure she would be as thrilled with reading my tales of the insatiable undead.  However, today marks a first time occurrence for me.  I am going to try and write a piece of coherent flash horror fiction 1-2 lines at a time via Twitter.  Being a writer that likes continuity and flow, I can already sense some of the challenges that this approach offers.  However, I thrill at the possibility of writing something so organic and non-traditional.  I’ll throw out a couple of lines at a time on Twitter, and if you would like to reply with suggestions for next lines, a title, or plot developments, we’ll make it happen and co-create a horrifying flash fiction tale together.  The first few lines are already up – swing on by and join me in the dance!