Thursday, June 4, 2015

35 Tips for Writing Flash: Consequences of Desire Thwarted & Characters

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...")
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")

 Consequences of Desire Thwarted

Story formula = Character craves chocolate, cannot have it, creates conflict, causes consequences, then complications, and then change.

Build the story from the foundation up, like building a house.

In "Agoraclaustrophobia," the father and daughter want to reach his childhood home. A car breakdown interrupts their journey.

Much of the conflict or tension in this story is implied in subtext. A tone of foreshadowing lies beneath the narrative. Conflict involves tension and high stakes.

Your character must go through a meaningful change.

In "Agoraclaustrophobia," the daughter confronts her fears of the open spaces that, oddly, can close one in like small spaces. The story resolves because the father returns with a solution to the breakdown and the car starts again. One way this story could improve is by demonstrating the daughter's realization that her fears were unfounded, or by demonstrating, in one line only, that she has accepted her fears, another change in the story line. For example, we could add: "Her body relaxed into the cracked leather of the front passenger seat, and she fell asleep, after resolving to accept the outcome."

Prompt: Invent a character and put an obstacle in the way. What does your main character desire? What blocks the attainment of this desire? Follow the formula above.


How Many is Too Many?

In flash, compress the number of characters to a maximum of three. In the cited story, there are two main characters, the father and the daughter. In addition, we see the landscape, the relationship between father and daughter, and her imagination. Each of these can behave like a character. Certainly, nature plays a wonderful character in this story because it is unpredictable and dangerous. As long as the focus stays on two or three main characters, the story will stay focused and balanced. The use of too many names or other supporting characters becomes confusing to the reader of flash. If the reader has to stop and reread to figure out who is who, there is a problem.

Prompt: Three men climb Everest together as a team in a competition to reach the top. One falls and hurts his ankle. The second discovers his equipment is faulty. The third has to decide whether to stay and help or forge ahead and win the competition. Who is the main character and what does he decide?

Click here for CHAPTER 16 ("Setting, Weather, and Crowds as Characters")
& CHAPTER 17 ("A Sense of Meaning")

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