Wednesday, June 10, 2015

35 Tips for Writing Flash: The Ticking Clock & Chekhov's Gun

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")

 The Ticking Clock

Simply said, this title refers to the ticking away of time, the ticking bomb, time pressure on a character or characters to resolve the problem before the bomb goes off and everyone dies.

Will the father find a solution to a car that has broken down in the middle of a desert before he and his daughter dehydrate, are eaten by crows, collapse, get caught in a flash flood, in a sandstorm, or a thousand other possibilities?

Flash compresses time and begins in media res but even compressed time offers heightened tension, as in "Agoraclaustrophobia."

Time pressure works well. Use it.

Prompt: Up the ante on a flash you have written or take a short story that isn't working and employ the element of time pressure. How does it change the story?

Chekhov's Gun

Delete everything that has no relevance to the story. If you say in the first chapter that there is a gun hanging on the wall, in the second or third chapter, it absolutely must go off. If it's not going to be fired, it shouldn't be hanging there. So said Anton Chekhov.

In 1889, 24-year-old Ilia Gurliand noted these words from Chekhov's conversation: "If in Act One you have a pistol hanging on the wall, then it must fire in the last act."

To translate this idea into flash application, consider the following:
Whispers whispered down the hot wind. I stared at a pair of old army boots in the back seat. My fingers grabbed the warm metal of the door handle and I thought about the sword in the back seat. Bile rose up my throat.
What if the army boots and the sword were never mentioned again in "Agoracclaustrophobia"? You might then wonder what these items had to do with the story. Unless they serve a function later, unless the woman kills an attacking coyote with the sword or wears the army boots to track down her father, there is no point in mentioning them. In a flash story each image must count, and each word works towards the ultimate goal of the story.

Prompt: Examine one of your stories for information that does not advance the story. Strike it out with a pencil. Now read the story aloud to hear the connection of imagery and information.     

Stay tuned for CHAPTER 22 ("Don't Underestimate Your Reader")
and CHAPTER 23 ("Word Weight")

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