Sunday, June 21, 2015

35 Tips for Writing Flash: Subtext/Implication/Backstory & Myths and Tales

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 ("First Few Lines" & "I Want It But I Can't Have It...")
CHAPTERS 8 & 9 ("Kaye's Rule of Six C's" & "Compressed Scene/Story Line")
CHAPTERS 10 & 11 ("Stimulus/Response, Chronological Order" & "Whose Story Is it?")
CHAPTERS 12 & 13 ("Moving the Story Forward" & "The Shape of Flash")
CHAPTERS 14 & 15 ("Consequences of Desire Thwarted" & "Characters")
CHAPTERS 16 & 17 ("Setting, Weather, and Crowds as Characters" & "A Sense of Meaning")
CHAPTERS 18 & 19 ("Point of View" & "Tense Choice")
CHAPTERS 20 & 21 ("The Ticking Clock" & "Chekhov's Gun")
CHAPTERS 22 & 23 ("Don't Underestimate Your Reader" & "Word Weight")
CHAPTERS 24 & 25 ("Concrete Details/Imagery" & "CUT Adverbs/Adjectives")
CHAPTERS 26 & 27 ("Dialogue" & "The Verb 'To Be'")


Flash consists of the unwritten, the unsaid, reading between lines, a hint or two, a tiny signpost, a suggestion. The reader picks up clues that fill in the emotional tone, gaps or past events of the story. For example:
The last time I visited my father, we drove to his childhood home--Thousand Acre Sheep Station, dead center Northern Territory, an endless expanse of red soil and gum trees, fenceless and defenseless from hungry dingoes and buzzards. The open jeep bumped and shook its way through scrubby mulgas, around sinkholes, and over the occasional dead wallaby. I leaned back and studied the blue sky with its wispy white clouds.
Note the subtext or implications:
The narrator is speaking of the last time she visited her father. The questions arise: Why was she visiting? Where was she living? The relationship is long-distance? Where was her mother? It was his childhood home, not hers The home was a huge sheep station (ranch) in the center of Australia's desert. Such are the questions that lead readers to wonder. Let them fill in these blanks with the implied information, the subtext.

Prompt: Read "Hills Like White Elephants" by Ernest Hemingway. This short story is rich with subtext. Examine how Hemingway handles backstory and implication. Then write a micro-flash of under 250 words in which the writing implies what has happened without stating what happened.

Myths and Tales

Rewrite myths and tales, study them, and learn from their story lines. These are the basic stories of heroes and heroines and offer wonderful ideas for twisting, experimentation, and rewriting.

Study Joseph Campbell's model of "the hero's journey." I have adapted the hero's journey to my writing of flash. These are aspects of this journey that offer a solid foundation for story. A perfect example is Star Wars.

Prompt: Write a fairy story or myth from a different perspective, a different point of view, in another tense, or turn the hero into the bad guy and the bad guy into the hero.

Stay tuned for CHAPTER 30 ("Surprise the Reader")
and CHAPTER 31 ("Sentence Structure and Phrases")

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