Experimenting with Flash Fiction

When is a potluck more than a potluck? When the participants bring flash fiction along with the food.

I love writing parties. This past weekend I attended my first Intentional Ducati event, hosted by Joanna Rose and Stevan Allred of the Pinewood Table. Here’s a detailed description of the idea, but basically participants are given prompts to incorporate in a 1,000-word flash fiction piece. The theme this time was “firsts” in love, like a first breakup, first kiss, etc.

We gathered last Saturday night to share food and to read our stories, which were supposed to include a reference to Romeo and Juliet, a type of clothing not commonly seen in public, internal rhymes in three adjacent sentences and one or more objects from a list of six nouns. Some were easy to spot–like the Shakespeare references and the “boy wearing extremely baggy pants.” Others, like the internal rhymes, were so subtle that I kept getting swept up in the writing and forgetting to listen for them.

Until preparing for the party, I hadn’t written a short story since 2006, when I put together a Ducati piece. (That time, though, I didn’t attend the event due to giving myself a concussion in the kitchen of my new rental house.) Moreover, until last week’s experiment with flash fiction, I hadn’t finished a piece of fiction in more than two years. (That was my novel, BODY COPY.) It felt so great to work on something short, framed by the boundaries of content and word count. And it felt even better to finish it. And then read it out loud to an audience of writers who had written their own pieces using the same prompts.

Writing that 1,000-word piece reminded me how much I love revision. How it feels to lift out the excess. To see, and then strengthen, connections that weren’t there at first. And I do love working within specific boundaries. Sometimes I feel like such boundaries allow me more creative flexibility. In college writing courses, I always took more risks when working on a specific assignment. The grand sweep of a novel, especially an epic one, can be daunting in scope and possibility, compared to a measured, limited exercise.

Do you write flash fiction? If so, for fun or as a break from your novel? Do you work from prompts or just start writing? How many words do you aim for (or what’s the maximum)? I’m interested in writing some more short pieces and could use your advice!

Shortlink: http://wp.me/p1bhaB-Al

About Laura Stanfill

Publisher, Forest Avenue Press
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5 Responses to Experimenting with Flash Fiction

  1. Yay! Writing flash fiction for me is a break from the monotony of my novel. I do it when I’m stuck or need to clear my mind and focus on something else for a while.

    I usually use prompts, but sometimes, I see one small thing that leads me to write a flash fiction piece or short story.

    For flash fiction, I try to keep it at 1000 words but I think 1500 might be okay for flash fiction. Have you ever written a short story in 100 words? I’ve thought about it, but I’m not sure I could manage it. lol

    • That was my ah-ha moment with this exercise–writing something fun that had no pressure attached. I love the idea of writing something short when stuck on the novel. It seems like flash fiction could be a sort of palate cleanser! Or a way to recalibrate.

      I haven’t written a 100-word story or even thought about trying. It’d be a fun challenge, though!

  2. Pingback: Writing Challenge #12: Happy Leap Day! | Laura Stanfill

  3. Laura,
    I’ve been meaning to comment here for a while. I love the idea of a flash fiction potluck meet-up. How cool! And, you know I love flash fiction. What’s funny is that I find my flash pieces are getting longer (an evolution of my writing process?…). I want to get back to those shorter, 500 word pieces.

    • The meetup was such fun–and I bet it’d be pretty easy to organize if you know a bunch of local writers! Maybe I should try some 500-word pieces to see what it’s like.

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