Wednesday, June 24, 2015

35 Tips for Writing Flash: Fixed and Experimental Forms & Mastering the Genre

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'")
CHAPTERS 28 & 29 ("Subtext/Implication/Backstory" & "Myths and Tales")
CHAPTERS 30 &31 ("Surprise the Reader & "Sentence Structure/Phrases")

 Fixed and Experimental Forms

As you have seen in the previous chapter, flash lends itself wonderfully to experimentation. The writer can try any playful writing in a short piece because there is not a lot of time or emotional energy invested. If it doesn't work, it's easy to rewrite.

Here's an interesting fixed form for you to work with:
With each new sentence, double the word count of the sentence before.
An example:
One. One story. Of black teeth revealed. Black teeth revealed behind luscious wet red lips. Lips parted, seductive, her chiseled face in a bar, mirrored behind one glass, smudged with lipstick.
Fixed forms are fun. They unleash the wild muse.

An example, one of my experimental flash nonfiction pieces that won first prize in Bacopa Literary Review's 2015 annual contest for creative nonfiction, is here. I wrote the flash in one sentence, an experimental handling of form. The one-sentence structure reflects the continuity of the tattoo patterns over a man's body.

Prompt: Turn the timer on for 5 minutes. Write about an epiphany or "aha" moment you had had, but write it in a long sentence. Don't think too much, just write.

Mastering the Genre

Read, read, read flash fiction and nonfiction flash stories and learn from the masters.

Borrow techniques, initiate variations and deviate with your ideas while you practice from famous examples and develop a unique flash style. Join flash critique groups either in your town, online or take classes. Start your own critique group.

In the next blog post you'll find a list of resources that include a sprinkling of flash writers and their work.

Prompt: Study a tiny story by a famous flash writer and substitute each word with your own. Warning: Be careful not to plagiarize or copy any other writings.

There are sites online, such as, where you can copy and paste your work to make sure you have not plagiarized by mistake.

Stay tuned for CHAPTER 34 ("The Four Keys to Revision")
and CHAPTER 35 ("A Few Tips About Prose Poetry")

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