Flash fiction is something I’ve only really tuned into over the past couple of years, but the more I learn of it and read it, the more I like it. It’s inevitable then, that I intend to try my hand at it…
Having recently read about the art of flash fiction (or short fiction as I think I prefer to call it – ‘flash’ almost seems to detract from the amount of work involved – as if the stories are dashed out without any thought) in Short Circuit – A Guide to the Art of the Short Story, I subsequently won a book of short fiction – More Sawn-Off Tales - from Salt Publishing this week. It was purely coincidental, but it turns out that the author of this little gem of a book, David Gaffney, also wrote the chapter on flash fiction that I’d read in Short Circuit. Perfect.
Gaffney’s shorts are 150 words each, and offer a fascinating insight into the art – and it sure is an art – of flash fiction writing. As I often tell my copywriting clients – editing writing down to the bare minimum; stripping away all the superfluous information to convey the same message in fewer words, is time-consuming, and requires a real skill. Gaffney’s stories are intriguing, poignant, bizarre and yes, sometimes odd, but that’s why they’re great. They’re perfect polaroids of people’s lives – they drop us into a compelling scene, give us a taste of a life and leave us wanting more, but just satisfied enough to have enjoyed the story and not to feel cheated by the experience.
As daunting as it may be to think about writing my own little nuggets of literary shorts, I do like a challenge, so I am, of curse, going to attempt my own flash fiction very soon. I think the idea is to start long and then to strip the story down, as opposed to trying to write a few hundred words on the first go. (Unless you’re as talented as Gaffney of course, who wrote most of his 150-word tales on the train).
To the man himself, then, and some of his top tips:
- Start the story in the middle – make sure the ending isn’t at the end
- Don’t use too many characters
- Make your title work hard
- Make your last line ring like a bell
That’s all there is to it! (Gulp…)
Get writing short fiction :)