Monday, June 15, 2015

35 Tips for Writing Flash: Concrete Details/Imagery, CUT Adverbs/Adjectives

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")

 Concrete Detail/Concrete Imagery

Word weight and concrete detail merge. The use of concrete description means the words used have meaning and therefore word weight. For example:
I wiped damp palms across my shorts, put on sunglasses, and took a swig from a bottle of beer. Some years ago my cousin had disappeared out here when her tour bus stopped for a water break.
Compare that with:
I wiped my palms and took a drink from the bottle. Some years ago my cousin had disappeared out here.
Concrete details include "damp palms," the verb "swig," the shorts and sunglasses, the bottle of beer, the tour bus, and the water break. These offer descriptive words that readers can "see" in their heads. They are not general descriptions but "painted" words that imply much more than they say.

Concrete imagery refers to pictures the words paint in the reader's head. Consider the following contrasting examples for illustration:
The sun shone down and burned my body. Sweat poured over my skin as the sun went down.

Sun seared into my temples and burned my arms.and thighs Sweat fell in drip, drip, drips, down the front of my T-shirt, like tears for a life cut short. The sun drifted down the horizon.
Which version offers more imagery for the reader? Weigh each word before it goes onto the paper and, when revising, CUT, CUT, CUT.

Prompt: What kind of day is it today? Go outside and pick a corner of the yard or street. Make notes about what you see. Now write the scene using words that carry weight and contribute to images in the reader's mind. Revise the description with meaningful words without lengthy description. Allow the reader to "see" the scene just as you did. 

CUT Adverbs and Adjectives

What do you think of the following rendition? Read it aloud:
My annoyed father angrily slammed his large fist on the hard dashboard. He jumped hurriedly out of the yellow jeep and noisily opened the car hood over the steaming, hissing engine and climbed under the hot car and around the car flitting around like the dark shadow of some poltergeist.
A little excessive?

Now, before referring to "Agoraclaustrophobia," cut the adjectives and adverbs from the above rendition and read the result aloud.

Tightening a piece of flash writing includes cutting most, if not all, of the following.
  • adverbs
  • adjectives
  • unnecessary words such as "the, "a," "an," "as," "like," and "and."
Alternative word choices exist, but you might need to restructure the sentence, rewrite the narrative, rethink how much information the reader needs to hear, or cvut some or all of the backstory.

Prompt: Take a story you have written and read it aloud. Circle in red the unnecessary words. Circle in orange or blue all adverbs and adjectives. Leave only those words that add to the story. Now tighten by cutting most of these words and read the story out loud. Sound better?  

Stay tuned for CHAPTER 26 (Dialogue)
and CHAPTER 27 (The Verb "To Be'")

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