Chalk student Elisa Webb MA shares her tips on writing flash fiction…You may write already. So you’ll need no persuasion from me. If you don’t, if you’re reluctant to pick up a biro or see writing as a chore best left at school, I ask you to reconsider. Writing could change your life.
I started writing a few years ago. I don’t mean to-do lists. I started carrying a note pad. I wrote three pages day. O.K. it wasn’t Chekhov. But that wasn’t my plan. The writing allowed me to let off steam. Often three pages ran to six. It was ranting. But here’s the thing, I felt better. I’d got toxins out of my system, like vomiting up a bad curry.
Writing clarified what was bothering me. It made me more articulate. I had to find words to describe how I was feeling and what I needed to do. Writing’s therapeutic and practical.
You may want to go further to write lyrics, stories, poetry, or scripts. Flash Fiction is a good place to start for us rookies. Writer David Gaffney lists a great recipe for successful short short stories or flash Fiction (100, 200 or 500 words). He writes:
1. Start in the middle. Don’t start with someone waking up and looking at their alarm clock. The action hasn’t happened. Hook your reader. Start with someone waking up in prison. The reader wants to know: what the hell happened to them?
- Don’t use too many characters, you are writing a short story not an epic.
- Place the denouement (the resolution or ending) in the middle so the reader and the character have to ruminate on the situation.
- Sweat your title. A great title draws your reader in.
- Make your last line ring like a bell.
Finally, write long for your first draft. Then go short in the edit. Distil your short short story to its essence. Here’s one I prepared earlier. See what you think. Why not have a go yourself? Good luck. Enjoy the process, rather than worry about the product.
Not today, thank you
The bell rang. We were bored so we hurtled towards the front door. Mother got there first. She opened the door, defiant in apron and rubber gloves. “Good day, Madam” said our visitor. We crowded around Mother’s lumpy legs. She gave the man a curt nod that said: I’m polite but you’re trying my patience with your bell-ringing cheek. The man ignored her icy greeting. He smiled at us all. He looked as if he’d stepped from a fairy tale into our seventies’ suburb. Not the usual tales about princesses tripping up and idiots being eaten. But the foreign kind where you tried to guess the ending but couldn’t. His yellow teeth glowed against his tea-coloured skin. We tried not to stare at his pale pink turban as he bent down and started to open a brown suitcase. He had a metal bangle on his wrist. “Not today, thank you,” Mother said, slamming the door. She stomped back to the kitchen, as a terrible realisation filled the hall, we’d never know what was in that case. We sat on the stairs for the rest of the grey afternoon. The house smelled of boiled potatoes and sadness.
You can read more of Elisa’s work here https://chalkthesun.co.uk/?page_id=437