In the midst of things

Short writing is hard.

It stretches writers to find only the essential and to think about what assumptions they can count on their reader to make.

We spent a whole day last week hearing from a range of writers who work in short forms, from poets, to curators, to #twitterstorians, and ‘flash historical fiction’ writers from FlashBack Fiction.

I left with a lot of ideas, but the one thing I wanted to do was more short writing, to stretch myself small.

Here’s a quick flash fiction exercise you can try, based on a suggestion from Fiction Southeast’s 7 Tips for Writing Flash Fiction.

I strongly recommend reading their post first, which has some good suggestions for what works well in flash (such as: no long introductions, start in the action, throw in a twist). I also liked how Ingrid Jendrzejewski of FlashBack described how good flash fiction works: rather than looking down a telescope, flash fiction has to be immediate, in the moment, an illuminated instant, which is more like being down on the ground, in the midst of things.

I love how this kind of discipline can force historians down into uncomfortable proximity with the past.

The Exercise

Create a scene where a character faces a life changing moment, in 50 words or less. You could allow yourself about 12 minutes.

Tip: it’s not hard to write 50 words in 12 minutes: what is hard is getting it down under the word limit, while still making sense. Here’s my attempt:

I walk head down in the rain to work, where electronic hygiene soothes my worries. In two minutes I delete 400 emails, like a flashing running from my fingers, hypnotic. That’s how I almost miss the One, as flat and normal as every other email.

Subject: ‘Lottery Prize Notification.’

For more examples of flash (historical) fiction, try the FlashBack website, including this witchcraft story.

2 thoughts on “In the midst of things

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