Tuesday, May 26, 2015

35 Tips for Writing Flash: The Six C's and Compressed Scene/Story Line

In the current posts, Bacopa Literary Review Flash Story Editor Kaye Linden generously shares chapters from her book, 35 Tips for Writing a Brilliant Flash Story: a Manual of Flash Fiction and Nonfiction Writing.

CHAPTER 1 ("Small Frame"),  
CHAPTERS 2 & 3 ("The House Theory" & "Slice-of-Life Stories"),
CHAPTERS 4 & 5 ("Compression, Minimalism" & "A Striking Title")
CHAPTERS 6 & 7 ("The First Few Lines" & "I Want It But I Can't Have It, So I'll...")

 Kaye's Rule of Six C's

Character Craves, Cannot have it, Conflict, Consequences, Change.

The Six C's can occur in another order. The three main aspects of a flash are conflict, consequences (what happened to the main character as a result of the problem?) and change. Change must occur in a story. The character might not crave something but have a problem that triggers conflict, consequences and change in that character or the situation.

The father in "Agoraclaustrophobia" has a problem and must leave his daughter alone in the vast desert. As a result, she experiences fear and anxiety. The conflict lies in the life-threatening situation of a breakdown in the desert, but also exists within the daughter who develops anxiety. The father's safe return is the positive outcome, resulting in a change in her anxiety levels and perhaps a return to trust that the father has not abandoned her. In addition, the father's success allows for a positive change in their predicament.

Prompt: Take a story you have been working on and mark the Six C's in red. If the C's are difficult to find, the story structure needs reworking.

Compressed Scene and Story Line

The most difficult concept for writers to understand is the use of one story line in flash. In this genre, the story line may be likened to a compressed plot or series of events. I have read and reviewed thousands of very short stories by excellent writers who have difficulty maintaining a story's track and introduced other story lines without realizing it. This gives the read an awkward "all over the place" feel. Consider this fact when analyzing a flash.

A writer should be able to recite the story line in one brief sentence which will serve as the skeleton on which to hang the flesh of the story. If it cannot be summed up in a short sentence, "the flash" will morph into "the rambling." Often, writers who do this switch points of view or tenses during the narrative. This creates a tangled mess.

Here is the story line of "Agoraclaustrophobia" in one sentence:
A car breaks down in the desert and the father must leave his daughter alone while she suffers an attack of agoraclaustrophobia, which resolves when her father returns with a solution to their predicament.
If we peer through the "keyhole" of the door, we can witness this slice-of-life event within one frame.

Prompt: You are at an amusement park with friends. While riding on a Ferris wheel, the machine stops and you are hanging in mid-air. Write a sentence about what happens next and another sentence about what changes.

Click here for CHAPTER 10 ("Stimulus, Response, and Chronological Order") 
and CHAPTER 11 ("Whose Story Is It?")

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