The Quickie Guide to Writing Flash Fiction and Really Short Stories | Fiction School Podcast #29

The Quickie Guide to Writing Flash Fiction and Really Short Stories | Fiction School Podcast #29

This week, the epic struggle between Team Tommy and Team Jody reaches a new stratosphere, when Jody hangs up on the podcast.  That’s right. Girl couldn’t take it anymore, so she just slammed down the phone in true Hollywood style.

But not really. It was micro-fiction, a fourteen-second play, to give a little intro to this week’s show topic: Writing Flash Fiction.  You’ve gotta listen to the beginning–it’s like Writer Soap Opera.

All this trouble came about from a really smart voicemail from listener Casey, about writing super short stories, and we thought we’d give it a quick try.  First, here’s the traditional, hilariously inaccurate Google Voice transcription of Casey’s question:

casey's question

On the show, we talk about how writing short short stories and flash fiction is really hard, what kinds of things are almost impossible to do in short pieces, some nifty ways readers are more engaged in flash fiction and how writers can use that engagement.

And in the spirit of this week’s show topic, we’re totally micro-sizing these show notes.  Oh yeah.

SHOW NOTES FOR EPISODE 29

  • First, we have our little fake drama, because Jody actually did have something better to do. She hangs up on us like a boss. (Aside: good thing she was on an old school phone. Seriously. There’s no drama in hanging up a cell phone! You have to tap the screen mightily [which looks totally dorky] then, say, throw your phone in a fish tank to look dramatic these days.  Sigh.  Modern problems.)
  • ThInfinite Flashen we talk about how it’s HARDER to write something very short than it is to write something long.  It’s like the work of a poet, but harder, because you have to be poetic AND tell a story.  AND you have to work with the reader and use white space.
  • Commercials are an interesting influence on flash fiction, leaving out the things readers already know.
  • Sudden Fiction is a good short short fiction anthology.
  • Can a character have as great of an epiphany or change in micro fiction? You only really get a scene, in the middle of a much larger story. What’s effective is when the ending feels like it resonates beyond the story.
  • Then we talk about things that are almost impossible to do in flash fiction, like having a character have an epiphany, just because there’s not enough time. Deep character development is too hard, too–familiar characters work so readers can know the character types immediately.
  • Another good short short story writer we know is Sean Lovelace; we mention a story of his about Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong arguing.
  • We talk about the tension the reader feels coming to a flash fiction piece, because the arena is so small and there’s a nervousness about how the writer will be able to pull it off.
  • Hemingway’s famous six-word story comes up: “For sale: Baby shoes. Never worn.”
  • We mention the Six-Word Story anthology, and HEY! If y’all out there want to send us a six-word story, lay it on us in the comments below!
  • Another good short fiction writer: Ron Carlson. We talk about his story, “Bigfoot Stole My Wife.” That leads us to talk about how you can do lots of things with voice in short shorts.  Sometimes the 1st person voice is really effective, and other ways is to take a form and make a faked, fictionalized version of it.  Our old teacher Michael Martone does this.  We talk about his books The Blue Guide to Indiana and Michael Martone.
  • There’s other forms of really short narratives, like the Sixty Second Play competition.

And with that, we’re outta here quick as a flash.

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