Have you heard of flash fiction? It is a writing style that has been around for ages, but of late has had a resurgence. I really feel like this as it is a useful tool in beating writers block, as well as a technique in which to better ones writing. Especially, if you have a tendency to blab on and on as I do thus obliterating standard conventions genre word limits. Here are the reasons why you should do it and how!
Flash fiction is a style of writing an entire story with the same effect of a book however written within a word limit of 300-1000. In my opinion, 300 is the best to stick to or perhaps 400 words. Anymore than this and I feel like it defeats the exercise. It could be on any topic you like but I suggest you choose something outside your natural genre.
The reason you should do it this way is twofold. Firstly, you will learn the skill needed to get your point across clearly and evoke the same emotion or view in fewer words. It is always better to write less, as long as your less is more. Secondly, by writing in a different genre you are expanding your mind and when this happens your brain erupts with ideas because you exploring possibilities you have never encountered before.
What You Should Expect
I have done this myself and found it utterly liberating. As a fantasy girl, I was both daunted and excited to use this experiment to try something new. I found the exercise difficult, as did the other people I had tried it with. I will warn you now, that your first attempts will not be beautiful or even good. However, with practice it will change and you will see that in writing your novel or short story this exercise will impact the way you write, the way you structure your ideas and indeed how you come up with ideas.
In particular, what I found trying was attempting to make a solid beginning, middle and end within 300 words. I haven't done it successfully very often, I admit, but I see the use in it. What I found was that something is either lacking in the beginning or end.
This exercise is very fun, especially when you do it with other people and share your works. I also wouldn't be surprised if you come up with an idea for a book or two by doing this as it expands your horizons to other genres.
- Proper Structure: Just like any piece of writing it must have a beginning, middle and end. Just because it is only 300 words doesn't mean you can skimp on the proper form.
- Clear Message: The subject or object of your writing should be clear within your writing. There shouldn't be information missing from the work and when asked what the story was about the aim is to leave the audience with no questions. This may be stating the obvious, however it will be the hardest part of this exercise to execute well. I did this with a room full of people and not one could do this properly on the first attempt or the second, nor the third- myself included. Do not be disheartened because imagine the glee when you finally get it right.
- Get to the Point: You only have a short amount of words to write an entire story. You need to choose your words carefully and to not waffle on. Use colloquial terms or references which are self explanatory such as the Titanic- everyone knows what this means. If you add dialogue be careful, it must always have a purpose.
- Do not be illusive (unless that is your intention): I found when doing this exercise due to it being so short it is not unusual for people to leave out bits of the story to talk about later. There is no room for backstory and so readers can get confused when reading these because they are left either not knowing why the story ended the way it did or they are dissatisfied with the characters as they are incomplete. Make sure that your backstory is integrated within the main body of the text.
- Start in middle of action: As with every story, you need to take the reader where the action is. You must make your story interesting even though you are confined to 300 words, but do not make it so crazy that there is no characterisation.
- Visualisation: In these situations, visualisation will take you a long way. As they say, a picture paints a thousand words, as well as (when used correctly) cuts down your word count and adds emotion and clarity to your work. It also makes your words special to the reader, so when someone brings up your story they immediately visualise it in their minds and link your words with a happy memory.
Making It Fun
Get a group together and see what you all come up with and set a word limit which suits you all. You could either choose a topic or make it up on the spot individually. I generally give myself 5 minutes beforehand to think the idea over before I start writing. It may seem like adequate time to figure out a 300 word story, but believe me, when trying to come up with an original idea which is out of your genre it can be very difficult. Then set a time limit for actually writing the flash fiction, anywhere between 10-20 minutes should suffice and give the exercise purpose.
Another way of practicing it which was suggested by children's author Andrew Griffiths during his on stage performance during the Sydney Writers Festival 2015, was that you choose a random topic and scribble madly for 5 minutes on it.
Why not give both a try!
I hope you enjoyed this post and try this exercise, it is one of the most helpful things you could do. If you have any questions feel free to ask!